We have been going through a series about what it means to be a part of this thing we call Church.
We have already spoken about how the real meaning of Church refers to a people, not just a building or place (see Romans 16:5), and that the Church is the body of Christ, of which Christ is the Head (Eph 1:22-23). We also know that every believer has a function just as different body parts have a function, and the body of Christ is the place where we use these gifts to edify, encourage, and comfort the Church (1 Corinthians 12).
This month I want to take you a little further and ask the question, what characteristics define the Biblical Church? There is a fancy name for the theological study of what makes a church a church: Ecclesiology. What we believe about this is important as it shapes our church structure, how we relate to each other as believers, and how we accomplish God’s purpose for us.
The Bible shows us characteristics that should be present in any gathering of believers – including Cross Culture – that pay no mind to cultural boundaries and societal expectations. I would like to suggest that the Church should:
- Exercise biblically-based preaching (2 Timothy 3:16-17) and gospel-centered teaching which calls people to salvation and a life ‘in Christ’
- Partake in Sacraments – baptism & breaking of bread
- Attempt to function as a church – not a parachurch (an organisation, or evangelistic ministry that recommends that its members join a church, for example.)
- Be in covenant community with each other, and always be seeking unity among believers, not promoting ourselves as better but understanding that we are part of the larger church locally and across the world (Romans 15:5-6; Ephesians 4:1-4)
- Understand that we are called to total obedience as His representatives on Earth (2 Corinthians 5:20), anticipate that members will live for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31) and fulfill His purpose for our lives as a Church and individually
- Function under the authority of scripture with Biblical leadership and accountability – we expect our leaders to be accountable (Titus 1:7-14, 1 Timothy 3:2-7) and we are all accountable.
Friends, the Church is more than a sum of its parts. We are not just a bunch of individuals who congregate in a building together. 1 Peter 2:5 says, “You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” So, as a ‘spiritual house’ and a ‘holy priesthood’, let’s fulfill our calling to minister to God and one another. Ask yourself, how can you be a priest this week?