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What is the church?

In our Zoom Growth Group we’ve been thinking about what the Bible teaches us about the church, looking at various passages in the New Testament (and with the help of a book called Body Beautiful by Melvin Tinker and Nathan Buttery). As a new church, it’s good to get the Biblical basics of the church sorted in our minds and I thought it might be good to share a few of those basics on the church blog, to help see what kind of church we are.

Whose church?

Christians and especially pastors and ministers can be tempted to talk about “my” church or “our” church. There’s something good about that of course. Usually it means a sense of commitment and belonging. However, it’s important that it doesn’t suggest a sense of ownership or entitlement, because the church belongs to Jesus. In Matthew 16:18 Jesus reminds us that he will build his church. He makes it and it belongs to him!

What is the church?

The way we use the word church these days, we are most commonly referring to a building. That would rather undermine us, as we meet in a scout hut! However, the pandemic has reminded us most forcefully that the buildings we have are nothing more than where the church physically meets in space and time. The reality is that the church is the people.

The word church in the Bible means an assembly of people. It doesn’t matter too much where they assemble. God has always assembled his people – whether Israel in the Old Testament or Christians in the New Testament (e.g. Exodus 6:7 and Titus 2:14).

So the church is an assembly of Christians – people who have trusted in Jesus – who he is and what he has done.

Universal and local

There is, then, a sense in which the church is all Christians that there are and ever have been gathered together around Jesus. This is usually called the universal or catholic (not Roman Catholic) church.

How does that relate to us in Rochdale Evangelical Church? Well the New Testament also recognizes what are usually called local churches, e.g. the one in Corinth (1 Corinthians 1:2) or the seven locations in Revelation (Revelation 2:1, 8, 12, 18; 3:1, 7, 14). They are local, imperfect expressions of the universal church. And that’s exactly what we are at Rochdale Evangelical Church.

We are a local assembly of believers in Jesus Christ – part of his church.