You are the Church
What comes first to your mind when you hear the word ‘church’? Do you picture a building? Or something to do with Roman Catholicism and the pope? How about a pastor preaching to a congregation? In our North American culture we often say that we are ‘going to church’. But the church is not a building or another inanimate object. Let’s consider what Scripture has to say about this crucial subject. May this provoke a paradigm shift in our understanding.
Ephesians 1:22-23 says, “And He [God] put all things under His [Christ’s] feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.” In the New Testament, the Greek word for ‘church’ is ekklesia meaning a group, or assembly of people. The Scripture in Ephesians specifically uses ekklesia to refer to all people who are called out of the world; that is, Christians. Furthermore, we see that the church is Christ’s body, of which He is the head. Christ is the controller and life-giver of the church which is a living organism not a building constructed from stones or concrete. The preceding phrase “to the church” in Ephesians 1:22 implies a sort of life impartation from Christ to His followers. What Christ has obtained is available to the church. The church is Christ’s body on this planet. This transmission between Jesus Christ and the church means that as believers we share in Christ’s life. This includes our future resurrection from the dead, our current position as being seated with Christ, power over sin, and being accepted in the Beloved. What an inheritance!
During the Old Covenant we observe that King Solomon built the original temple in Jerusalem using stones shaped and finished at a quarry (1 Kings 6:7). This building project literally employed tens of thousands of able-bodied men (1 Kings 5:13- 18). Workers went as far as Lebanon, in monthly shifts consisting of 10,000 labourers, to procure wood, stone, and various building supplies for the temple. Fast forward to the current church age, under the New Covenant. Peter, in describing the church, declares that: “You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ…But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:5,9)
The church is not built out of granite, limestone, or gold-covered stones; rather, it is comprised of all people who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ. The church is literally a living, breathing, and expanding organism. Under the Old Covenant one could only be in the temple priesthood if they were of the tribe of Levi. Now, in Christ, we are all priests! Jesus Christ exemplified the shifting of the priesthood as He was from the tribe of Judah (Hebrews 7:13-14) not Levi. If you are a Christian you are a priest. Unfortunately, when we think are the You Church 22 23 of the word ‘priest’ today many times we think of something from Roman Catholicism or perhaps Old Covenant Judaism. A priest in Old Testament Biblical times functioned as a sort of intermediary between the ‘common man’ (non-priests) and God. They offered sacrifices of atonement, thanksgiving, etc. on behalf of the people and in a certain sense communicated with God on behalf of their fellow Israelites. Now, under the New Covenant, Christ is our High Priest (Hebrews 4:14) and has brought us all into the priesthood as we are an extension of His body on earth (recall Ephesians 1:23). Are we then to sacrifice the blood of bulls and goats like priests in historical times? No. We are called to offer up “spiritual sacrifices” (recall 1 Peter 2:5). A spiritual sacrifice could be something as simple as a praise to God (Hebrews 13:15). It could also be something more entailed as we serve using the spiritual gifts sovereignly distributed to us by the Holy Spirit (Romans 12:3- 8; 1 Corinthians 12) as believers. One thing is for certain, we are to actively participate in strengthening the spiritual quality of our local church.
Please consider the following excerpt from “What makes a real man?” (Menbuilders Magazine, Issue 1 ):
Before I lay any responsibility upon the shoulders of men for their local church, I first must point out that, by and large, the typical church life in North America does not follow the Scriptural model. The scope of this article cannot begin to address all that is meant by the preceding statement but let me summarize the current state of things just a little. When we hear the word ‘church’ today, sadly most people think of only a building. Much time, effort and cost is given to build elaborate and costly ‘churches’ that are used for only a fraction of the hours that exist in a given week. The success of a local church is often gauged by the curb appeal that the building generates. Furthermore, most churches today are run by a confident and Type A ‘senior pastor’ under a model that mostly mirrors a business. In medium to large churches, a senior pastor typically has paid helpers (be it an assistant pastor or two, a youth pastor, a worship pastor, etc). Effectively the church life is run by paid staff and most of the church ‘members’ typically show up only for a brief Sunday morning service to hear the senior pastor exercise his spiritual gift of teaching or preaching. In such meetings the rest of the body does not get to function in their gifts, they merely go home after the service. If the members are asked to function in any capacity on a Sunday morning it is typically to give money in order to support the substantial costs of this hybrid church / business model. This is not the highest model for the church life. The North American church model effectively renders the typical male useless and unneeded (aside from giving money). The Scriptural pattern is for a plurality of spiritually mature elders to provide Godly teaching and discipleship to equip the next generation of believers (see 2 Timothy 2:2 and Ephesians 4:11-14 for starters). There is no room for ‘mini popes’ or for larger-than-life individuals to run their personal ‘ministry’ out of ego or show. All men who desire more of the Lord must be able to spiritually function within the parameters of a properly conducted church life. Seek the Lord as to where you may function. Ask your church leadership where they envision you serving according to your gifting. Mature church leaders will not be threatened by such requests but rather highly encouraged! There are many ways that the ‘brothers’ in a local church can properly function. This can be accomplished by having various men speak over the course of the year rather than having every Sunday message coming from one individual. Perhaps you can also function in a small group setting, in outreach in the community, meeting one on one with others, etc. The options are many. Again, be in prayer and be in fellowship with church leadership concerning how you can be properly invested in the church life. Our church family lasts for eternity! It is wise to begin living in this reality even now.
I wrote the preceding (italicized) portion in the first half of 2020 for Menbuilders. At that point in time I didn’t fully grasp how readily applicable this teaching would be, given the year’s events. As COVID related restrictions began to impact the meeting of the church throughout Canada, and much of the world really, it became apparent that meeting in large gatherings would be prohibited in many places. Suddenly church life didn’t entail the need for large buildings and scripted Sunday mornings after all! We have all received a real wake-up call–– have we been paying attention? In my lifetime I have never observed a more critical need for the ‘brothers’ (Christian men) to step up in all areas of their spiritual walk. This is an extraordinary opportunity to be ambassadors for Christ. Rather than reacting out of fear (of a virus) or striving (about government imposed restrictions) let us remember our highest calling. We are sons of the Most High God. Truly, we offer the only ‘good news’. It is that Jesus Christ has come to reconcile men to God by providing forgiveness of sins and a means for transforming their minds to be in agreement with His eternal purpose. We cannot use any of our current frustrations, or fears, at this time to justify a lukewarm walk. We must be even more intentional in the following critical areas of our life:
(i) We are to find our life from the Word and prayer
(ii) Our satisfaction and identity must come from Jesus Christ
(iii) If married, we are to love our wives as Christ loved the church
(iv) We are to be the primary example to our children
(v) We are to actively participate in strengthening the spiritual quality of our local church
(vi) We are to be ‘salt and light’ in the workplace
(vii) We must not give place to apathy, fear, or striving with other believers and authorities
I don’t believe that our calling as a church in the New Testament age is to defend our ‘rights’ using the methods of the world. Anger, frustration, head-line grabbing protests, and argumentative debates are the world’s frequent tactics for ‘solving’ problems. The fruit of the Spirit includes peace, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5). Paul in 1 Timothy 2:1-2 instructs us: “Therefore, I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.” We must rise above the current political, financial, and spiritual landscape with the life of Christ. We know from 2 Timothy 3:1 that “in the last days perilous times will come.” But we also know from Jesus: “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world (John 16:33). My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.” (John 18:36)
May we all seek Jesus Christ as our life supply and strength for the day at hand. Nothing else will suffice to strengthen our inner man and the local church.