If you are a Christian, you may have wondered what the local church is and its importance at some point. Over time I have started to wonder what the Biblical importance of the local church is throughout Biblical history. The definition and meaning are also important to me because it seems many people have differing opinions about it.
What is the meaning of the local church? The local church can mean a few things. A location where Christians gather to pray and worship, or the community of believers there. Biblically we can see that the church started as just the group of believers meeting together. Today, our culture tends to consider the local church as a place where people go on Sunday.
In this blog post, I will explain some interesting definitions of the local church, the meaning of local church and the Biblical importance. I have found some interesting things that have been shaped by the Western culture that I am excited to share with you!
The Greek words for “church” are, “kuriakon” and “ecclesia.”
Kuriakon is defined as “the Lord’s house,” according to the Bible Dictionary. This same term was also used for ancient authors for a place of worship. This Greek word is not clearly used in the Scripture according to the Bible Dictionary, rather the word church could be derived from this word, in the Old Testament.
The New Testament uses the word ecclesia when discussing the church. This word is more literally translated to “assembly.” The church is defined as an assembly of people and groups into what we would consider “local churches” based on their city or location.
What I found was interesting in my research is that the Webster Dictionary defines “church” as:
A building for public and especially Christian worship.Webster Dictionary
I found this interesting because the most popular dictionary defines the church as the building the people meet. By Biblical, Greek definition, this is wrong. The church should be defined as the body of believers. It’s the community that makes up a church.
Meaning of Church
The true meaning of church stems from its true definition as the body of believers that form it. So, what does this mean for the local church today?
It seems different from the traditional church we’ve grown up in. To go every Sunday, partake in communion, or Wednesday night services and small groups, this is an aspect of what it looks like to be the church.
I remember the first time I ever took communion with a small group of believers in a home. I don’t think I can ever forget how different and strange it felt. We discussed the communion verses and how being in a home for communion is very Biblical. It made me wonder, why doesn’t the church today, or even just small groups, do this more often?
After all, the meaning of church should be the gathering of believers in a community. The body of Christ is founded on the bread and body of Jesus Christ. So, the true, Biblical meaning should still be the same. This obviously looks much different today as we have so many mega-churches throughout the country. I do not think those are bad. But the identity of the church should not be wrapped up in that.
The identity of the church should be wrapped in Biblical principles that Jesus, Himself has put in place.
So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.Ephesians 4:11-13 NIV
The church is important because it reveals Christ, even as Christ reveals God in human flesh.Steven J. Cole
If we look at the way Paul talks to many churches throughout the New Testament we can see that the quote above is true. Paul challenges the church to hold each other accountable, call out sin, and heresy.
The church is an accountability system. If we look in Galatians we see Paul confronting the church of Galatia about circumcision. In this time the church was still trying to figure out the Law and how that worked as believers. They were stuck on the topic of circumcision, but Paul called them out. He called out their heresy to think that people needed to become Jewish and follow under the Law before they could become Christians.
For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision accomplishes anything; what matters is faith working through loveGalatians 5:6 HCSB
In this Paul is talking to the church as a whole, calling out the heresy in the whole body. He did not call out just a group of people. So, in that, we can see the Biblical importance of the church is to call out heresy in one another. Paul was the leader of the church, but I personally believe the body needs to call out each other as well. We don’t have to be solely dependent on the pastor for the calling out of sin or heresy.
Accountability & Confrontation
We also see the Biblical importance of the church in the way that it pulls the church into confrontation. Jesus tells us, in Matthew about what to do when a brother sins against us. There is a three step process that Jesus lays out. This includes going to the person directly. If nothing changes, go to the person with two or three other people. Finally, Jesus tells us, if nothing has changed after those two steps, bring the person to the church.
“If your brother sins against you, go and rebuke him in private. If he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he won’t listen, take one or two more with you, so that by the testimony of two or three witnesses every fact may be established. If he pays no attention to them, tell the church. But if he doesn’t pay attention even to the church, let him be like an unbeliever and a tax collector to you.Matthew 18:15-17 HCSB
This tells us the importance of the accountability of the church. As believers, as the church, we are to be held accountable to each other in all things. Paul held the church accountable to their beliefs and sin. In the same way, Jesus has called the body of believers to hold each other accountable in all things.
The Bible has provided everything we need for life and godliness. The body of believers is something that is spoken about throughout the Word of God. This is the importance it carries, the local church should provide a space for believers to grow and be held accountable.
Scripture Regarding the Church
And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the forces of Hades will not overpower it.Matthew 16:18 HCSB
So the church throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace, being built up and walking in the fear of the Lord and in the encouragement of the Holy Spirit, and it increased in numbers.Acts 9:31 HCSB
As you process the definition, meaning and Biblical importance of the church, may the Holy Spirit guide you. My hope and prayer is that this post would excite you more for the church that Jesus has founded and continues to equip with grace and power through the Holy Spirit.