So after teaching doctrine and church history for several years it has come to my attention that our past definition of what makes up the Church is in question. For decades, if not centuries, those in Christendom have believed the Bible teaches the church has certain specific aspects: (1) the invisible or universal church (made up of all believers in God past, present, and future) and (2) periodic, corporate gathering of followers of Jesus. But it has come to my attention that a definition of the church being: “a local gathering of followers of Jesus” is woefully inadequate. I agree that this definition is lacking in essential elements.
My difficulty comes in considering many, many factors, such as:
- Is a church simply a gathering of believers to worship God? (if so, then when people meet for a Christian concert or a chapel at a Christian Institution, is this considered a church?)
- Does a local church need to have pastors and deacons? (if so, do all those believers meeting in the countries in Africa, or the Middle East, or South America who have no deacons or pastors NOT make up a church?)
- Is it simply a gathering of believers where the Sacraments are administered? (as suggested by Calvin and Luther)
- Do they need to collect an offering, sing hymns, listen to a sermon, or read the Bible to constitute a church?
- Can followers who meet in house-churches with no definable leadership (pastor, elder, deacon) make up a church or do they need need a building that is registered by the city government to be a church?
What exactly makes up the church???? I do not have a precise answer, but there are a few things I do believe the Bible says about the church:
- They gather together periodically, to worship the Triune God.
- They edify (teach them the truths of Christianity, the Apostles’ teaching) the followers of Jesus.
- They administer the Sacraments (the number is in question but will not be dealt here).
- They have designated leadership (Paul describes the offices of elder and deacon so I am assuming this means these offices are to be a part of the local gathering).
I continue to struggle with this issue and am willing to change my opinions as I research it. I am also dedicated to a more thorough, accurate definition of the Church.