I have recently become interested in what it looks like to be a Biblical local church. In order to do this well, I needed to know more about what the Bible says about the role of the local church.
What is the role of the local church? The role of the local church is emphasized by the body of believers, who work together in unity for Christ. The local church is to reveal God to the rest of the world, using their God-given gifts, through the Holy Spirit to accomplish the Great Commission.
This seems like a broad and daunting task when you look at the big picture of the role of the local church. Though it may be daunting, I want to break down what the Bible says about our responsibility in stewarding His command.
When we think of the local church, I assume most of us think of the physical churches that we pass on the street daily. This was not the same in the Bible. The word “church” is used to describe the group of believers who formed the “church.”
According to Bible Study Tools, the Greek word for “church” is ekklesia. This word literally means “assembly, congregation, or meeting.” This term for church was only used in the New Testament. A similar word is used in the Old Testament, meaning “the Lord’s congregation.”
Though the term church was used in the New Testament, it was never in reference to a building. The church, Biblically, is the group of believers coming together in community. This community was on fire for the Lord, working together, in their gifts, in order to spread the Good News of the Gospel.
The community of believers can be in reference to local believers or to all believers as a whole. I think it is so important to understand this; the community of believers is the church, not the location.
Building of the Church
Jesus Himself is clear that He will build His church and it will not be overcome.
And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.Matthew 16:18 NIV
In this verse Jesus is talking to Peter and other disciples, asking who do the people say the Son of Man is? The other disciples are listing other prophets, but Peter declares; “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.”
This is when Jesus replies to Peter that on this rock He will build His church. The Greek meaning for the name Peter is rock. I found that interesting, that the actual meaning of Peter’s name is the exact place Jesus says He will build His church.
So, what does this mean for us? It means a few things. We have a calling, as believers that Jesus is the true Son of the living God, to build the church. If you notice, Jesus did not say He would build on the other disciples who thought other prophets were the Son of Man. God is calling those who believe and know Jesus is the Son of Man, the Son of the Living God!
I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”Matthew 16:19 NIV
Building the Church Today
Today, the local church can be built in the same way that the church in Bible times was being built. Our cornerstone and center should always be Jesus and His desires for His Kingdom and church. I found it interesting how intentional Jesus was to say He will build on the people!
If the church is to be built on people, we need to be working with the Holy Spirit. The fruits that we bare are necessary for the furthering of the Kingdom of God. We need to be working as one body too. Jesus warns us about this as well!
But now God has placed each one of the parts in one body just as He wanted. And if they were all the same part, where would the body be? Now there are many parts, yet one body.1 Corinthians 12:18-20 HCSB
The Bible’s Description of the Church
Biblically, the church is identified by the city it is in or where the people are from. Throughout the New Testament, churches are identified by their city, not their country or region.
For example, one would speak of “the churches of Galatia” in plural because Galatia was a region with many cities, and therefore, many local churches.Bible Study Tools
Process of Confrontation
The Bible gives us an example of confrontation. In this, Jesus describes the church as a group who should be in the line of accountability with other believers.
Matthew 18 has a few parables as well as a lesson about restoring your brother. Restoring your brother seems like a broad and serious heading that the Holman Christian Standard Bible gives the portion of verses about it. But, it is correct, what Jesus talks about should bring restoration for the body of Christ, through conflict resolution.
This section of Scripture is talking about if a brother sins against you. It is a three-step process that ends up turning to the church. This is important to note because it shows the accountability position the body and the church should be in.
The steps given by Jesus in Matthew 18: 15-20 are:
- If a brother sins against you, go to them first.
- Then, if they do not listen to you, go to them with two people.
- Finally, if they don’t listen after that, then you bring them to the church.
It is interesting the process that Jesus presents to the disciples about this topic because shows the collaboration with the church.
A local church structure should have a process in place for conflict like this and sin in general. The local church as a Biblical responsibility to hold each other accountable. Many churches have a membership program in order to hold each other accountable.
Communion is an important piece of the local church. Jesus was the first to set an example for communion. There is an account of the last supper with Jesus in Luke 22. This recounts the night before Jesus went to the cross. He is reclining at the table with His disciples sharing the Passover meal with them.
Jesus sets an example and a metaphor for this meal. Breaking bread and drinking wine symbolic of His body and blood that He would shed the next day. This should be taken and eaten in remembrance of Jesus, He says so Himself.
