By Kevin Guigou
The church has gotten a bad rap. It reminds some people of dry denominational structure or of a building on the corner. To others, it might even stir memories of hurt and disappointment.
But since the Bible speaks so positively of “church” over a hundred times, it’s good to refresh our love for something that Christ loves so much. As an accomplished work, the Lord loved the church and gave himself for it (Ephesians 5:25).
As an ongoing work, he nourishes and cherishes it (Ephesians 5:29). Every family of Jesus-followers should recognize how the Lord tenderly and actively cares for his church assemblies. If we love Christ, we love the church.
People of God
The church is simply the people of God. It’s the irreplaceable home-base for believers. In the new covenant, the church is the address of the Spirit of God. His presence and power are described as living there.
The church is like the setting of a ring. It doesn’t call attention to itself, but it’s the perfect mounting to lift up the multifaceted gem of God’s Spirit for brilliant display to the world!
The life-long family environment for every Christian is the church, in all of our imperfection. The assemblies of the body of Christ are empowered to escort each other through every chapter of life. How great it is to have a support group that’s energized by the Master!
And the variety of spiritual gifts heal and enrich us as church members run to each other’s aid. Jesus didn’t intend to leave us as disconnected spiritual orphans (John 14:18), so we mustn’t keep our gifts in isolation away from our family!
And let us consider how to stir up [incite; provoke] one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. – Hebrews 10:24-25 ESV
In the verse above, the Greek term for “meet together” is episunagoge, which is used only one other time in the New Testament, where it refers to Christ’s second coming. A church assembly is described in the same way as his second coming! Church gatherings are the closest thing to our rapture into glory! We gather together till we’re gathered together!
Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together [episunagoge] to him… – II Thessalonians 2:1a ESV
Partners in Prayer and Purpose
Church is a spiritual assembly. It’s an association of Jesus-followers. It’s people with whom we’ve freely chosen to cultivate relationships within community. Any community is the shared “common unity” among a distinctive group. The church is a common unity of faith… an eternal spiritual congregation.
“Church” is translated from the New Testament Greek term ekklesia (literally, “called out,” assembly, congregation), which speaks of people who are called out of their private existence into vital partnership not only with all Christians, but also with an assembly of Christians near them.
They are partners in prayer, in learning the scriptures, in sharing the gospel, and in overflowing generosity. Members of the same church family are regularly on each other’s minds.
The church of the living God is the structural framework for truth (1 Timothy 3:15). It’s the context where God’s truth is discovered and stewarded.
The body of Christ is his church (Ephesians 5:23). And the church is described as the flock of God that we shepherd (Acts 20:28). If we love God, we love the church (1 John 4:20, 21).
The Household of the Beloved
When a person accepts Christ as lord, they are also accepting his church as their family. Both require commitment and sacrifice. The lordship of Jesus calls us into a commitment to each other in his body. When we run to him, he gathers us among a household of his beloved.
Jesus is still building his church (Matthew 16:18), and to follow him is to walk closely with others who also do the same. And together, we still reach for the hem of his garment.
Loving a perfect Father God isn’t so hard, but loving his family members can be. It’s usually “safer” just to observe Christian brothers and sisters from a distance, keeping arm’s-length from their odd personalities, perspectives and preferences. There’s much less chance of conflict, misunderstanding and disappointment if we keep to ourselves, insulated and isolated.
But Father God has not only called us into his arms; he also called us into the arms of his church. And as risky and messy as relationships are, the church provides an atmosphere of compassion, forgiveness and new beginnings.
When a person gives their life to God, they’re also promising to give their life for his family… and God’s family is the church. A great deal of our walk with God is actually discovered in a faithful walk with his people (Matthew 18:20).
For more than 23 years, Christian Family Fellowship Ministry has enjoyed a local church family and organizational home in Tipp City, Ohio. Thousands of seekers of all ages have been through our doors. In addition, a major purpose of CFF’s efforts has been to inspire a global faith community, by which we cultivate a spirit-filled network of love and encouragement.
There are lots of ways to “do church” wherever we live. Some might start a church fellowship in their home with family and friends. Leasing a neighborhood storefront could be someone’s calling. Others might invest their gifts in an existing local congregation or play a regular role in multiple faith communities.
Some might partner with other believers in non-profits that bring the love of the gospel message into the valley of human need. Our ministry works to nurture and strengthen all these efforts.
Being Bible-fed and spirit-led, we pray that our ministry continues to bring people closer to the living Jesus, to ignite their life of praise, and to heal them with the power of God’s refreshing love. May the Lord continue to use our Christian Family Fellowship church community, both local and worldwide, to take Jesus to the world.