Let’s be honest, there are many misconceptions and misunderstandings about what “church” means.
For those of us who are employed by a church, who spend six or seven days a week working on details, programming, and events, it’s easy to begin to think of “church” as the collection of details. Or, to use a phrase that has become a favorite of mine lately, we get caught up in the weeds.
Perhaps the most common misconception has to do with bricks and mortar. Our language betrays us … “I’m stopping by the church on the way to dinner.” “We’re meeting at church to car pool to the game.” What we are referring to is a physical building. I’m just as guilty as the next person on this one, though I’ve tried to make a conscious effort to say “church building” instead of just church.
The true nature of the church is much more than either of these misconceptions. Here are just a few biblical samplings.
“When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” — Matthew 16:13-18
Jesus is the builder of his church, and he’s not referring to blueprints and architectural renderings. He is building a movement of people who will take their stand on the faithfulness of God and not be afraid to march into the darkness.
“And he [God] put all things under Jesus’ feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” — Ephesians 1:22-23
Instead of a building, Paul uses the metaphor of a body to describe the church. Buildings are static; generally speaking, they don’t move. Bodies move. They think and feel and act, as the head directs it to. But the church is not to be some anemic weakling, getting sand kicked in her face at the beach. Paul reminds us that the church is “the fullness of him who fills all in all.”
To minimize or misrepresent the nature of the church is to miss the wonderful, exhilarating adventure that the church offers. Buildings are not that exciting. Storming the gates of Hades? Doesn’t sound too boring to me.