The Church is at the center of the Christian faith and most Christians go once a week at the minimum. Christian and secular music artists alike sing about it on a daily basis––the word or idea of church has become ingrained into our culture, leaving people with a basic understanding of its true purpose and significance.
This post is meant to dive deep into the meaning, purpose, and importance of the Local Christian Church, in order that those who are searching, can properly understand the power of the Local Church.
What is a local church in Christianity? The word ‘Church’ comes from the Greek ‘ekklesia,’ and according to The Strongs Concordance this means an assembly, congregation, church; the Church, the whole body of Christian believers. Ekklesia comes from two Greek words that literally mean “called out of the world and to Jesus.” The Local Church then, is a smaller group of Christians within the global body of Christ who come together regularly to worship God.
The Local Church Defined
So, we now know that the Greek ekklesia or Latin ecclesia means the body of Christ or those who are called out of the world and to Jesus, but there are three different segments or parts that create the whole and must be understood properly.
- Individuals as the Church
- The Local Church
- The Global Church
The Church as a whole is formed by these three elements, so we need to have a firm grasp on each as we move forward in this post.
Individuals as the Church
Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same fork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other, but to another standard to which each one must individually bow. So one hundred worshipers met together, each one looking away to Christ, are in heart nearer to each other than they could possibly be, were they to become ‘unity’ conscious and turn their eyes away from God to strive for closer fellowship.– A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God.
The above quote is one of my favorite quotes of all time; when I originally read it years ago, I was deeply struck with the importance of God being at the center of everything, even the good we seek to do, in other words, only he can bring anything good.
The point of this quote is to show that the individual person makes up the body of Christ––the Church. It’s important to understand that the Church is not defined as a building, but is found in the lives of individual people. Without each person setting out to pursue God on their own time in their own lives, there is no church.
We can come together to do church, but if we do not live church, then the gathering is fruitless.
The Local Church
Next comes the local church.
The local church goes from singular to plural; it is a coming together of individuals who pursue Christ in the secret of their home, it is going from private worship to corporate worship.
A short surface definition before we dive deeper is this: the Local Church is a community of worship and fellowship of believers who share mutual belief, faith, and surrender in and to Christ. It manifests itself in many forms, and especially today, we are seeing the diversity of the church be transformed and explode.
It is also imperative to understand that the Church is not defined by the building, but rather, the people who come together, wherever and whatever setting that may be
The Global Church
The Global Church is made up of both the individual as the church and the local church.
The global church can be defined as the local church all over the world, in every nation. This again, is why each one of these parts is crucial to each other.
And we will look further into this aspect further along in the post.
Biblical Examples of Local Church
Followers and worshipers of God have always been on earth. And the establishment of corporate worship, and communities coming together for God was introduced to believers long before the New Testament was given to us. In other words, when Jesus came, He did not start a new religion or form of worship.
The difference, however, between the Church before and after Christ died for us is that the Holy Spirit has been given to us, and the veil was torn, which means we can come together into the holy of holies together, completely sanctified.
In the first three chapters of Acts, we get a glimpse of the local church. Luke, the writer of Acts, describes the early church as meeting together daily, breaking bread, teaching in the temple, and having everything in common. The early church did not consider their possessions to be their own, but rather, they shared them with each other.
The local Church exploded with the power and boldness of the Holy Spirit and wreaked havoc on Rome and the false religious systems that were rampant in that day.
The Local Church is not something to be messed with.
Order in the Local Church
For God is not a God of disorder but of peace—as in all the congregations of the Lord’s people.1 Corinthians 14:33
The Apostle Paul wrote half of the New Testament books, with the intent of giving instructions on how the churches should live and operate as well as instructing in proper theology.
And in 1 Corinthians 14, Paul writes to the people of Corinth, giving them instructions on orderly worship, and as the scripture above says, God is a God of peace and order. Therefore, we find throughout the New Testament, Paul giving instructions to the local churches on how to come together in peace and in a fashion that emphasizes order.
This means that though the body of Christ is defined by individuals following Christ, there is organization that is involved, and it is not every man for himself.
