Lesson 6 – You and your church
As a Christian, you are a part of both a church and the Church.
Sound confusing? Try this explanation: A church is built by people, but the Church is built of people. A church—with the small letter c—is a bricks-and-mortar (or wood-and-nails) structure that is created to serve as a place of worship. The Church—with the capital C—refers to the people of God. That’s why we say that Christians may be part of a church congregation, but on a larger scale, they also are part of the all-inclusive body of Christ.
The Bible paints vivid pictures to help us understand the concept of the Church as the people of God. In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul likens the Church to the human body—a unit made up of many organs and limbs, each contributing its special “gift” to the workings of the whole. “So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink” (vv 12–13, niv).
Paul goes on to explain that in the body of Christ, each of us has gifts that contribute to the mission and ministry of the Church. The Church is the body in which Christ lives. Through this body— made up of us, the parts—Jesus continues to carry on his work of saving people throughout the world.
Another illustration is drawn for us in 1 Peter 2:4–10. Here, Jesus is likened to a living stone that was rejected by men but chosen by God. People who have made the commitment to follow Christ are portrayed as stones that collectively take the form of a spiritual house (the Church) and continue the ministry of Jesus. Clearly, followers of Jesus are the chosen people of God. “Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (v 10, niv).
These passages make the point that the Church is not merely a collection of individuals who join together to pursue a casual interest. This is a group whose members are linked forever by a passionate belief in Christ and a burning desire to bring nonbelievers into the body. Each individual is related, and all cooperate as a unit to carry on the mission of Jesus. The members suffer with those who are in distress and rejoice with those who rejoice.
The intimate relationship between Christ and his Church is underscored in Ephesians 5:29–30: “After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the Church—for we are members of his body” (niv). The Church is the object of Christ’s love. He feeds it and cares for it, and his presence gives it life.
No Dues Required
Membership in the Church is a spiritual experience and is not determined by ceremony or decree. Persons who have met Jesus Christ and have surrendered to the supernatural work of God in the human soul are welcomed into the fellowship. But although membership is available to all, it shouldn’t be taken lightly. As a body of redeemed persons, we have certain responsibilities. Among them, we are expected to show:
√ obedience to the God who redeemed us.
√ dedication to the mission of preaching, teaching and witnessing to what God has done for us.
√ willingness to grow in Christ by hearing and studying the word at weekly worship services, entering into ministry with other believers, and helping to further God’s kingdom in our home communities.
The Link Between Church and CHURCH
The idea is profound yet simple. Our effectiveness as Christians is greatly decreased if we try to minister without the support and talents of other members of our group. The new life that we all have found in Christ is realized more fully in fellowship with other Christians. The body of believers is the Church, and these believers find unity and strength in the church.