Whether you’re curious about Christianity, a new believer, or simply want to learn more about the local church, this post will be helpful in showing you the essential or key elements of the local church.
What makes up a Christian Church? A local Christian church is made up of 7 key elements:
- Mission Minded Focus
- Communion and Fellowship
Let’s unpack each one of these in order to grasp a deeper understanding of their importance.
While I didn’t necessarily place these key elements in order of importance, I will say that prayer is the most important on my list of what ought to make up a church.
Leonard Ravenhill gave a sermon once on the importance of prayer and how it has been neglected by the church. And below is a quote by him that perfectly illustrates how prayer would most likely be at the bottom of most pastor’s lists of important elements of the local church.
The Cinderella of the Church today is the prayer meeting. This handmaid of the Lord is unloved and unwooed because she is not dripping with pearls of intellectualism, nor glamorous with the silks of philosophy, neither is she enchanting with the tiara of psychology. She wears the homespuns of sincerity and humility and so is not afraid to kneel!Leonard Ravenhill
Prayer is essential to breakthrough, to righteous living, and communion with God. Prayer taps into God’s heart to find out what it’s beating for, if we neglect prayer in the church we neglect a right understanding of what God desires to do.
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.Acts 2:42
If we take just a small glance at the Bible, we easily see that prayer is central to the Christian faith and the local church. Jesus was always prayer, daniel prayed three times a day with his face to the floor, Joshuah and Moses were always in the tent of the Lord praying and meeting with Him, and the New Testament church was a people of prayer.
Disciples are a key element of the local church and the Bible illustrates two kinds of them. One, those who are followers of Jesus, and two, those who are mentored by more mature Christians in order that they may become deeper and more mature in following Jesus.
Jesus demonstrated the model of mentorship through discipleship along with many other prophets and leaders throughout the Bible. It is a method in which the more mature Christian does life and mentors a newer believer in order that they grow into the likeness of Christ.
Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.Luke 14:25-26
This is an essential element because the whole body is supposed to be active and alive and all members are to be functioning in the giftings that God has given. But when the local church does not make discipleship a priority, the body becomes complacent and stagnant.
Discipleship is meant to challenge, encourage, and spur on, but if we don’t do this, it then becomes about platform ministry where numbers are elevated above spiritual growth.
Mission Minded Focus
God’s purpose for the church was for it to be alive and active, just as He ordained Israel as the light to the pagan world, so the church is the light in this modern pagan age.
Before Jesus ascended into heaven, He gave us–the church, a mission to complete, and that mission is known as the great commission:
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”Matthew 28:18-20
A church that does not keep this central to everything they do is missing it big time. Church and people who lack the passion to reach the lost prompt me to ask the question, why? You see, something is missing when we are not broken for those who do not know Jesus, if we are utterly inactive in making every effort possible to make Jesus known to those around us, as well as overseas, then we need to get on our knees and ask Jesus where our focus has been misplaced.
Another portion of mission mindedness is caring for widows and orphans as described in James chapter 1.
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.James 1:27
These are weighty words from James, they set a clear picture of what true religion looks like and what the church is called to do. Therefore, this is essential to the church collectively, as well as to the Christian individually.
The whole Bible shows the importance, power, and purpose of teaching. It is intended to inform, encourage, and urge, Christians into a deeper understanding of God. Teaching is intended for us to learn more about God and His character.
Again looking in Acts 2 we see that the believers devoted themselves to the apostle’s teachings, another example is Jesus who traveled around speaking in the synagogues, and again, the early church leaders are constantly teaching in the churches as well as going to the synagogues themselves to speak about Jesus and his work on the cross.
Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.James 3:1
The local church should always have teaching that is done in accordance with sound biblical doctrine. Whether this is done in a Sunday morning service, Sunday school, life group, Bible study, etc. It should always be pursued for the building up of the body of Christ.
And to add further emphasis to sound Biblical doctrine, I would say that all teaching must come from the Bible. And what I mean by that is that those who presume to be teachers must understand how to read the Bible and apply scripture rightly. Teachers should understand correct doctrine and not simply picking and choosing portions of scripture or taking words out of context.
In multiple letters to the churches, Paul writes the qualifications for leadership in the church, thus demonstrating a model of proper leadership that is to be followed.
And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.Acts 14:23
It is also important to note that Biblical leadership isn’t just found in the New Testament, but also all throughout the Old Testament, though it is not centered on one man speaking anymore, there are principles brought forward to us today.
For God is not a God of disorder, but of peace. As in all the congregations of the saints,1 Corinthians 14:33
There are two forms of leadership in the local church and they are mentioned several times in the New Testament. Paul refers to leadership as deacons and elders, elders are what we know today as pastors and teachers, while deacons are known to fill the physical needs of the church and aid the elders.
In the same way, deacons are to be worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain.1 Timothy 3:8
It is important for the local church to follow Biblical standards of leadership as it becomes a free for all and without order otherwise.
While it is agreed that worship goes far beyond singing songs and is demonstrated in daily living in obedience to Christ. Worship through song is an expression of thanksgiving and honor towards God.
Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.Colossians 3:16-17
Worship is utterly central to the local church. Everything, whether collectively or individually, is to be done as an act of worship unto God, and coming together to worship in song is a gift from God.
Singing songs and hymns to the lord is demonstrated all throughout the Bible, from the time of Moses on through to John’s Revelation in which he saw all of heaven singing God’s praises.
Worship is a way of drawing near and communing with Him and giving thanks for all that He has done so this should be at the center of all things.
Communion and Fellowship
This element is twofold, but let’s begin with creation.
In the beginning of creation, God created man, but then He saw that “it is not good for man to be alone,” thus He created women. After His creation of man, they communed and fellowshipped with each other daily and we can see this is a display of God’s heart and what He desires for His people.
After the fall took place everything was distorted–relationships included, there was a sort of disunity that entered into the scene, but after Jesus shed His blood for us and established His church, He restored the original design of God.
Thus the church is unique in all the world because through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, we are enabled to love one another and meet together to break bread and enjoy fellowship regardless of political, social, physical, or cultural differences.
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, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.Acts 2:46-47
This is one of the greatest aspects of the Church, though we sometimes fail in loving our sisters and brothers, the heart of God is to have a unified body, in which offenses die and are left at the door and where everyone takes it upon themselves to encourage and look after their family in Christ.
It is a powerful, powerful thing, and we have the privilege and joy of getting to take part in it.
Just before Jesus went to the cross to die for our sins, He sat down with His 12 disciples and shared in the last supper. During their meal in observance of Passover, Jesus instructed them to break bread and drink wine in remembrance of Him.
And as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”Mark 14:22-25
Observing Jesus’ death and resurrection through the breaking of bread and drinking wine or juice is important, it unifies the body of Christ and focuses our attention on the reason we gather and call ourselves Christian.
It points to Jesus and glorifies his name, which is the very reason we come together.
What These 7 Ingredients Make Up
The local church is powerful and unique. God formed it to bring glory to His name and to be a light in a dark world.
“Nothing on earth has greater potential to change lives and carry out His kingdom work in your community, than your local church.There’s nothing like the local church when it’s working right. Its beauty is indescribable. Its power is breathtaking. Its potential is unlimited. No other organization on earth is like the church. Nothing even comes close.Bill Hybels
The Church lives contrary to the curse, though we face trials we are not crushed by them, in fact the church tends to explode in the face of them.
So, these seven elements form a live and active body of believers that are catalytic. They work together in the power of the Holy Spirit to transform lives, societies, cultures, and the whole world.