Later in Acts 20:7 we an example of Paul breaking bread and having communion with a church in Troas. The first day of the week is when they partook in the breaking of bread together, in remembrance of Jesus. Following this was a message given by Paul.
On the first day of the week, we assembled to break bread. Paul spoke to them, and since he was about to depart the next day, he extended his message until midnight.Acts 20:7
This same format should be how the local church operates today, as well. The coming together and breaking of bread is important. If it was not important Jesus would not have done it and told us to do it in remembrance of Him.
Just as communion brings the local church together, so should the body of Christ come together for fellowship.
This is crucial to the body of Christ because it gives another way to hold each other accountable. Jesus says we can’t cut off one area of the body, like the arm or leg. As we meet together there is a unity that comes with that.
Many local churches will have events to bring people together. This is very important to the health of the body! Small groups and areas of more intimacy are important to hold people accountable.
Churches today are much larger than in Biblical days where it was more cultural to meet in homes and be together in that way. I think today, it is more out of the ordinary to have church meetings in homes. I think the Biblical culture and area of ministry that Jesus, Paul, and others were in was like this. Be with people, in their homes.
Meeting together is a crucial part of the body because you can’t build a community or unity without meeting together to know one another.
1 Timothy 3 breaks down the requirements of the church leaders. This sets an example for how the church should be broken down, at least in leadership. Paul sets the standard for leadership in this way.
- First, the desire to even be a leader in the church is considered to be desiring a noble work. Paul states in verse 1.
- The requirements are as follows;
An overseer, therefore, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, self-controlled, sensible, respectable, hospitable, an able teacher, not addicted to wine, not a bully but gentle, not quarrelsome, not greedy—one who manages his own household competently, having his children under control with all dignity.1 Timothy 3:2-4 HCSB
Paul continues this topic by giving standards for deacons in the church as well. These standards include:
Should be worthy of respect, not hypocritical, not drinking a lot of wine, not greedy for money, holding the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. And they must also be tested first; if they prove blameless, then they can serve as deacons.1 Timothy 3:8-10 HCSB
Paul even includes how wives should be and the standards they are held to. They should be managing their children along with their husbands.
Overall, Paul gives standards to leaders, deacons, and women with children in mind. He puts standards on the church leadership and adults because those who are underneath them are looking at them. The example is set by the leaders, deacons, and women.
Roles in the Local Church
Within the church, there are roles for individuals, families, the greater community, the nation, and the world. Here I will break down each of these roles and where it comes from Biblically.
The local church should be the primary mechanism that helps a believer grow in their faith. This is where souls should be cared for.
If we look into Scripture about this, we find in Hebrews 12 an exhortation to be in communion with other believers, fixing our eyes, together, on Jesus. In this communion, we see the call to love one another with a love that is accountable and bold to throw off sin.
Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throneHebrews 12: 1-2 HCSB
Secondly, for the individual in the local church, the role of the church is to train believers to do ministry. Your ability to minister to other people should come from the church and mirror those in the church.
And He personally gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into a mature man with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness.Ephesians 4: 11-13
The Scripture is clear that the Lord has given gifts to every believer. This means that every single one of us has a purpose in the Kingdom of God and the Body of Christ. The church should be a group of people who exhort each other’s gifts. All of the saints, as Scripture says, are to build up the Body of Christ. This is the local church and a calling for every individual.
There are two areas the local church has a role in families.
The first being corporate soul care for the family, in tragedy and crisis. The local church should be modeling for families how the family should function in the home. Pastors have a role to model good parenting, and male pastors should be modeling for men of the house. Men have a specific calling as a husband and father to lead the house. Women in leadership in the church should be leading a model for how women should nurture and mother families.
The second role the local church has in families is that over the children’s lives. The classic saying, “it takes a village” is incredibly true. Men and women have many insights they would like to pass down to their children. As parents, it is their duty to raise up a child in the way they should go.
Teach a youth about the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.Proverbs 22:6 HCSB
The local church is a body of believers who are like-minded to the parents of the children. It is a great place for the children to be surrounded by many adults who share the same values, and trust of the Holy Spirit as their parents. This reinforces the values the parents instill in their children at home.
The local church has a role in the greater community surrounding the church. This includes two areas the church should be aware of; the ability to meet tangible needs and the ability to be prophetic to the community.
The ability to meet the tangible needs of the community is necessary and should be recognized in every church body.
If the church can move and the community doesn’t feel it, they are doing something wrong.Kenny Ortiz
The local church should be helping in local mercy ministries. If the church should also have a role in the individual to teach and equip for ministry, this is a great place to start. The role the local church plays in the greater community is very important.
