What Makes the Church Special?

by May 25, 2023Christian Living, Church Ministry

“The church is a people, not a building.”

My mentor had heard this many times. He had even encouraged others with the same sentiment.

But as his young daughter said that familiar phrase, it landed on him differently this time. Glancing back in his rear-view window, he saw his daughter staring at a field drenched in debris. This was the same field where our church building stood only a few days ago.

As he recounted the story, it landed on me differently as well. Having been left with the damage of our church building standing in the way of a determined tornado, I was finally forced to ask questions about the church I had never considered.

Is it really not a building? Is it even the people? Or is it something more? What makes the church so special?

To consider the church’s role (and hopefully respond to these questions), let’s look at what Scripture calls the church to do.

1. Gather

Something happens deep inside of us when we realize we aren’t alone.

When we weekly “show up” to church, we demonstrate a commitment to the people around us, who, by the grace of God, are no longer strangers. They are no longer mere friends, for they are your family.

As we attend the weekly gathering, we are reminded that we are part of a larger global family united to Christ and in Christ. As we sit under the preaching of the Word, we are reminded of the true story we are caught up in — God deeply loves us, and we have hope in Jesus. As we sing together, we are reminded of the glory of God and how He alone deserves all praise. As we observe the sacraments (baptism & the Lord’s Supper), we are reminded that the Gospel is not only good news but the best news.

So are there things to do as we gather? Of course. But we can’t take the “gathering ingredient” for granted.

2. Grow

As we continue to belong to a church, our participation will help us grow in our faith. But what does growth look like? As a general idea, a mature Christian lives and loves like Jesus with everything and in everything.

Maybe you’re a stay-at-home mom, though! You might be thinking to yourself, “Hm… Jesus of Nazareth was a man who lived so long ago in a very different country. He didn’t have kids. He wasn’t married. I don’t know how that makes sense.”

Consider how Jesus would live if He were in your shoes. Consider how Jesus would love it if He were in your place. How would He interact with His co-workers? How would He wait in line at the grocery store? How would He vote? How would He spend His money?

That might seem overwhelming, but we can trust that His Spirit will continue to mold and shape us. Here’s 2 Corinthians 3:18:

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

Any healthy church will be devoted to your spiritual growth. But they can’t make you grow. Through the Spirit’s power, your partnership with the church will play a crucial role in transforming your life.

3. Give

When you hear the word “give,” it can be easy to think only of money. While financial generosity is important to God, it would help us if we considered “giving” more broadly.

It’s been said before by others, yet it bears repeating ­— we ought to bring our time, treasures, and talents to God, not just our money.

I’m eternally thankful for the volunteers who served as I grew up. They worked 9-5 jobs on Monday through Friday, then showed up to teach Sunday School every week. God used them to change my life radically.

Leverage the gifts that God has given you for the sake of the church. If you’re unsure where you are gifted, ask your pastor or church leader to help you find new ways to serve your church.

4. Go

I had a professor in college who said, “Now if someone were to say ‘All authority in heaven and on earth were given to me,’ you better pay attention to him.” He was right.

And that’s just how Jesus begins his statement found in Matthew 28:18-20, better known as the Great Commission.

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

If we take Jesus’ command seriously, it means our lives rotate around worshipping Him by obeying Him through faithful evangelism and discipleship.

Evangelism is when we share the Gospel with the intent of seeing someone trust Christ as their Savior. While closely related to evangelism, discipleship is distinct. Discipleship is the process of maturing into a healthy Christian.

In your church, I hope there are rooms where you can learn to evangelize to non-believers and disciple believers. Stepping into one of these rooms takes humility, a keen awareness that you don’t know everything, and a desire to learn.

(If you’re reading this as a church leader and curious about how to provide faithful evangelism training, click here.)

What’s so special about the church?

Historically, God has consistently used the church for His people to gather together, grow in relationship with Him, give to others using the gifts He gave them first, and to go make much of Jesus through evangelism and discipleship.

He’s transformed my life through the church. And I know He wants to do the same for you.

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24-25

Note: To some of you, the way the church was described in this article couldn’t be further from your story. I’m so sorry for the confusion, frustration, and/or disappointment you have from your experience. If this is a part of your story, I’d encourage you to read more here.