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Defining the Church

It is certainly exciting to be able to hold our first Sunday morning worship service here in this building! We have been working towards this day for quite some time now and God has done some amazing things to get us to this point, and I know God will continue to amaze us with what He does through this church in the future.

And of course, when I say that “God will continue to do amazing things through this church” – I’m not actually talking about this building. You see, as wonderful as it is, this building is not actually the church.

And I know that might seem a bit confusing… the english language doesn’t really convey the idea of church very well.

I mean, really, when you think about it, we use the word ‘church’ in all kinds of different ways. For example, we might say.,..

    • “Let’s go out for lunch after church.”
    • “We need to fix the church roof.”
    • “We want to reach the unchurched families in our community.”
    • “Kids, please change out of your church clothes before you go play.”

And you can see why this can be confusing! Judging by those four statements, the church is an event, its a building, its a social status, and its a type of clothing.

I don’t think any of those convey the true definition of what the church really is. If you look at how the Bible talks about the church – it sounds like something very different. Let me show you a few examples:

      • “But while Peter was in prison, the church prayed very earnestly for him.” Acts 12:5
      • “Finally, the church decided to send Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem.” Acts 15:2
      • “After you have read this letter, pass it on to the church at Laodicea so they can read it, too.” Colossians 4:16
      • “Upon arriving in Antioch, they called the church together and reported everything God had done through them.” Acts 14:27

In these verses, church doesn’t sound like an event, a building, a social status, or a type of clothing. Look at the action verbs there – Praying, deciding, reading, meeting together – those all sound like things that people do. Building don’t pray and events don’t read. People do these things. 

Now of course, if we were Greek speaking Christians back when these verses were originally written, this wouldn’t even be an issue for us. We would understand that the english word ‘church’ used in these verses, or the word ‘ekklesia’ in greek, meant a gathering of people – or an assembly. It had the idea of people being called together for a public meeting. In the Greek language, that’s what an ‘ekkesia’ was – it wasn’t even anything to do with religion, it was just people called together for a public assembly.

So it seems from the language of the Bible that the church is simply people. 

If you’re my age or older, you might know the little poem – Here is the church, here is the steeple. Open the doors and here are the people. 

It’s a nice little poem, but I’m afraid it’s just not very accurate! The people are the church. The church is not a building. No steeple is required. The church is people.

And of course, the church isn’t just any people. The church isn’t simply anyone who shows up Sunday morning. The church is made up of specific people. So who are these specific people? Are you one of them? Let’s find out.

If you have your Bibles, you can turn to 1 Corinthians chapter 1 verse 2. Now there are a few different verses we could look up, but I think this verse does a good job of stating just who these people are that make up the church. This is what Paul writes to the church in the city of Corinth.

“I am writing to God’s church in Corinth, to you who have been called by God to be his own holy people. He made you holy by means of Christ Jesus, just as he did for all people everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours.” 1 Corinthians 1:2

From this verse here we see quite clearly that the church is God’s people. It’s God’s ‘ekkesia’ – God’s assembly. It’s the people who have been called by God to be His own holy people – people set apart for God’s special purposes. It is the people who call on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins. It’s the people who have submitted their lives under the authority of God.

So if that describes you – congratulations! You’re are part of God’s church. 

And being part of God’s church is a tremendous privilege, because another way the Bible describes the church is as God’s own family. Look at Ephesians 1:5. Paul writes:

God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.” Ephesians 1:5

If we have put our faith in Jesus Christ for our salvation, then we are adopted into God’s family. I’m always amazed that God would even want to adopt me into His family. I mean, who am I that God would want to adopt me as his son? I’m just one of billions of people on this planet – But yet, God decided years before I was even born to adopt me into his own family – giving me all the rights and privileges of his own son. That’s amazing! But even more amazing, this verse says that it gave Him great pleasure to do that. God was thrilled to adopt me into His family!

And God feels the same way about you! He loves you so much that His Son Jesus Christ died on a cross for you and for me – taking the punishment for our sin – so that we could be adopted as God’s son or daughter. All we have to to do is believe and accept that Jesus did that for us.