Secondly, the role of the local church in the great community is the ability to be prophetic to the community. This seems like a very large task, and it is if you are trying to do it on your own. Kenny Ortiz explained to me that the church’s ability to step into the prophetic is to step into things when people are doing something unjust or wrong. He explained that it is important for the church to verbally protest those things, but always follow up with solutions and ways to help serve in those areas.
I think a way the church fails in this area often is not giving opportunity for growth after the verbal protest. The local church’s role is to call out sin, then follow up with grace and opportunity for another chance.
In the Nation
The nation has a wide range of churches throughout it. The local church looks different in every different location. If the local church is working together throughout the nation, there is a great key for a movement over the country.
For example, a church in Minneapolis can’t necessarily reach or work together with the church in Idaho. If the church is working together to plant or partner with churches in smaller areas throughout the country, there is a greater chance of movement.
Kenny Ortiz also made a point that when the local churches are working together, it changes the emotional and spiritual climate of the community.
The role of the local church in the nation is to work together, as the body of Christ. Truthfully, every role within the church points back to the unity of the Body of Christ.
Now as we have many parts in one body, and all the parts do not have the same function, in the same way we who are many are one body in Christ and individually members of one another.Romans 12:4-5 HCSB
In the World
The local church is a worldwide body of believers. Everywhere there is a body of believers, that is the local church. So, how does our local church play a role in the world? In the same ways, our local church plays a role in the nation, partnership.
The church is the primary tool to bring the Gospel to those who haven’t heard it. It is a mission and job of the church to plant healthy churches, translate the Bible, and be supportive of the missionaries that are building disciples worldwide.
God is plan A, there is no plan B.Kenny Ortiz
God’s plan should be the plan and vision for the church throughout the world. The role of the local church may look different across the world because of cultural and language differences.
If your church is sending missionaries, which they should be, there is a role to support and sustain them overseas. This looks like supporting them financially, protecting them in prayer and in their security.
The role of the local church is a crucial mission for the whole world and will be until the return of Christ.
Role of the Local Church
Throughout Paul’s many letters to churches that he ministered to, there are a few things I’d like to pull out about the role of the church. These two things are about immorality and voting in the church. Both of these things add to the role of the local church.
Topic of Immorality in the Church
Throughout this post, I have discussed the importance of accountability in the church. The topic of immorality in the church includes an incredible need for accountability.
Paul brings up the topic of sexual immorality in the church in 1 Corinthians 5. He is rebuking the church for their lack of accountability and for allowing the sexually immoral things to happen.
There was a man who was having sexual relations with his father’s wife. The church is filled with pride instead of being upset and grieving the need for the man to leave the congregation.
And you are inflated with pride, instead of filled with grief so that he who has committed this act might be removed from your congregation.1 Corinthians 5:2
Paul is telling the church they need to remove this man from the congregation. This is not as terrible as it sounds. It took me a while to understand why Paul would be telling the church to remove him. But then I found, the most crucial verse to understanding it.
When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus with my spirit and with the power of our Lord Jesus, turn that one over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the Day of the Lord.1 Corinthians 5:4-5
Paul is telling the church, give the one over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh. This does not mean the person is just completely cut off from the church! It is allowing them to be in their flesh, ultimately trusting that the Lord will be working in their heart and spirit for the Day of the Lord.
Voting in the Church
Voting seems to be a topic in the States that brings a lot of opinions. Within the church, there is also a degree of voting that should be taking place.
In Acts 14, we see that there are elders appointed. The process of appointing elders is not listed in the passage. But they are described as people who were in every church. These elders prayed and fasted over missionaries being sent out.
When they had appointed elders in every church and prayed with fasting, they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.Acts 14:24 HCSB
Today, our local church should have theses appointed leaders, selected by those in the congregation and the leadership in the church. I think it is very important to have a group of elders in the church. This group will bring accountability to the pastor as well as other leadership.
Just like I have sad throughout this post, accountability is something that the Bible talks about constantly when talking about the local church. Due to the frequency of this, I find it important to take note for the local church today.
Overall, I hope this post has explained more of your questions about the local church. It was fun for me to learn and research about the local church Biblically; as well as challenge the church to a higher standard in accountability in all areas. I think the role of the church Biblically is important to know and understand. It was helpful for me too, because now I have a Biblical standard of expectations. I hope this helped you set your Biblical expectations as well!