Elders and Leadership
Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain.Titus 1:7
In Titus, Paul gives Titus instructions on how to “put in order” what was “left unfinished.” He gives him the standards by which an elder or overseer must conform.
In Crete, the location Titus was at the time this letter was written to him, there were many wicked people, and there were many rebellious men who refused to listen. So Paul wrote to him to tell him that he as well as the overseers, must live above reproach and in such a way that commands respect and silences the evil men who cause divisions and spread false teachings.
What is the Local Church’s Purpose
The local church serves many different purposes, and we’ll go over as many as we can, but one of the main ones to consider is found in James 1:27
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
Again, another, which is connected to James 1:27 is found in the Great Commission.
“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
There are two parts that are tied to the church, one, taking care of the local community and transforming it, and two, sending.
We’ll begin with the first part: the local community and body of Christ.
As James, the brother of Jesus said, true religion is taking care of widows and orphans and keeping ourselves from impurities. We absolutely cannot send without doing a thorough and genuine job of caring for our immediate community.
The purpose of the local church is to come together and worship Christ in unity, but also to utterly transform the community around them, to care for widows and orphans, and be the standard by which the community and world look for direction.
The local church is also for teaching sound doctrine and is a training ground for Christians. The local church should be alive and active, a place where all Christians in the congregation are using their giftings and contributing in the capacity they have been given.
The Local Church is a place of accountability, discipleship, and encouragement. It is a place where believers come together to share in love and support, and it serves so many purposes. Therefore it is imperative that Christians understand the value in the Local Church, and that out of all of these things––out of a strong and unified body of Local church, believers are able to be sent into the nations.
Sending requires proper support, doctrine, and training from the local church, and this is the second purpose of the church. Jesus, in the Great Commission, said to go and make disciples of all nations. To ignore this would be as sinful as neglecting the people in the local community.
Churches are not meant to stay inward, but rather, are meant to always be exploding and going out into the world.
Not all are called to missions overseas, but sometimes the comfort of whats known even keeps believers from stepping out into their own neighborhoods and ministering to co-workers and neighbors.
But understanding that these two things are a constant cycle and cannot be done without the other is crucial. They are intertwined and must be actively pursued.
Why the Local Church is Important
It is no secret that the Church has gone through some difficulty; because of the institutionalized, platform version of Church, many evangelicals have left the church altogether. But, it is important to understand the importance of connecting with the local church, and being a part of the body. Island worship–the Christian who separates themselves from the rest of the body, guarantees isolation and makes the working out of salvation much more difficult for the believer.
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.Hebrews 10:24-25
The writer of Hebrews urges his readers not to give up on meeting together, why? Because meeting together helps to spur you on towards love and good deeds. The bottom line is we are not meant to work out our salvation alone, we are meant to spur one another on through love and encouragement.
In Genesis 2, God Himself said that it is not good for man to be alone. Additionally, to those who are turned off by the flaws of the church, we must always remember that God is aware of every issue and yet He is patient and loving towards the body.
While everyone has different opinions on the state or model of the modern-day church, we are all still the body of Christ, and we are called to live lives of power through the Holy Spirit.
So let’s take a look at some other reason the Local Church is so important.
And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”Genesis 1:28
We go back to Genesis to find out what God lays out for the Church. In the beginning, He gives us dominion over the whole earth, over every inch of ground, over every plant, over every animal, He commands us to bring the earth into order.
The local church and the body of Christ as a whole is called to walk in this calling and command from God.
It’s important to understand the sacred-secular divide before we move on to the other important reasons for the church.
The Sacred-Secular Divide
The sacred-secular divide is a compartmentalizing form of living the Christian life and for many years, the world has viewed Christianity as a religion that does “church things,” and in the church is where they/we keep it.
But this was never what God intended, again, we go back to Genesis 1 where the Lord gave humans full dominion over the earth, likewise, followers of Christ have been given full authority to go into every segment of life and own it.