What a privilege it is to be adopted into God’s family. And of course, this family has a name! This family is called the church. 

Sometimes when I explain this to kids, I tell them that when God adopts us into His family, we can think of “Church” as their new last name. I’m Dave “Church” and there’s Randall “Church” and over there is Phyliss “Church” and together, we are the Church family. And that’s really what we are – God is our Father and we are brothers and sisters in God’s family.

But here’s the thing – if the church is a family – that changes things.

  • If the church is just a building – you can come in and then you can go out. End of story. Life continues just like it always has once you exit the room.
  • If the church is just an event – you can come, enjoy all the wonderful programming, be inspired for the rest of the day, go home – Life continues as normal.
  • If the church is a social status – you might have to keep up appearances in public of course, you have to look like a church-goer – but once you’re in the privacy of your own home – you can live however you like. Life continues as normal.

But if the church is a family… Then from the moment you are adopted, that is, the moment you put your faith and trust in Jesus Christ – life does not continue as normal.

Because being in a family, means having relationships. It means you have a relationship with your Father in Heaven and you have a relationship with your brothers and sisters – your fellow believers.

If we have been adopted into God’s own family, then church isn’t just a place to go to on Sunday mornings. Church isn’t an event to attend one or two or three times a week.  Church is a family that you are now part on Sunday and on Monday… and on Tuesday and the rest of the week. 

Imagine if you adopted a wonderful little boy or girl into your family, but they only showed up at your house for 90 minutes each week on Sunday mornings. Somebody obviously doesn’t understand what adoption means! But that’s what so many Christians do!

When you’re adopted, you become part of a family. And that family becomes part of your life. You live life with them. This family relationship continues 24/7, seven days a week for the rest of your life.

And I don’t know what kind of family you had growing up – I imagine some of you probably had great families – and I imagine that some of you probably had no-so-great families. At the very least, I know no one grew up in a perfect family. So when I tell you that you’re adopted into God’s family, and this is a 24/7 – seven days a week relationship – you might have some mixed feelings about that. You might not be sure if this is this a good thing or if this is this a bad thing.

Well, let me tell you that according to God’s design, being in a family is a very good thing. The whole concept of a family was His idea! I want to pause here for a minute. I want to take a moment to be a little bit interactive. I’m going to give you just two minutes to have a discussion with people that you’re sitting beside and I want to you talk about this:

What is the purpose of family? Why do we need families? What is the benefit of being part of a family? Why do you think God thought it was a good idea to have a mom and dad – brothers and sisters – grandmas, grandpas, cousins, uncles and aunts? What’s so good about family? 

Or if that’s too difficult – here’s another way to look at it – how have you benefited from being in your family? (And this could be your biological family or whoever took care of you as you were growing up.) What sort of things have they done for you? And I’m sure we can think of some negative things – but let’s focus on the positive for now: Think about when you were a baby. Think about when you were a kid. Think about when you grew up and became an adult yourself. What has your family done to benefit you? Why do we need families?

Take just a few moments and chat with the people sitting around you – why do we need families?

[Group Discussion Time]

Being in a family is critical. None of us would survive our infancy without some sort of family to care for us. As babies, we needed someone to feed us, someone to cloth us, someone to change our diapers. All of us needed a family to care for us, to love us, to teach us, to prepare us for life!

And even once we’ve grown and become adults ourselves – I think most of us still highly value the relationships we have with our families. Now I know that every family is broken to some extend – (Some certainly more than others) – I get that. But generally speaking, even as adults, our families still care for us, they still love us, they still teach us, and they still help prepare us for life.

And I believe that’s God purpose for the church as well. No matter what stage of life we are in – whether we are just a new believer or if we’ve been part of God’s family for decades – we need our heaven Father and our church family to care for us, to love us, to teach us, and to prepare us for life.

You know what an impact your family of origin has had on your life. They have completely shaped the person that you’ve become. They’ve shaped your values, your beliefs, how you see the world – they’ve even shaped your skills and talents, your personality, your sense of humor. So much of who you are was shaped by the family you grew up in. 

And I believe that your church family should have an equal impact – perhaps even greater.

