When you think of a church, what picture do you have in your mind?
You most likely see some picture from your childhood, maybe a small, quaint building set at the edge of a forest. In your mind you may be seeing “the little brown church in the vale.”
How do you think of the church? Do you think of it as a mighty Cathedral? Is it a place of stained glass, statues, and ornate woodwork?
We should, very possibly, have a totally different image of the church.
In the New Testament, the church is not a place and not a building. It is the people of God. In biblical reality there are two ways to see the church– – it is the church gathered (when we meet for worship and fellowship) and the church scattered (when we go out into the world).
When Jesus said “on this rock I build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18) what do you see?
Most people see a medieval castle, surrounded by a moat and with a wall and towers for protection. In other words, they see a defensive area. We often see the church as trying to protect itself from the world.
Jesus depiction of the church is just the opposite. He calls the church to bring light into the darkness. The light always overcomes the darkness.
Jesus emphasized that the church would take the gospel to the world. He never envisioned that we would wait for the world to come to the church. He told His disciples they would be witnesses of all that they had seen and heard. He charged His followers to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them and teaching them the ways of God (Matthew 28:19-20).
Heaven reflects this emphasis. In heaven there are people from every nation, tongue, tribe, and language who are around the throne worshiping God (Revelation 5:9). The heavenly vision is of the church on the march, moving forward with the gospel so that no tribe or people will be left out, but all will hear the wonderful works of God.
It is imperative that we do not see the church as we envision it but as God intends it.
May you and I put that picture in our minds and that ideal in our hearts.
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