“You are the church!” We are familiar with this statement. But the word “church” has been so loosely used in our everyday conversation. Many people associate the term with a building. So, it is often expressed, “I’m going to church” in a particular location. Others may use the term to refer to a denomination. Some may refer to it just as an institution registered under law to conduct certain religious activities.
These are however not biblical concepts. The New Testament word for “church” is ekklesia which means “the called out ones.” The reference is to people, who are called out for a particular purpose.
Peter, writing to believers dispersed throughout Asia Minor persecuted on account of their faith, gave this important reminder of their identity.
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvellous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1 Peter 2:9-10, ESV)
The church is the people of God – people who have been “called out of darkness”, people who have “received mercy” and now with that distinct identity of being “God’s people”, “a people for his own possession”.
What a tremendous privilege! You and I are the church. God has called us to be His very own.
We are the church. And we are to “proclaim the excellencies of Him who called”. The church exists primarily to worship God and to work for His Kingdom in this world. There is also another important dimension – that of being the community of God’s people.
As the church, we need to be absolutely certain of the vertical dimension, our relationship with God. And this has been made possible through Jesus Christ, who came into this world so that we may be redeemed, and who has given us the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us. There is also the horizontal dimension. God has placed us in community. Together, we belong to Him. We are therefore exhorted to build one another up in the faith, pray with and for one another, encourage each other, and serve together to fulfil God’s purpose. This is the reality of fellowship in the community of believers. In His grace, He has given us one another – people from different backgrounds, different ethnicities and with different gifts – coming together because we all belong to God.
As we acknowledge the reality of “being church”, it is important for us to consider what it means for each of us individually, and together as a body. We must consider how “being church” is expressed in the life of this local church.
I would like to bring up three areas for us to reflect on:
Being a worshipper
One called by God must live a life of worship. And this is to be expressed in every area of our life. We need the Holy Spirit to empower us to live a life of worship. This must mean that we give priority to spending our time with God – reading His Word, allowing Him to speak to us, and for us to commune with Him. Jesus reminds us clearly that we must abide or remain in Christ (John 15:5).
Being a member of God’s community
As a member of God’s community, we must choose to participate as part of the local church. We want to offer our gifts (time, talents, treasures) to the Lord – and the local church is the immediate context in which this can be expressed. 1 Corinthians 12 brings to our attention that we are “members in one body” and “there are many parts, yet one body” (v 18). It therefore means that if you do not participate in the body life, your contribution will be missed.
This also means that we should not choose to remain in the periphery. Neither should we approach with a critical spirit – always criticizing or blaming, but never seeing oneself as a valued member in the body life.
Being a disciple committed to following Christ
As people redeemed by Christ, we must choose to follow Jesus faithfully. Jesus also expects us to be disciples that make disciples of others (Matthew 28:19-20). As we put into practice a life of following Jesus and inviting others to do the same, we will be blessed with fruitfulness, as Christ has promised.
We are the church, a people belonging to God, called out from darkness into His marvellous light. His desire is that His church will fulfil His purpose in this world, for His glory.
By David L.T. Yap, Advisory Pastor & Elder (YCKC Bulletin 3&4 August 2013)