That's an important question. Check the table of contents of any systematic theology, and there will be a section discussing the doctrine of the church.
In Ephesians 1:22-23, we are told that God the Father, appointed Christ as head of the church:
And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.If God put Christ as head of the Church, it must be important.
When Jesus was speaking to Peter in Matthew 16, Peter confessed that Jesus was the Christ. Jesus responded with this:
Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Matt. 16:17-18)Jesus planned to build his church, and he intended for it to be strong.
Who is in the church? Wayne Grudem, says that the church, "includes all who profess faith in Christ and give evidence of that faith in their lives."1 The church is full people; people who are redeemed, but still sinners.
The church is everywhere, all over the world. Wherever there is a gathering of those who profess the name of Christ as their Saviour and live as his disciples, there are churches. They can meet in expensive, technologically equipped buildings, schools, hotel boardrooms, and old warehouses.
Churches often do things differently from one another. Some churches baptize infants, and some do not. Some have one kind of church government, and some have another. Some have different worship styles, and because of the culture they exist in, looked different from what we're used to. I live in small town, southern Ontario, where the population is not all that diverse. There are churches only an hour away in Kitchener-Waterloo with very ethnically diverse congregations.
While churches are different from one another, our unity is found in Christ. The song The Church's One Foundation reminds us of who is the head of the church:
As we think of the church and our relationship to it and our fellow brothers and sisters, we must never forget that the foundation is Christ. He is the cornerstone (Eph. 2:20), and we, the members, are the living stones which are being built into a spiritual house (I Pet. 2:4-5). Whatever we do within the church flows from that reality.The Church’s one foundation
Is Jesus Christ her Lord;
She is His new creation
By water and the Word:
From heav’n He came and sought her
To be His holy Bride;
With His own blood He bought her,
And for her life He died.
The church is not a place to help us become famous, or show off our talents. It is not a place to further our own agendas. It's about Christ, who died to purchase those who would be living stones. It ought to humble us to be part of the church. To be part of building the kingdom of God through local church congregations is a gift. Not everyone belongs to the church.
As I look ahead to this month, I am eager to see what my fellow blogging companions will have to share. I hope you will be edified. Later this month, we'll be doing a group post, where we all share with you the various things we are busy at within our own local churches. And if you don't make a habit to attend a local church, but you are a Christian, don't delay. Start searching right away.
1. Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000), p. 856.