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What is the Church?

What comes to mind when you think of a church? Maybe you picture an old cathedral with a cross at the top, or maybe a more modern building with a sign out front displaying various encouraging messages each week. All of us have different associations and thoughts when we hear the word church. But how does the Bible define the church?

Church is derived from the Greek word ekklesia which means “a called-out assembly or congregation”, and was also used in the Greek to refer to the citizens of a city gathering to decide political issues. In essence the church refers to all believers worldwide (known as the universal church) as well as a local body of believers who meet regularly. You can see the word being used to describe both in the New Testament. 

The universal church

“Greet the church that is in their house” (Romans 16:5) Paul is talking about the body of believers in the house.  

The local church

“Paul an apostle…and all the brothers with me, to the churches in Galatia” (Galatians 1:1-2) Paul describes the different meetings of believers. 

It is comforting to know that when we put our faith in Jesus Christ, we become part of His church, His body. “And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” (Ephesians 1:22-23

So now that we’ve defined what the church is, what is its purpose?

The purpose of the local church is to advance the Kingdom of God through discipleship, edification, worship, outreach, teaching, and fellowship. It is a place where believers are fed the Word of God, can fellowship with other believers, and get equipped for their Kingdom calling and purpose. This goes hand in hand with the Great Commission when Jesus said...All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you…” (Matthew 28:18-20

Our instruction from Jesus as the universal and as the local church is to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them, and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commanded us. The local church is pivotal for the Great Commission to be carried out in real time through teaching, evangelism, discipleship, and baptism.

In summary, the universal and the local church are different but one in the same. Both are vital to carrying out the Great Commission and advancing the Kingdom of God on Earth. As believers we are all part of Christ’s body, His church, and we are encouraged to meet together and unite in God’s great calling and purpose. 


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