What is a church?

Some might think this is a silly question.  “Of course,” they might say, “everyone knows what a church is…”  If you Google this question you will read that a church is “a building used for public Christian worship.”  In a sense, it is true that a “church” can be considered a building, but it is certainly more than just a building.
Others might think of a church as something like a country club.  In other words, a church is an organization into which one pays some kind of dues in order to receive a number of benefits or perks.  Church members with this view might say,
We are joining the church to see what we can get out of it. The pastor is to feed us through his sermons. We have specified an acceptable range for sermon length. The music is to fit our style, and any deviations are not acceptable. The programs are for our benefit, and we will determine what we do not like. We are members who expect perks, privileges, and service.[1]
I fear that statements like these are all too often exactly the way that some people feel about church membership.
I wonder if the answer that many might give to the question (“What is a church?”) might be less than helpful; at times it may even be dangerous.  One’s understanding of what defines a church will have a direct impact on his or her expectation of church membership. The Bible actually has much to say about what a church is and what a church is supposed to do.
In Ephesians 2:19-20, the Apostle Paul explains that a church is a group of people who once were strangers and foreigners to the kingdom of God and have now been brought into God’s kingdom and household (v19). This household is built upon the foundation of the person and work of Jesus Christ, and it is grounded in the truth of God revealed throughout human history (v20). The whole structure is held together by the common bond of Jesus Christ Himself, and the purpose of involvement is to grow into a holy and devoted people unto the Lord (v21). The ultimate end of all of this is that the church (the people who have become members of the household of God) experiences fellowship with one another and intimate communion with the God of salvation (v22). All of this is enabled and accomplished by the Spirit of God, and the church is the beneficiary of His gracious grace (v22).
So, what is a church? “A New Testament church of the Lord Jesus Christ is a local congregation of baptized believers, ruled and governed only by Christ through His words contained in Holy Scripture, associated by covenant in the Faith and fellowship of the Gospel.”[2] A church is a group of people who have been saved by Christ, who are diligently pursuing Christ in community with one another, who are bound together in submission to the word of Christ (the Bible), who are covenanting or promising to one another to remain true to their profession of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and who are humbly aware that the only reason they are welcomed into this community of Faith is the Gospel of God’s grace for sinners such as these.
FBC Diana is a church, but that does not mean that we are merely a building or a location. We are a Gospel-centered Community. We are a diligent group of saved sinners, and we are fixed upon the biblical goal that Jesus has commissioned us to fulfill. We are grateful for God’s grace and for His enabling Spirit at work within us and in our community. May God build us up as He sees fit and glorify Himself in this local church.

[1] Rainer, Thom S. I Am a Church Member: Discovering the Attitude That Makes the Difference. Nashville, TN: B&H Pub. Group, 2013. Print.

[2] Confession of Faith, FBC Diana