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Concerning the Local Church

Updated: May 5

Salute the brethren which are in Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the church which is in his house, Colossians 4:15.


In my 46 years of being associated with bible-believing Christianity (42 of them saved), I have heard many definitions and theories about what "church" means. Perhaps the most common understanding is that "church" is not the building it is the people. Nevertheless, in the English Language one definition of "church" is a building used for worship. We see that when the townclerk of Ephesus uses the word to describe pagan houses of worship; For ye have brought hither these men, which are neither robbers of churches, nor yet blasphemers of your goddess, Acts 19:37.

That is not to imply that all of the other uses of the word in our English Bible relate to buildings. However, the word "church" cannot be easily separated from the concept of a physical building. For example, our opening verse speaks of the church that is (present tense) in a man's house. How could the Apostle Paul know that the people were presently in the building?

I am a King James Bible believer. I believe every word, punctuation mark, italicization, plural, singular, tense of verb, and any other distinguishing marks of the English Language. When the good apostle says that the church is in a man's house, there can only be two reasonable explanations for that in the English Language.

Either the Apostle Paul knows first hand that the congregation is currently assembled in the house as he writes, or he is speaking of the place within that house wherein God's people meet. To paraphrase what Dr. Timothy Luchon has so aptly said about church, "it is a gathering of God's people in a specific physical place". Even the body of Jesus Christ in heaven where we gather as one spirit with him is physical unless you take the Jehovah Witness idea that he raised as a gas.

I suppose that there is a chance that Paul wrote at such a time so as he could be certain that the Colossian church held in the man's house was currently gathered together, but that would force us to believe that the Apostle Paul only greeted such home churches if he wrote at just the exact time. Since he greeted many such home churches we can dismiss that idea. A church in a man's home is a specific place within that home set apart for God's people to meet.

Without the presence of God's people meeting as ordained in scripture, that spot is no more holy or sanctified than the street corner of any city. Even Solomon's temple ceased to be holy when the glory of God left with the Cherubim; Then the glory of the LORD departed from off the threshold of the house, and stood over the cherubims, Ezekiel 10:18. What makes a church holy is Jesus Christ in the midst of them; For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them, Matthew 18:20.

I often hear it said that church never refers to a building in our King James Bible. That won't hold up if you believe the English of our bible to be inerrant. For first of all, when ye come together in the church, 1st Corinthians 11:18. If the people are the church in that verse, then it ought to say, "come together as a church". Whether the church spoken of there is a place in someone's house or a distinct building makes no difference. Paul spoke of the church apart from the people. In that instance, it is a place they go into.

The first (and only) church I started was held in my home. 3 1/2 years later the next pastor rented the same house and has held church there ever since. I have been honored to preach there. The last time that the Black Creek Baptist Church tried to meet in someone's home for a special night of singing and testimony, there were 65 people who took up three rooms. The people in the first room could not see the people in the last room.

When we meet on the first day of the week, and on Wednesday Night, and on Thursday night, and when some of the young preachers meet on Monday and Friday Night, we meet in a building that we own in common. The English word for that building is "church". If it was destroyed or if we were barred from using it, we would meet in one of the large hay barns in the area. We would call it the House of God because it is the place wherein we meet in Jesus Christ's name and we know he is there.

When Archimedes discovered the leverage principal and the math behind it, and when he understood that there was no limit to how much weight could be moved by a single man if the lever was long enough, he cried "Give me a place to stand and I can move the world". I have found the local church to be that place to stand.

When Jesus Christ was asked if he was the one or should we expect another, he answered by listing the miracles that God had done, Luke 7:22. Has the church here in Black Creek, in this building we meet in as a church, with Jesus Christ in attendance seen miracles done? Has the this small world in which we live in here been moved? Yes, it has.

We have couples come who once lived in hatred and enmity one with another who now live together in love and mutual respect. We have seen many alcoholics and drug abusers set aside those vices and rejoice in the liberty that is in Christ Jesus. We are a rare church in the United States in that the Holy Ghost has enabled us to garner converts from the surrounding area whose lives have been utterly changed. Children go to bed at night to the songs of Zion whereas they once heard cursing and drunken bitterness.

Abusers no longer abuse. The depressed have found joy. The suicidal have found reason to live. The barely literate read and study the King James Bible. Our resident prison ministry is run by two men overly familiar with the inside of prisons who call their ministry Liberty Behind Bars.

I can only smile and shake my head when critics think that I put too much emphasis on coming to church. Where do they think that these people heard the preaching of the word of God? We have people who first attended here skeptically. Then they became attentive.

It has often taken us years of teaching from the word of God before they begin to believe it. Then it took more years for them to begin to tremble before God's word. I realize that most churches have a microwave oven wherein they can get people converted in minutes, but just maybe that's why the Black Creek Baptist Church is filled with utterly changed lives and most churches are filled with people converted elsewhere.

If you told those people that they don't need to come to church to worship God, they would probably agree. They seem quite proficient at worshipping and studying at home. What they would have trouble doing at home is fellowshipping with fellow believers, hearing preaching, singing as a group, being reproved, rebuked, and exhorted. It would be like being adopted into a large family and then living in the woods behind the house.

I feel bad for people whose only choices for church are dead fundamentalist churches. We have had a couple of families move to the Black Creek area so that they could partake of church life. We now have 8 men with a call to preach. We train them here. Our hope is that they will be able to go out to one of the many churches in the surrounding towns and counties that are down to a skeleton crew keeping them open.

No one wants to take those churches. They sit with buildings paid for, often with parsonages, but with few people and almost no prospect of getting a pastor. Since the ability to go out into a surrounding neighborhood and to carve out a people for Jesus Christ is effectively dead in the United States, prospective pastors refuse to take small churches.

When a local pastor does take a church around here with an attendance of 30 or more, the people are almost all old. It is like being made captain of Titanic shortly after it hit the iceberg. Within a decade or so, most of their people are dead.

The Black Creek Baptist church had 11 members 17 years ago with an average attendance of 4 people. The average age was well over 70 years old. The surrounding neighborhood and area responded well to love, personal attention, being taught the bible, and with me and my family sharing our home and life with them. God enriched this church with lives made whole in Christ Jesus. We have a hope that our small cadre of preachers can duplicate these things in some of these almost abandoned churches.

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Dido
Dido
Apr 08

"We have a hope that our small cadre of preachers can duplicate these things in some of these almost abandoned churches."


Praying for you and your church.

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In Bible study, context is king. As you point out the word "church" is not always talking about a body of believers. Allow the context define what it's referring to in all things.

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