If we are going to live in a certain way as the church, then we need to know what the church is. So:
What is the church?
One popular belief is that the church is a building. Even though that belief is false, the building in which you attend church is not the house of God, it does have some biblical basis. In the Old Testament, the Temple was the house of God. It was where God lived, where He resided.
When you move into the New Testament, however, the Temple is no longer seen as the place where God resides. Instead, God resides in us, which makes us the Temple of God. Paul makes this clear in another one of his letters. Writing to the Corinthians he says,
“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.” (1 Co 3:16–17)
We, then, are the Temple of God, which means the building you attend worship in, no matter how nice and elaborate, isn’t the house of God.
If church buildings aren’t the church, then what is the Church?
Let me give you my specific definition. This definition comes from ideas in Paul’s letter to Timothy.
The church is the people of the living God gathered together in community, who spread God’s truth in order to make disciples and glorify God.
Now, let’s break that down some.
First, the Church is the People of the living God
The church is made up of specific people who are marked out by God as His. The church, then, isn’t made up of everyone in the world, or even everyone who attends the worship service. Instead, the church is made up of a specific people who have been marked out by God as His.
Second, the Church is the people of the living God gathered together in community
I believe this is an important idea for us to grasp, especially given our current cultural climate. As one author puts it,
“The American Church as a whole struggles with consumerism, nominalism and individualism.” 
You see, we often think the church is just a place that we come to get “our needs met”. If we don’t feel like we are getting our needs met at church A, then we head on over to church B for a while until we decide they aren’t doing it for us, and the trend continues. After a while, we may get tired of church hopping and decide that we are just going to stay home on Sundays. If we are honest with ourselves, we do this because we are individualistic people.
I think that it used to be in generations past that we felt like we were a part of something. That we were a people who were moving forward together. But that’s not the cultural narrative anymore. Now it’s all about me.
But here is the thing. As a Christian, you aren’t an individual. You are a part of something bigger than yourself. You are a part of the people of God, the church. Which means that as Christians, we must belong to a local church. If you aren’t yet a member of a local church, then you should be actively looking for a church to join. If you have attended a church for a long period of time, and you haven’t joined that church, there is a disconnect somewhere because we should all be members of the local church we are attending regularly.
Next time, I’ll discuss why that should be the case when I answer the question: Why should you join a local church? But for now, we need to continue with our definition.
Third, the Church is the people of the living God gathered together in community, who spread God’s truth in order to make disciples and glorify God.
The Church possesses the truth
The Church has something the world doesn’t. It possesses the truth about God and salvation. The world is quick to tell us that God doesn’t exist, as well as it’s quick to point us to things that they believe are going to save us.
- Fixing climate change
- Eradicating inequality.
- Governmental assistance.
- A trip to Mars and beyond
and the list goes on.
As a side note, if you have ever wondered why people are so passionate about these things, it’s because they believe they provide salvation. While most of these things aren’t bad, none are worthy of our hope, because none will ultimately save us. The only thing that is ultimately going to save us is the gospel message of Jesus. The Church possesses this message, which means it has the truth. The truth about God and salvation. Truth to which we should listen and respond.
So the Church possesses the truth.
The church is to spread the truth in order to make disciples and glorify God.
Our mission as the Church is given in Matthew 28, and it is to make disciples.
The way we make disciples is not only by sharing the gospel with others and calling them repent and believe but also by helping them understand how they are to live as God’s people.
So to wrap this up, then, the church is the people of the living God gathered together in community, who spread God’s truth in order to make disciples and glorify God.
Question for Reflection
- Do you agree with my definition of the church?
Post adapted from my sermon: What is the Church and Why is it Important?