The king talked with them, and he found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king’s service. In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom.Daniel 1:19-20
In the above passage, we find Daniel and his three friends, four God-fearing Israelite men, surrounded and held captive by the pagan Babylonians. Instead of the four men shrinking back in the face of an evil society who celebrated what is opposite of God, they pushed to do the very best that they could, regardless of it being on Israelite soil, and not only were they the best, they were ten times better than anyone else.
As a result of this, Nebuchadnezzar fell to his face and proclaimed the God of the Hebrews to be God and Lord over all.
Looking at the Bible, we see over and over again how God planted His own people in prominent political positions of power. A few more examples are Joseph, Esther, Nehemiah, and Moses. All were God’s people, and all were faithful in the positions they were given, and through their obedience to God, they were used to shape nations and transform societies.
Likewise, the local church and all its members are called to do the same.
- Christian teachers are called to go into schools and be a light in the darkness.
- Christian politicians are called to go into the local government and speak the truth in love.
- Christian business owners are called to bring God to the workplace infiltrate the market in excellence through Christ.
In short, the local church is called to completely change the spirituality and morality of the community through faithfulness to God. Our pursuit of God utterly transforms us and makes us stand out from the rest, and like a catalyst, neighborhoods, communities, and the world are changed.
The local church cannot, however, do this on its own.
He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”Acts 1:7-8
Right before Jesus ascended into heaven He promised the Disciples that they would receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon them, THEN, they would be witnesses locally and then out into the rest of the world.
None of these things would be possible without the work of the Holy Spirit. As the Local Church partners with, and is drawn by, the Holy Spirit to set examples of Christ and make differences, the differences will be made.
God Uses People to Bring Healing
Paul urged early church members not to “forsake gathering together as some have done,” and I think another very large reason that believers need to be connected to other believers is that God uses people to bring healing from the pain of past hurts caused by other people.
It’s easy to get into a “spiritual” mindset, or an “it’s just me God.” I was one of them. I prayed for healing all while warding people off and keeping them at a distance, but God had a different plan.
Instead of sending a vision, dream, or lightning bolt from heaven, He used the body of Christ, the local church, to heal broken pieces in me.
God cherishes his bride, the church, therefore we should too.
The Global Church Because of Local Church
God is pursuing with omnipotent passion a worldwide purpose of gathering joyful worshipers for Himself from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. He has an inexhaustible enthusiasm for the supremacy of His name among the nations. Therefore, let us bring our affections into line with His, and, for the sake of His name, let us renounce the quest for worldly comforts and join His global purpose.John Piper
Missions exist for the sole purpose of creating worship through local churches, worldwide.
Let’s first remember that the church is not confined to the building, but rather the community and gathering of followers of Christ. So, local church overseas doesn’t mean that the ultimate goal is to build a church building, but instead, to spread the Gospel to people who have never heard, and thus create a community of active believers who can continue the cycle in their own nation.
Local church and the global church are one and the same, though we are all different culturally, we are all united in Christ.
Sending is a huge part of the local church. Churches who disregard missions or outward ministry are directly ignoring the Great Commission in Matthew 28. Missions work is always a sign of a healthy church body, whether the local church is sending, or supporting, it is important to actively pursue sharing the good news in all nations and places.
The Local Church Summed Up
We have by now covered a lot of ground, touching on many points and aspects, so let me sum up the meat and key aspects of what Local church is.
Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 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. 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 16:17-19
Just before Jesus said this in the above passage, Peter had professed that Jesus was the Messiah––he believed in his heart and professed with his mouth that Jesus was Lord. Jesus then, was stating that the church would be built upon belief and faith in Jesus Christ, and through this faith, not a single thing in the universe would overcome it.
With this in mind, we need to remember that the local church is not defined by the building, but rather, it is defined as the gathering and fellowship/community of those who have believed and are saved.
So wherever we are, whatever we are doing, we are the church. We represent the body of Christ in every aspect of life, and we get to celebrate this in everything we do.
The local church speaks to both spiritual and physical issues, both emotional and practical. It serves the local community of believers as well as the extended family of believers who are either nationwide or worldwide.
The Local church is dynamic and connected, reaching beyond human capacity by the empowering of the Holy Spirit.