Is This Church?

I have many unique and incredible experiences of church. I have been to churches meeting in large auditoriums, in school gymnasiums, in homes, and at a golf course. I have been to churches on three continents. I have been in churches that speak various languages. I grew up in a church where everyone felt comfortable speaking Low German. In one church most members were speaking Tagalog until the service began in English. I had the opportunity of preaching in a church in Choma, Zambia, where the pastor interpreted it into one of the local languages, Tonga. I have been in church services that started right on time and ended exactly one hour later. I have been in services where there was an approximate ending time but usually it went much longer. I have been in churches of thirty people and churches of hundreds of people.

I have been in churches where the staff led everything in the service and in churches where most of the service was led by volunteers. I have been in services where it felt like we were watching a performance, and I have been in services where the congregation was invited to participate in a number of ways.

So, what makes it church?

Let’s think of a few things that need to be present for it to be church, and before that, let’s define church. Church is the people of God meeting together. So let’s look at a few things that make something “church”.

  • Church is the people of God gathered.

When Paul wrote his different letters, he addressed them to the church in Corinth, or Ephesus, etc. He was addressing people. In Corinthians 1: 2 Paul writes, “I am writing to God’s church in Corinth, to you who have been called by God to be his own holy people.” Church is a gathering of people.

  • Church is the encouraging and motivating of God’s people.

Hebrews 10: 24 and 25 says, “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works…encourage one another….” When the gathered disperse, they should feel encouraged and motivated to continue to grow in their love of God and their service to others. Something needs to happen when gathered so that the people going home are different than when they came in. They should have been challenged to change in some way.

In order for something to be church, the gathered must leave encouraged.

  • Church is the people of God praying to God.

In 1 Timothy 2: 8 Paul advises this young pastor, “In every place of worship, I want men to pray with holy hands lifted up to God….” One aspect of a church service, when God’s people gather, should be prayer. Somehow, as part of the time with each other, God’s people need to spend time talking with God.

In order for something to be church, the gathered must pray.

  • Church is the people of God gathered to listen to Scripture.

Here is some more advice from Paul to Pastor Timothy: “Until I get there, focus on reading the Scriptures to the church, encouraging the believers, and teaching them.” God’s Word should be read in church. While everyone should read at home on their own as well, there should be public reading of Scripture. That means, preaching through a popular book does not cut it.

In order for something to be church, the gathered must read Scripture.

  • Church is the people of God gathered to be taught.

In the advice to Timothy in the last point, Paul says to “teach them.” Someone, or more than one, needs to expound and apply Scripture to the regular daily lives of God’s people. Someone who has more training or more experience in a passage of Scripture can help others understand it and figure out how the rest of the Bible contributes to what is said in the verses read.

In order for something to be church, the gathered must be taught.

  • Church is the people of God gathered to celebrate communion.

In 1 Corinthians 11 Paul reminds the Corinthian church to respect the Lord’s Supper as a special event reminding us of Jesus’ death and resurrection: “For I pass on to you what I received from the Lord himself. On the night he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread…” (1 Corinthians 11: 23) He goes on to describe what happened during that meal Jesus had with his disciples, leaving us an example to follow. Many churches regularly celebrate communion, or whatever your church calls it. Some practice it every Sunday, others monthly.

In order for something to be church, communion will be celebrated regularly.

Is this church?

These are some of the elements that make church “church.” Basically, church is the gathered people of God, but the above elements are usually part of that gathering. Not every item above will be in every gathering of believers, and there may be others included. The point is, do we know what needs to included and what does not? Do we understand the incredible value of regularly meeting with others who are part of God’s family? Please leave a comment sharing what you would add or remove from the list. What do you believe needs to be present to be “church”?

I hope you have found a great local church to regularly gather with. If you have not found one, keep looking. You need to meet with others of God’s people.

Keep looking up,

Andy Wiebe

Healing – What the Church Can Offer

I recently heard two statements by two different people that I believe are prophetic words for the church. In my experience, there have been shifts in how the church functions or what church leaders think is important in reaching people for Christ. When I was a young youth pastor, it seemed the emphasis was on finding ways to make church fun and cool. As I got a little older, books and seminars seemed to focus on the church being relevant and relatable to unbelievers. What is the next emphasis of the church as we reach out to people who have not yet met Jesus personally?

On January 24, 2022, I heard Adam Browett of Glad Tidings Church in Victoria, B.C., make a profound statement in his sermon: The church moving forward “looks more like a healing center than a rec center.” He pointed out that if we were to be following Jesus’ example, we would be surrounding ourselves with hurting people and healing their hurts.

Our world offers all kinds of entertainment. The church does not need to provide entertainment. The church needs to find ways of helping the hurting and lonely. Our church buildings should be places where people find healing. Those of us who have a relationship with Jesus, the Healer, should be people in whom others can find healing as we point them to Jesus.

Dr. Rob Reimer writes in Spiritual Authority, “I think more people are going to come to faith in Christ in this generation because they know they are broken and in need of a Healer than because they know they are sinners in need of a Savior.” Our emphasis when we share the gospel has so often been about showing people how sinful they were so they would recognize they need a Saviour. Instead, if we focus on brokenness and healing, people don’t need us to point out how hurt and lonely they are. And we have an answer to that hurt and loneliness. We have a Healer.

In his book, Reimer points out that almost every time Jesus mentioned the kingdom of God he also mentioned healing from diseases and casting out of demons and restoring what is good and right in people. The church has been too focused on the “getting out of here” aspect of the Kingdom of God, where our goal is to gain eternal life and then just wait for that to be fulfilled. The kingdom of God is where what is bad is made right. The kingdom of God must be evident in displays of God’s power, as can be seen in demons cast out and people healed and relationships restored.

Our world is full of conflict. Countries are at odds with each other. People are at mad at each other. Large demonstrations and protests are rising up out of people’s frustrations. Violence is not uncommon. Disputes and arguments dominate social media. People are mad at the government and frustrated with the pandemic and all its fallout. Marriages and families are struggling and breaking apart. Many people are struggling with depression. Suicide is a way out for many. People are hurting.

If we truly love our world, if we as Christians want to truly love the hurting as Jesus did, then we need to be people offering healing, and our churches need to be places of healing. We need to believe God can still do miracles and bring healing and restoration. We need to speak and act with His authority and power to bring healing to our world.

This will not be just up to the pastors or church leaders. This is the role of every believer. We have the Holy Spirit in us. We have his power at work in and through us. We need to learn how to bring his healing to the hurting people around us. This will take much prayer, some in depth reading, and practice, as well as a continual filling of the Holy Spirit.

This is the need of the church today, but it is really just going back to what Jesus did when he was on earth, and what the apostles did as they established churches, and what New Testament church leaders did in their communities. We need to come back to inviting God to display his power and to bring healing to our hurting world again.

Let’s pray that the church will become the healing center it is meant to be.

Keep looking up