Many people today understand the church as a building. This is not a biblical understanding of the church. The word “church” is a translation of the Greek word ekklesia, which is defined as “an assembly” or “called-out ones.” The root meaning of church is not that of a building, but of people. It is ironic that when you ask people what church they attend, they usually identify a building. Romans 16:5 says, “Greet the church that is in their house.” Paul refers to the church in their house—not a church building, but a group (or “body”) of believers. Biblically, we can regard the church in two ways, as the universal church or as the local church.
The universal church consists of everyone, everywhere, who has a personal relationship with Jesus 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” (1 Corinthians 12:13). This verse says that anyone who believes is part of the body of Christ and has received the Spirit of Christ as evidence. All those who have received salvation through faith in Jesus Christ comprise the universal church.
The local church is described in Galatians 1:1–2: “Paul, an apostle… and all the brothers with me, to the churches in Galatia.” Here we see that in the province of Galatia there were many churches—they had a localised ministry and were scattered throughout the province. They were local churches. A Baptist church, a Lutheran church, a Pentecostal church, etc., is not the church, as in the universal church; rather, it is a local church, a local body of believers. The universal church is comprised of everyone who belongs to Christ. Members of the universal church should seek fellowship and growth in a local church.
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” – Acts 2:42
What is the Purpose of the Church?
The church is to teach biblical doctrine so we can be grounded in our faith. The church is to be a place of fellowship, where Christians can be devoted to one another and honor one another (Romans 12:10), instruct one another (Romans 15:14), be kind and compassionate to one another (Ephesians 4:32), encourage one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11), and most importantly, love one another (1 John 3:11). The church is to be a place where believers can observe the Lord’s Supper, remembering Christ’s death and shed blood on our behalf (1 Corinthians 11:23-26). The church is to be a place that promotes prayer, teaches prayer, and practices prayer.
So, what is the purpose of the church? Paul gave an excellent illustration to the believers in Corinth. The church is God’s hands, mouth, and feet in this world—the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-27). We are to be doing the things that Jesus Christ would do if He were here physically on the earth. The church is to be “Christian,” “Christ-like,” and Christ-following.
Do I Need To Attend A Local Church?
Church attendance is not just a “good suggestion”; it is God’s will for believers. Hebrews 10:25 says we should “not [be] giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Even in the early church, some were falling into the bad habit of not meeting with other believers. The author of Hebrews says that’s not the way to go. We need the encouragement that church attendance affords. And the approach of the end times should prompt us to be even more devoted to going to church.
When a person trusts Jesus Christ for salvation, he or she is made a member of the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27). For a church body to function properly, all of its “body parts” need to be present and working (1 Corinthians 12:14–20). It’s not enough to just attend a church; we should be involved in some type of ministry to others, using the spiritual gifts God has given us (Ephesians 4:11–13). A believer will never reach full spiritual maturity without having that outlet for their gifts, and we all need the assistance and encouragement of other believers (1 Corinthians 12:21–26).
Church is a community of people who are seeking to be followers of Jesus together; who are committed to support one another, pray for one another, help and encourage one another—and, yes, challenge one another to become more like Jesus. Church is both central to Jesus’ heart and Jesus’ plan. So why would anyone want to miss out on that?
And if you are exploring faith and what Jesus said, then church is the very best place to do it; because every single member of the church has had their own journey to Jesus. (They didn’t just wake up one day and find they were Christians!). So talking with them about their journey can help you on yours. If you have any other questions just reach out and let us know!