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Frequently Asked Questions - Church

The word in the Greek language which we translate 'church' is 'ekklesia.' It means 'those who have been called out.' It refers to those whom God has redeemed out of the world through the sacrifice of Christ. In other words, all the followers of Christ. The word is also used for a congregation of Christ's followers in a particular location. As 'called out ones' the church is consecrated to God. It is to be holy and pure, separated from the sinful lifestyles of the world.

The church is also called the 'body.'  This emphasizes that the followers of Christ are interdependent. They need each other. This name also demonstrates the unity which there should be among the followers of Christ. The various parts of the body must cooperate together so that the whole body works smoothly. It also shows that there is diversity among the followers of Christ. Just as each part of our physical bodies has a special function, so does everyone in the church. We can be different, yet united.

Another name for the church is 'God's household.' This reflects the amazing reality that God has adopted the followers of Christ as His children. As children of God, the followers of Christ become spiritual brothers and sisters. The church is a family. 

The followers of Christ from very early times began to call the first day of the week, 'The Lord's Day.' They did so because of two major events. Sunday, or the 'First day of the Week' is the day on which Jesus rose from the dead. By assembling together on the Lord's day the followers of Christ proclaim Jesus' victory over death and the hope we have of eternal life.

The second major event which took place on the Lord's day is it is the day on which the church came into being. Though every day should be lived for Christ, it is appropriate that the church should meet on the day it was founded for worship, praise and remembering what Christ has done.

Another significant event also place on the Lord's day. It was on the Lord's day that the Apostle John received the divine visions which he wrote down for us in the book of Revelation in the Bible. It is fitting that the followers of Christ should meet to study God's revealed Word on this day.

According to Scripture the three most important characteristics, not only of individual Christians, but of churches are faith, hope and love.

1) Faith. This refers to correct doctrine. A church which is pleasing to God will teach and proclaim the truth. Not just some of the truth, but all the truth. It will not endorse man-made philosophies, but will continually measure what it teaches against what the Bible says. It will also pattern itself after the example of the early church as described in the New Testament. Faith also involves the convictions necessary to remain true to Christ in spite of opposition, persecution and the fads of culture.

2) Hope.  Hope looks forward with anticipation to the return of Christ. One component of hope is getting ready for Christ's return. This refers to lifestyle. A church which is pleasing to God will not only teach the right things, it will encourage pure and holy living. It will continually encourage each person in its midst to become more like Chirst.

3) Love. A church which is pleasing to God will have a genuine concern for the needs of people. Not only their spiritual health, but their physical well-being. The people in the church will be aware of each other's struggles and difficulties and will help one another.

A church which is pleasing to God will also have a genuine concern for those outside. It will share the good news of Christ to those who have not heard it. In other words, it will be evangelistic. 

There are many systems of organization practiced by various churches. In order to please God, however, churches should try to follow the organization described in the New Testament as closely as possible.

According to Scripture, the head of the church is Jesus Christ. Aside from Him, there is no person, or even council of persons, which has authority over the entire church. Instead, the church consists of independent and autonomous congregations of believers which are governed locally.

Scripture also says that the church is built on the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets. They were inspired by God to set the church in order and to instruct it. Their inspired words are recorded for us in the New Testament. It is the New Testament which determines the practice and doctrine of the church.

In addition to the Apostles and Prophets, four leadership roles are mentioned.

1) Evangelist. It is the duty of the Evangelist to: a) Proclaim the gospel of Christ to those outside the church. b) Establish and set new congregations in order. c) Correct problems in the churches. d) Train and ordain others for ministry.

2) Elder. (Also called Shepherd, Overseer, Presbyter, Bishop or Pastor) Each congregation is to have more than one Elder. While the Evangelist's focus is primarily outward, the Elder's focus is primarily toward the spiritual needs of the church itself. It is the Elders who govern the church. The Elder's responsibility is: a) To care for the church as a shepherd cares for his flock. b) To teach and preach in order to help those in the church become more like Christ. c) To oversee the work and ministry of the church.

3) Deacon. Deacons work under the oversight of the Elders to take care of the material and physical aspects of the church. One of their most important responsibilities is benevolence.

4) Teacher. As the name implies, the responsibility of the teacher is to give instruction.

There is some overlap in these four roles. It is left to each local congregation to determine the precise job description of its leaders.

In reality, there is only one church. It is not defined by, or confined to, any particular place, group or tradition. Instead Christ's church is composed of all those people who have submitted themselves to the lordship of Christ and are living in obedience to Him. The membership of Christ's church is not determined by belonging to any particular group or organization. Jesus, Himself said, "Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and don’t do the things which I say?" (Luke 6:46) Another time Jesus said, "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'" (Matthew 7:21-23)

Jesus' statements help us understand why there are so many different groups all claiming to be the Lord's church. The root cause is disobedience. Over the centuries many churches have formed because they were disobedient to Christ's teaching. Others have begun because they felt that in order to be obedient to Christ they needed to separate themselves from those who were disobedient.

Christ prayed that all his followers would be united. Christians look forward to the time when that unity will become a reality.

Scripture clearly says, "...the Lord ordained that those who proclaim the Good News should live from the Good News." (1 Corinthians 9:14) In another place it says, "Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and in teaching." (1 Timothy 5:17) In other words, those who work in the church have the right to receive payment for their work.

Unfortunately there are also many, "...who suppose that godliness is a means of gain..." (1 Timothy 6:5) They regard their work in the church as a job or a career rather than a service or ministry.

In many cases it would be best for workers in the church to follow the example of the Apostle Paul who did not exercise his right to receive pay. If an Evangelist, Elder, Deacon, Teacher or other worker refused payment, there would be no question about his motive for serving. It would also lessen the financial burden on the church.