What Is the Church?
Intro: The next several Sundays I want to speak about church from the perspective of Jesus.
What do you think of when you think of church? You get up on Sunday morning, put on your church clothes, go to church, you have church, then go home and get on with your lives. Now I realize that it is more than this for some of you, but I am speaking in very general terms about how the church is viewed in our culture. Drive through any town in any state across our nation, and churches will dot the landscape. In fact there are about 405,000 churches in America. To put that in perspective there are only around 13,000 McDonalds in the U.S. If you put together all of the people who attend all professional baseball, basketball and football event, it makes up only 2% of the people who attend church services throughout a year. Churches are the largest voluntary organization in the
U.S. and the world.
Target: This morning I want to look at what is the church. Because this church exists lives have been altered for eternity. Families have been healed, broken hearts have been mended, lives that are misguided have been given new direction, and the best relationships are formed, and God is made known. So what are we and how do we live more effectively as
Matthew 16:13 (p.694)
(Pay careful attention because I worked hard on this.) The church is a community of followers of Christ who profess and live His gracious rule over their lives. To live this out they gather under a qualified leadership and together practice baptism, communion, communication with God through prayer and worship, scriptural teaching and loving relationships through acts of service. After gathering they scatter to be missionaries in the world to expand God’s reign in their homes and communities.
What do you need to know?
13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi,
1. What the Marquette in the UP is to Michigan Caesarea Philippi is to Israel. It is way up north away from everything. It is a predominantly gentile region. They are
outside of the established Jewish influences and in this gentile environment Jesus is going to make a startling announcement. Jesus is going to announce this thing called church. He is preparing his followers to understand that God’s kingdom
expansion will move away from the Jews being a majority to being a minority. In fact here is where we have the very first announcement of the church.
he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” 14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
2. Peter gets what most have not been able to see. Jesus is the eternally appointed person to serve as the bridge between us and God. This is the basic belief, confession and practice of the church, the absolute leadership of Jesus Christ.
17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church,
3. Peter gets a name and identity change. He goes from Simon son of Jonah, to Peter,
meaning Rock son of the father in heaven. His new name and identity means
“rock.” Rock here refers to two things: 1) It refers to Peter’s confession which
make him a son of the Father. The church is built upon those who confess Jesus to be the forgiver of their sins and the leader of their lives—the bridge to God. But Peter himself was the rock because he was the first to lead others in this confession. We’ll see that in a moment. As the Bible says, the church is built on
the foundation of the apostle and prophets with Jesus Christ as the chief cornerstone.
Acts 2:41 (p.772)
4. Peter preaches the gospel and 3,000 respond…In verses 41-47 it is like a seed or an
embryo we have all of the essentials of what makes a church a church. And these are all in the definition I read earlier.
41 Those who accepted his message
Essential # 1: Followers of Christ (v.41)—it consists of those who accept Jesus Christ as the bridge to God.
a. This is where it starts. If you don’t have this then you have absolutely nothing. In fact
the term church means “called out ones” in the Greek. They are a community that
is called out to follow Christ.
Christian brotherhood is not an ideal which we must realize; it is rather a reality created by God in Christ in which we may participate. — Dietrich Bonhoeffer
were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day
Essential # 2: Baptism (v.41)
a. This is the initiation or the first act of major obedience we do unto Christ. I have
performed perhaps a few hundred baptisms and often times this has been the
experience of intense joy for the people baptized and for the ones witnessing it because God confirms it as an essential of being his followers.
. 42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’
Essential # 3: Qualified Leadership (v.42)
a. There is a qualified leadership who gives overall direction to the church. The core of
this leadership are pastors/elders and deacons. Peter functioned as an apostle, a
witness of Christ, but he called himself in his own letter an elder and shepherd.
You are not a church unless you have a called out and qualified leadership.
Essential # 4: Biblical teaching (v.42)
a. This is the center and most important activity is our shared life around the study and
application of the Bible.
and to the fellowship,
Essential # 5: Loving relationships (v.42)
a. Out of the love and forgiveness we experience with God we live that out with one
another. We use the gifts and resources God has given us to build up one another.
If someone is sick we are to support them. If someone is in need we are to help them. If someone is hurting we are to help bring healing to their lives. If someone is going astray we are to challenge them. We are to be a community of support, challenge, and love.
to the breaking of bread
Essential # 6: Communion (v.42)
a. We take communion to remember the only right and reason we can be together as a
community. It is the death and sacrifice of Jesus. We do this every other month.
and to prayer.
