What is the Church

Rollin Mohler
Apr 8, 2020

Until a few weeks ago, many people would go to church on Sunday. And those who were more involved used to go to church throughout the week for other ministries or Bible studies. But the question has come to my mind recently: what is the church? Because we are not able to gather together at church, does this mean the church doesn’t exist? Many of us would be quick to respond, “Of course not.” We know that, in one sense, we use the word “church” to refer to the place where we gather. But really, we understand that the church is not defined by the building. We appreciate the building where we are able to gather, but the building itself does not really define who we are. If the building was taken away, or if we are not able to assemble together, does not mean that the church is taken away or the church ceases to exist.

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. (Matthew 16:18)

The word “church” literally means “called out ones”. The church is not a building, the church is a people. Those who have been called out by God and have placed their faith in Jesus Christ for salvation and have been obedient to the Lord in baptism are the church. In this broad sense, all true believers are a part of the same universal church. But God, in his wisdom, designed for local groups of “called out ones” to make up what we call “local churches”. These local churches are groups of believers in a specific locality who have placed themselves under the leadership of those who God has called to be pastors. A local church is autonomous; that is the church is not directly responsible to any other group or organization. Each local church is to handle its own affairs. This autonomy can be effective because each person who is the church has been called out by God. Because of Jesus, each person has access to God. With Jesus as our mediator, we can each go directly to God and don’t need to go through the pastor or a priest. We don’t need a building to approach God.

Goodwill Baptist Church can continue to be a healthy church even if the building is taken away. That is possible because the church simply uses the building as a common gathering place to carry out the functions of a local church. The building is not evil, but the building is not what makes us a church. We, the people who have been called out by God and have been chosen under the sovereignty of God to join with others who have been called out by God in this locality are Goodwill Baptist Church. Building or not; the ability to gather in our building or not; we can still function as a church to the glory and honor of Christ.