I said I was going to post this last week but I have had some computer problems, so pardon my tardiness. Also, I just finished reading an amazing book entitled “Deep Church” which I would recommend to all. Now onto some thoughts on what the Church Biblically is.
The church is the community of true believing, spiritual individuals who belong to the Lord, have been called into relationship with God and fellow believers, and have been charged to live as loving witnesses, servants, and ministers to the world. The church exists both as an invisible, spiritual community of individual human persons and as a visible, institutional body.
The key aspects of the church, as an invisible, spiritual community include: First, the invisible community are people responded who in faith seek to follow Jesus (Jn. 1:12); second, those persons who have decided to follow Christ have trusted Him as their Lord and desire to advance the mission and vision of the kingdom (1 Pet. 1:1); third, these individuals have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit and have been baptized into the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13); and fourth, these persons are considered “priests,” through the mediating work of Christ (1 Pet. 2:5,9). Also, the invisible church also includes those individuals from the Old Testament era, who were saved through their faith in Yahweh, His promises, and the coming Messiah (Heb. 11).
The following features relate to the church’s existence as a visible, institutional body. First, the “body” consists of a local community of believers, who are devoted to the individual and corporate practices of prayer, worship, evangelism, and fellowship, for the purposes of glorifying God and advancing His kingdom (Heb. 10:9-25; Rom. 16:5; Acts 2:42-47). The local body should include corrections, encouragement, edification, and discipline practice(Eph. 3:4; Rom. 12). Last, the local church should faithfully teach the full counsel of God, so that members can serve each other and their culture (Eph. 4; Tit. 1:9).
I believe that the church is biblically required to observe both baptism and the Lord’s Supper (communion). Baptism is a symbol and testimony of a believer’s union with Christ in his death and resurrection (Rom. 6:2-5; Col. 2:12). Baptism does not result in regeneration in the believer’s life; rather, baptism is a responsive action to regeneration. Baptism should be administered through immersion in water, to those who have made a credible profession of faith in Jesus Christ (Acts 2:38-41). Communion signifies the body and blood of Christ, which were broken and shed for us at the Cross of Calvary (Lk. 22:19-20). Communion is also a marker the unity of believers (1 Cor. 10:17), and Jesus’ incredible love for us (Jn. 15:13). Neither baptism, nor the Lord’s Supper imparts God’s saving grace to those who participate; rather these two ordinances serve to celebrate, proclaim, and remember God’s love, grace, and work on our behalf both individually and collectively.
All local churches are part of the larger, universal church; however, I believe in the governmental autonomy of each local congregation (Acts 9:31; 1 Cor. 1:2). Members of local congregations, are called into Christian service as priests before God, and should select leaders for their churches based on biblical qualifications (1 Pet. 2:5,9; 1 Tim. 3). The offices of pastor/elder and deacon/deaconess are critical to carrying out the ministry of the church and rooted in biblical mandates. Pastor/elders are to serve as spiritual overseers, leaders, teachers, and caregivers for the members of the church community (1 Tim. 3:2-7). Deacon/deaconesses are to serve the members of the church community as servant-leaders (Acts 6:1-6; 1 Tim. 5:3-16). Spiritual gifts are given irregardless of gender to men and women for them to use in the church (Acts 2:17-21).
So while the church may look different than the traditional models than we are used to in the United States, there are clear Biblical imperatives for what a church must include and do.