Essential # 7: Prayer (v.42)
a. We are to be a community that spends a lot of time on communication with God.
43 Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, (They practiced being the church gathered at the temple and scattered in their community.) 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.
Essential # 8: Worship (v.47) –expressing our praise to God.
And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Essential # 9: Mission (v.47)
(Appl.) We connect with God, each other, and our world. .
(Appl.) This challenges two strands of thought. 1) I don’t need the organized church. You do. If you are not connected to the church you are like a child lost in the mall. You are a part of a family, but you lost and vulnerable place. You are like a quarterback without a team. You are unable to effectively use the gifts God has given you.
Questions can make hermits out of us, driving us into hiding. Yet the cave has no answers. Christ distributes courage through community; he dissipates doubts through fellowship. He never deposits all knowledge in one person but distributes pieces of the jigsaw puzzle to many. When you interlock your understanding with mine, and we share our discoveries, when we mix, mingle, confess and pray, Christ speaks. –Max Lucado
(Appl.) But this challenges another strand of thought. 2) The church is something I go to rather
than what I am. Never in the N,T, does it say they went to church. The gathered church
is the fill up station. Then 24/7 you are the church at home with what you watch, at
work with how you speak, at school with how you live, at the family reunion with those
you don’t want to see.
(Illus.) Dozens—it has been through you influence out in the world.
What do you need to do? (The church in inevitable and invincible.)
and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he warned his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ.
1. View the church from Christ’s perspective.
a. “You are connected to heavenly realities.”
(Appl.) We need to be careful that we are not organized way of keeping people from God. We
expand God’s work in God’s way.
(Illus.) The late Dr. A. W. Tozer, author and pastor, said, "If the Holy Spirit was withdrawn from the church today, 95 percent of what we do would go on and no one would know the difference. If the Holy spirit had been withdrawn from the New Testament church, 95percent of what they did would stop, and everybody would know the difference."
2. View the church from Satan’s perspective.
a. Hades is the place of separation. There is an enemy. He wants to bring destruction
and separation. As you and I grow in our journey with Christ we will face
discouragement and opposition from those outside of the church and conflict from
the inside of the church.
b. Here is the promise—Christ will build his church and Satan will not prevail. The
church is inevitable and invincible. It is not in your hands to make the church succeed. It is repeatedly placing ourselves in the hands of Christ. God allows the opposition to place ourselves in God’s hands.
(Illus.) At one point in his journey towards Christ, Nathan Foster (the son of author Richard Foster) was living "a ragged attempt at discipleship." He was afraid to share his honest thoughts about God and his disillusionment with the church, especially with a father who had given his life to serve God and the church. But one day as Nathan shared a ride with his dad on a ski lift, he blurted out, "I hate going to church. It's nothing against God; I just don't see the point." Richard Foster quietly said, "Sadly, many churches today are simply organized ways of keeping people from God." Surprised by his dad's response, Nathan launched into "a well-rehearsed, cynical rant" about the church: Okay, so since Jesus paid such great attention to the poor and disenfranchised, why isn't the church the world's epicenter for racial, social and economic justice? I've found more grace and love in worn- out folks at the local bar than those in the pew … . And instead of allowing our pastors to be real human beings with real problems, we prefer some sort of overworked rock stars. His dad smiled and said, "Good questions, Nate. Overworked rock stars: that's funny. You've obviously put some thought into this." Once again, Nathan was surprised that his "rant" didn't faze his dad. "He didn't blow me off or put me down." From that point on Nathan actually looked forward to conversations with his dad. It also proved to be a turning point in his spiritual life. By the end of the winter, Nathan was willing to admit, Somewhere amid the wind and snow of the Continental Divide, I decided that if I'm not willing to be an agent of change [in the church], my critique is a waste … . Regardless of how it is defined, I was learning that the church was simply a collection of broken people recklessly loved by God … . Jesus said he came for the sick, not the healthy, and certainly our churches reflect that. Spurred on by his father's acceptance and honesty and by his own spiritual growth, Nathan has continued to ask honest questions, but he has also started to love and change the church, rather than just criticize it.
What is my next step?
__I will show greater respect for the gathered church by prioritizing involvement and service to
__I will be a missionary as the scattered church by expressing my relationship with Christ
through my language and actions.