What is a “Church”? Millennials are redefining the term “Church”
The word church, to many, means going to place of worship, to a building, on a certain day to learn about and worship the God they believe in. It’s funded by the people that go to the church. But what is church? Where does the term come from? What does the Bible say about church? Are we doing church right? Does it have to be on a particular day or even in a particular building?
The biblical word for church comes from the Greek word “Ecclesia” which means a called out company or assembly. According to the Bible, it refers to people. It can be a mob (Acts 19:30-41), the children of Israel (Acts 7:38), and the body of Christ (Ephesians 1:22; Ephesians 5:25, 32). So people are the church, but so far we don’t see where it’s a particular building. Assembly means to come together or to gather. Church in this sense is used in multiple different ways.
- First, it’s defined as a universal group of all people who have trusted Christ as their savior throughout the entire span of human existence (Matthew 16:18)
- Second, the church is defined as the body of current living believers (Galatians 1:13)
- Third, the church is defined as a local assembly or group. ( Galatians 1:1-2)
In all these references it doesn’t say that it’s in a particular building or on a particular day. So are we doing church “right”? Is there a “right way” prescribed in Scripture? Of course not – it’s a group of people and the way they meet and spend time with God are full of a vast variety of expression. Churches as organized religious institutions with buildings and government approved 501c3 status has its pros and cons – but the Church (all people under Christ) are charging forward to understand, develop and reinvigorate our relationship with GOD and show others that church isn’t just a building or business.
As a Millennial, church doesn’t have to occur in a building at all. Church can be a gathering, a small group of people who want to read, worship, and learn truth from and of the Lord. If we look at Scripture we know that Jesus is everywhere. God is omnipresent; which means God is everywhere at ALL times. Matthew 18:20 clearly says “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.” Since God is there, Church can happen any day and anywhere. Church can happen in your house, on a beach with a bunch of believing friends, at a conference that believers are gather at, or at lunch. Church can happen at a lot of places.
So does “Church” have to be practice on Saturday or Sunday? Does a day of the week matter? No, the day of the week doesn’t matter. A related question, is the Sabbath the same as a “church day”? The Bible defines Sabbath as a day set aside for rest and worship. It fell on Saturday for Jews, and Christians adopted a weekly day of rest and worship on Sunday for the first few weeks of our existence. After that, all bets were off – as persecution ramped up against the apostles with frequent arrests, the Church was driven underground – meeting in house churches instead of always gathering in public.
Acts 5:13-14 gives us a very clear picture of this. The believers used to meet at the Temple (Solomon’s Colonnade) yet very quickly oppression became so worrisome that “No one dared to join them.” Yet the same passage tells us many more men and women were being added to their number. Added to their number, but not showing up at the Temple – they were living out the faith in daily life and meeting in their homes to grow and encourage each other. This is how Christianity continued to spread and thrive for the first three centuries – where church buildings or businesses were not allowed legally but where individuals could teach in the marketplaces and groups could gather in homes.
It’s important when asking about “how” to do church or “where” to do church or “what day” or time to do church to remember that one of the most crucial aspects of Christianity was how it condemned legalism and instead liberated people to worship God in a proper attitude instead of a proper time, day, place, or methodology. While the New Testament describes Christians gathering and worshipping on Sundays for the first few weeks, it nowhere states that Sunday has replaced Saturday as the Sabbath – or that Sunday is the only day to worship – or that a building is necessary for worship.
The key point in all of this is that we are not to limit our worship to any particular day of the week just as we are not to limit it to any specific place. We are to rest in the Lord everyday. We are to worship the Lord every day.
I am not saying don’t go to a church. Or to disregard it as a potentially helpful method in your life – because this is where you can find other like-minded believers that want to do life with you, that want to grow alongside you, that want to experience Jesus more. Churches are places where you can do ministry, where you can use the talents that God has given you, and where you as believers can invite non believers to experience the breathtaking reality of what it means to be a Christian and hear Scripture being preached and explained. It can help you develop as a person, as a leader, and as passionate follower. It can encourage you to be better in your daily life and can show you how to use the gifts of the Spirit that bear much fruit and you within your life.
But often people leave churches because of the politics. Because of abuses. Because of the way they spend money, they way they hold back Believers from service, the way they abuse authority. Sometimes there is gossip and sometimes there is shaming and sometimes there is brokenness. And when we all come together and pile our brokenness up, it can create an incredibly unhealthy environment – one you wouldn’t invite your friends to, one you question why you yourself are even staying.
In those moments, we want to encourage you: there are many different expressions of “Church.” I urge you to explore your thoughts and dig deep down into Scripture to find a better understand. I urge you to pray on this matter and ASK, yes ASK the Lord about these questions you possibly could be having about “the Church” versus “churches.” It’s okay to realize God is outside the walls you grew up thinking you had to attend weekly in order to get a gold star from Jesus. Think on how Church can be a bigger part of your life – beyond the time spent in pews or buildings. And think on how you can be a bigger part of Church – giving and sharing, teaching and worshiping, anywhere and any day loving for the Lord.
“A good church is a Bible-centered church. Nothing is as important as this–not a large congregation, a witty pastor, or tangible experiences of the Holy Spirit.” – Alistair Begg
“The perfect church service would be one we were almost unaware of; our attention would have been on God.” – C.S. Lewis
It took me a long time to find a Bible-centered church. I finally did, and I am happy there. I do think you make an important differentiation between the universal “Church” and the “church” as an earthly institution. This is something that I think many people don’t fully understand. As a result when a church (earthly institution)) does something poorly, many people will turn from the Church (Christ’s Church) and the faith all together. It is very sad. Anyway, I like the direction you are going with this.Thanks for sharing your blog with me!
Thanks for your encouragement! Yes, there are lots of good churches – and almost all churches do at least some good! And house churches are included in that big pool of varieties of churches with a little “c”. We hope we can help inspire some Millennials who are walking away from church to remain strong in their faith and explore other ways of walking with God – in service, love, charity, community!