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The meaning of Church

To be developed as a person inside of a Christian fellowship is a rare luxury

To be developed as a person inside of a Christian fellowship is a rare luxury. The church is an otherworldly, existential experience which combines the best of heaven and earth together into the same timespan. It is a place where, “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (see Galatians 5:22-23) are cultivated and experienced. I am well aware that the above description is not always the norm, but my faith stretches me to hope that this picture is the way that most churches are.

Every time we have a baby dedication in our church and I hold the little child before the congregation, I engage the people in the ceremony with these words, “It is among us that this child will grow up and get to know Jesus. Let us be angels for it, for this child will soon enough find out that we are not.”

In christian fellowships we must look at the heart behind the matter and accept situations. We are people with faults that hurt others, with preferences which can threaten others, and are humans who struggle with individualistic mindsets that isolate us from others. There is a tension created in all of this coming together in one place which leads us to the need to strive to keep the fellowship together.

One of the characteristics of the early church was that they held fast onto their fellowship with each other. See Acts 2:42). The had decided that even if a member or even members hurt them, didn’t fit in with them, or went in the wrong directions, they would still hold fast together. Now, two thousand years later, the situation many places is something completely different.

We live in a time of fragmentation. A time where it is difficult to be an institution that meets the individual, a church that addresses opinions, and a spiritual leader who speaks to consumers. Due to a lack of clear understanding of the church’s role in the world, the church as an institution as been squeezed into a small, private room where it is up to each person to define the church’s role. My opinion is that this is wrong; very wrong indeed.

God’s church is so much more than what you and I can imagine or think up. Just three descriptions of the church in the New Testament are enough to stop our pet philosophies that we so easily fall into about the church. Three things that the Bible describes the church as are: God’s People, Christ’s Body, and a Temple for the Holy Spirit. Let us consider them afresh together.

Take a moment to just think about the fact that we get to be a part of God’s people and to know that we are a link in the chain of generations, both coming and past, who live for God’s honor. How wonderful!

Think anew on what it means to be part of Christ’s body, to be called one with God’s very own son, and to get to live out his intentions in the world. Amazing!

Finally, ponder over this: we are a temple for the Holy Spirit and therefore a landing place for God’s presence and power in this world. How fantastic is that!

There is not one single thing that I can do in order to earn my place in this awesome unit, nothing, except to accept the invitation to be a part of the church in her glory. And if I accept the invitation, I will need a good deal of humility to submit myself to the situation that is placed before me.

The situation that I find myself in is this: that I can be formed into the larger, global, fold of God’s people and find my place as a member of Christ’s body in the world. I can receive the power to live life as a member of the body of Christ which only the Holy Spirit can give me. Holy Spirit, please give that power!

My opinion is that the life described above, a life of interdependency, is actually a luxurious life compared to the one-dimensional secular lifestyle that we are exposed to in Norway today, with its consumer oriented churches or with the experimental new age variety of religion which offers just the feelings with little reality.

The church is not a loose, out there concept. The church is something concrete, solid. God designed it as one unit that is divided into two parts, local and global, where the one is subject to the other and visa versa. It is a rare luxury to grow up in this.

Written by Øystein Gjerme. Translated by Emily Huick.


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