Say the word “church “ today and everyone thinks of a place or a building, usually both. “I’m going to church” means I am going to a specific location, where I will enter a specific building. It is a completely unscriptural use of the word.
The New Testament usage of “church” describes a community of people, or better yet, related brothers and sisters, united in a common family. They are all part of the household of God because they have been adopted into the Son of God himself. What characterizes them is their growing resemblance to the Lord of the Church. He is the head into which all members are growing up. They love him, they submit to him. He is the Master who has saved them. He is their only guide and stay.
Not only is the modern use of the word “church” almost completely disconnected from its roots in the Bible, the use of the word among denominationalists is an even worse category of error. Rare indeed is the person in any denomination who uses the word to mean the one true church of Jesus Christ. “My church” means the one they attend, and it’s denominational connection, not the one body for which the Lord Jesus Christ gave his life.
Recently I was visiting dear friends in a small English village, one which has two church buildings. The older of the two is the Parish Church, built over 800 years ago. The other, a new building from the 1990’s, is a successor structure to one built in the 18th century, during the time of the Great Awakening. The ancient church was built by people who loved the Lord Jesus, as was the chapel. The latter was erected because so many, at the time, felt that in the Parish Church they and their new found evangelical faith were unwelcome, and they wanted to gather for common worship that would edify their souls. It soon led to a separate existence in English Law, and the division persists.
Some time ago, the new minister at the Village Chapel (as it is known) applied to the bishop for license to serve in the diocese, if invited, as he himself is a priest of the Church of England. He had accepted a call to the chapel in order to continue his wider ministry as an Evangelist, while also serving as pastor to a small local community. He even dreamed that his coming might help unite the almost 250 year old division in the town. The bishop declined his request, summarily.
Repeatedly throughout modern Anglican history, the communion at the highest levels has affirmed its understanding of the church as all who have been baptized into Christ Jesus. But the reality is something quite different. Unless a person of faith submits to the organizational system of the denomination, with all of its rules and history, to say nothing of its culture, and its own peculiar man made doctrines, they are not welcomed in. “Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” overrides the Word of God.
A question begs to be answered: Are there two churches in that village or one?
Next Week: Lessons In Revival