It’s God’s design that the church should totally re-shape your life. Let me show you just a few verses that illustrate for us the impact that our church family should have on our lives. 

These are just a few instructions that God gives us for how we are to interact with each other as a family. And as we read through these – imagine what it would be like to be part of a family that actually did all this….

Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.” Hebrews 10:24

Imagine if someone actually took a few minutes each day to think of ways to motivate you to engage to acts of love and good works…Wouldn’t that be great!? Wouldn’t that change how you lived your day-to-day life?

Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.”

Romans 12:10

Doesn’t that sound good? Imagine if an entire church family loved you with genuine affection and they were delighted to honor you. Would you want to be part of that family?

Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2 

Life isn’t easy. We all face the tough stuff of life on a regular basis. Imagine having an entire church family that cares for you enough to help carry your burdens. To encourage you, to support you, to help you get through the tough stuff of life.

Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” James 5:16

Confessing our sins to each other isn’t fun – but I tell you, it truly brings healing. And as wounded sinners, we need that. Sadly, I think most times we tend to just live with our wounds for years or even decades – never addressing the hurt and really just letting it fester! But imagine being in a family that that gently and lovingly helps bring that healing to those wounds. Wouldn’t that change your life?

Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.” Ephesians 4:2

We’re not perfect people – we know that. But imagine having a family that actually makes allowance for each others fault. Not immediate condemnation whenever we make a mistake – but humble, gentle, patience correction. A family that knows how to give grace.

Now, if you were part of a family that actually did all this – would that make an impact on your life? Absolutely! I think that would completely re-shape your life! You would be a totally different person because of that family. 

I mean, having a family like that would be like living with Jesus!

I think that’s God’s intent. God wants us to have a church family that’s like living with Jesus. 

God wants to transform you into a totally different person – He wants to change your life. He doesn’t want us to stay the same – stuck in our old selfish, sinful ways. He wants to make us more like His Son – Jesus Christ.

And I believe the church is one of the key tools God has provided to help make that happen. God wants us to experience living with Jesus and that’s why He has given us each other. Ephesians 5:1 says…

“Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children.  Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ.” Ephesians 5:1-2

Now of course, we’re not going to do that perfectly. We going to make mistakes along the way – but none-the-less, that’s our goal – to live like Jesus. To follow the example of Christ. To imitate God. To be the kind of church family that we believe God wants us to be.

When the Penhold Community Church and the Penhold Church of Hope were both started many years ago – I believe that was the purpose and the goal for both groups! To live like Jesus in our community! And now that we’ve come together – this is still what we want to do!

We want Penhold and all the surrounding areas to experience living with Jesus. We want to be that family that does all those things in those verses we read earlier.

  • We want to think of ways to motivate each other to love and good deeds. 
  • We want to love each other with genuine affection and take delight in honouring one another. 
  • We want to share each others burdens and help carry the load that weighs each one down.
  • We want to help bring healing where sin has only brought pain. 
  • We want to patiently help each other grow – showing the same grace and love that God has shown to us.

So here’s my challenge for you this morning: If this sounds like the kind of family that you want to be a part of, then don’t just come to church next week. 

Don’t get me wrong! Let me clarify! I’d love to see you again next Sunday morning right here at 10:30am. But don’t just come to an event. Don’t just enter a building. 

Be part of this family on Sunday and on Monday and on Tuesday – in fact, live like Jesus all week long. 

To get really practical, I’d encourage you this week:

  • Maybe spend some time thinking about how you can encourage someone here – thinking of ways to spur them on to love and good deeds. 
  • Take some time to pray with someone – maybe even take them out for coffee. 
  • If you have opportunity, help carry someone’s burdens – come along side them and walk with them through the hard times. 
  • Maybe you need to be bold enough to confess your sin to someone – or to show God’s grace and mercy should someone confess theirs… 

That’s all part of being in this family!

So don’t just come to church – be the church all week where ever you go. You’ve been adopted into God’s own family – you’ve been called together by God to be his sons and his daughters. These are your brothers and sister. So let’s live like a family. Let’s imitate our Father and follow the example of Jesus.

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