Read an Excerpt
What Is Church?
Join the Club
Did you know you can be part of a "club" that includes people who lived almost 2000 years ago and people who haven't even been born yet? It's called the church and includes everyone who has ever believed or will believe in Jesus Christ. (These believers are called Christians.) Talk about a big club!
To find out more, we need to go to the book that tells us about the church, what it is, and how it should work. The Bible is the book God gave us so we could learn about him and his plans. It also tells the story of the people who started the first churches.
The Local Club
The Bible tells us that the church is made up of people. It has two parts: the whole church, made up of all Christians; and local groups of believers who meet together. Think about it like this: The world is full of billions of human beings. But we don't all live together. Some of us live in Toronto, some in New York. Others live in Paris or London. In the same way, it's impossible to get together with Christians who have died or haven't been born yet.
And it's impossible to get together with all the Christians alive right now. So we meet in smaller groups. We each belong to a local part of the enormous club made up of all Christians.
You probably think of church as the building you go to on Sunday. Not! The Bible never uses the word for church to mean a building! Church always means "groups of believers." People are the church. But we have to meet somewhere. Since we're the church wherever we are, people started calling the places we meet churches, too. No problem! Just remember that the church is the people!
All for One
The Bible gives us pictures to help us understand what the church is like. These pictures show that each Christian is an important part of the church. That means you. Yes, you! If you are a believer, "You also are like living stones. As you come to [Jesus] you are being built into a house for worship" (1 Peter 2: 5). "The whole building is held together by him. It rises to become a holy temple because it belongs to the Lord. And because you belong to him, you too are being built together. You are being made into a house where God lives through his Spirit" (Ephesians 2: 21-22).
What happens when you take a brick or two out of a wall? It gets weaker and might even fall down. Each brick is important. And each believer (that's you) is needed to make the whole church strong!
The Bible also says the church is like a body (1 Corinthians 12: 12-27) and each of us is a part. We know that every part of our bodies is important. Try to imagine life without a stomach, toes, or elbows! All of us, like all body parts, are needed for the church body to work properly.
Every brick in the building, every part of the body, every believer in the church is important.
Church Is God's Idea
It's Your Family
Okay, we're part of the church. Cool. But what does that mean? Whose idea was it? And why should we go? That's kind of like asking who thought up families and wondering why we should be part of one. Your family is made up of you, your parents, and your brothers and sisters. You're born into a family--that's just part of being human. And it's just the beginning.
God designed families so that, as we grow and learn, we can have great relationships with our brothers, sisters, and parents. It's not always easy, but it's worth it! We get to know them, and they get to know us. No matter what we do, they love us. Through disagreements, good times, and rough spots, we love them. These are life-long relationships! Families also support each other through all life's stuff. We're there for each other. We go to each other's concerts and games. We're proud of each other when we do well and encourage each other when we don't.
That's what God's idea for the church is. When we become Christians, we're born into the church family. Our church family loves and supports us as we grow as Christians and go through all the things life brings. Church, like family, should be a wonderful, encouraging, friendly place to be.
It's for Love
God is love, so everything he does comes from love. When he gave us the church, he did it out of love for us. He planned it all so that we would be loved, cared for, supported, trained, and encouraged. In fact, church is all about God's two greatest commandments: Love God with all of who you are; love each other as you love yourselves.
We can never out-love God. Loving him is the best thing we can do! When we love God, we get to know him and grow a relationship with him. That relationship becomes the greatest blessing in our lives because he's the greatest Friend. And as we love each other, we get to know others, and they get to know us. Those relationships become great blessings, too. So we have a God who loves us, knows us inside out, and takes care of us. And we have friends who love us, enjoy being with us, and cheer us on--just as we do for them.
Church is God's gift!
It's in the Bible
God made it pretty clear that church was his idea--just read the New Testament! (That's the part of the Bible about Jesus and his disciples, who became the first believers.) The church is a huge topic! Check this out:
• Jesus talked about his church before it even started (Matthew 16: 18)!
• Acts tells us about the Holy Spirit starting and organizing churches.
• The apostle Paul, an important leader, spent most of his time starting and helping churches.
• Most of the New Testament is letters to churches. They say how the church should work, tell how everyone has a part to play, and teach about church membership, discipline, and unity.
• James (Jesus' brother) tells us to call for church leaders if we're sick. He even talks about seating arrangements (James 5: 14-15; 2: 1-9)!
• Hebrews commands us to obey church leaders and keep meeting with other Christians (Hebrews 13: 17; 10: 25).