What is ‘The Church’?
Is there a true Church? Do you have the Courage to Find out?
What is the church? I tell you what it’s not- four walls. And it definitely is not what we knew as ‘the church’ the only true church when we were LDS.
What does the Bible actually say about what the church is?
This is a big one today- We are talking about what is God‘s church?
Listen to the Podcast
OK, it’s storytime. At Christmas time this year, we convinced my dad to go with us to Sagebrush Church, a super big nondenominational church in our area. Every so many years he agrees to go with us to the Christmas Eve service. He justifies it by saying that it is a performance and he enjoys the entertainment aspect, but it is not church.
After we got home my husband and I had a serious discussion about this. My husband was concerned that I had let the whole thing get to me too much, but my husband was never Mormon.
Let me set the stage. My dad had sat right next to me. I’d love to say that it was super comfortable and that I just had all the warm fuzzies the whole time, happy at the fact that my dad went to church with me, but I admit I didn’t. I was nervous. Nervous because I felt like there was a good chance that he had that feeling that I always had as a kid when I went to Catholic church with my grandparents.
The icky Feeling that you are Doing Something Wrong…
Let me explain it…
Your stomach gets in knots. You kind of want to cry, but more almost out of fear, or like you kind of want to be sick. Your whole body feels a bit shakey and you are embarrassed. Embarrassed because you don’t know how to stand, where to look, how to breathe. You feel the most immense power, but you aren’t supposed to feel that, right? This is not how things are done.
Whether you believed it or not you were told, I was told that there is only one true church. I remember finding myself as a kid walking through the doors of a beautiful church with my grandparents and I felt God like I have never felt Him before. And rather than feeling comfortable about this or happy or just loved like I know God wanted for me, all I could feel was scared. I felt scared that I was doing something wrong. I shook inside and I couldn’t even really explain why. My heartfelt like it was going to explode and I couldn’t tell whether that was a good thing or a bad thing, but what I did know was this was a full-on culture shock!
And the same thing the first time I walked through the doors of a nondenominational church where they worshiped with music that was louder than anything and it shook the room and everyone’s hands were in the air and they were saying praise Jesus. Who are these crazy people that are just praising Him out loud? Have they never heard of reverence? Doesn’t God think that this is wrong? Then why do I feel God now? Is this the devil actually trying to persuade me to enjoy something that’s wrong? Doesn’t feel like that, but I don’t know how I feel.
Can you relate?
As I sat there at the Christmas Eve service with my dad on my right and my husband at my left I admit rather than just enjoying the service I spent a good majority of that time wondering if my dad had those feelings right then. I wanted so bad to just reach over and tell him that’s God- that’s Him that you feel. No reason to be scared, No reason to be nervous. That’s Him. …But I was kind of too big of a chicken. Partly because, who knows, maybe he felt differently. Or maybe just because it wasn’t the right time.
Explaining this to my husband who did not grow up in ‘the church’ was a bit of a struggle.
“Why can’t you just enjoy being there? Why does this have to mean something?” he asked.
I do think that that’s hard for people who did not grow up with such an intensely religious culture for them to understand that it still resonates in every aspect of our lives, even mine 22 years now after I left. And I want to let you know that that’s okay. It’s okay that you may always feel a little differently than your Christian peers. But I do hope upon hopes that you do have Christian peers. Because we’re not giving up on Jesus girlfriend. And He is not giving up on us.
The Church in context…
To help us put our minds at rest about true churches and what the Bible actually says about where we should worship, what the church is, and what God expects today we are talking about big truths. What is the church?
In a lot of my copy for this podcast, I do use the term after leaving ‘the church’. We, who left the ONLY true church know what that means, but if you didn’t grow up Mormon give me a sec to explain because I have received some flack for using the term ‘the church’ and ‘leaving the church’ in maybe not a hugely positive light. So to those listening and curious, the LDS church believes that they are the only true church on the face of the Earth, currently. ALL others are an abomination according to God’s revelation to Joseph Smith, the founder of the church. So LDS kiddos are taught very heavily, very strongly that It is the only church you should ever attend. Ever. It is ingrained in us. This runs deep. So when I refer to the LDS church as ‘the church’ I am simply using the language that is still present in me. When you are LDS there is no other church. The LDS church is The Church.
Truth is the church and religion are both beautiful terms biblically, but in our social context, to the Exmos out there, well, I want to speak your language because we know what that means and we know what the term ‘the church’ represents from our past.
If you left a different man-made religious modality feel free to modify the language to fit your experience.
We are no longer Mormon
But today we are going to work on reframing what the church means to us from here on out because we need people. We need people who can help us grow in our faith journey with Christ or we will falter. We need to change our understanding of what the church is and put it in the context that God has put it in in the beautiful word that He gave us to follow. Our past does not get to dictate our future with God. Let’s start the work by looking at His word.
What is ‘The Church’? What Does the Bible Say and Where do I go Now After Leaving the only Church I knew?
Is the term ‘The Church’ in the Bible?
Fun fact- All those books in the New Testament- Romans, Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Thessalonians- they are all letters to the churches in those cities.
I didn’t know this for the majority of my life. In fact, on my senior trip when I was a dumb, rebellious teenager I went on a mini-tour of Europe. I’ll spare you the details of how I totally did not appreciate the opportunity, but one of our last stops was in Turkey. We went to Ephesus, the ancient city. We walked the roads and saw all the cool sites. I had no idea this was Ephesus as in Ephesians from the Bible. No idea. I walked the roads Paul walked and didn’t even know it. 🤦♀️
But ‘The Church’ in these letters and the whole Bible does not mean what you think it means.
It does not mean they had a physical building where they congregated and followed the rules by the leaders in that church. That is not what Paul was writing to. Nope!
The church is all saved people- all who have faith in Christ, everywhere. They are the body of Christ, and Christ is the head. The Church is Christ’s Bride.
Paul was writing to the people. These people met in houses, often in secret. They were assemblies of followers of Christ together to worship, learn, fellowship, support, and do the biggest thing Jesus told us to do, the greatest commandment- Love God and love each other.
What does the term ‘the church’ mean?
In Greek, the church is Ecclesia (or Ekklesia) the word is a compound of two segments: “ek”, a preposition meaning “out of”, and a verb, “kaleo”, signifying “to call” – together, literally, “to call out”. And biblically the meaning most often translates to ‘assembly’.
Why do we care about Greek? Because the New Testament was written in Greek. I know your thinking that the King James was the original, but no. This all goes back to can we trust the bible and, the answer is yes. You can learn more about it all the way back in episode two found here- but for this episode just trust me on this.
So the church = a called-out assembly in its most literal definition.
Not a building and not an organization. But let’s look a step further.
How is the term church used in the Bible
The Bible explains the church the people. They are the assembly. They are the body and Christ is the Head. We, with all our gifts, are the members of the body, like arms and legs and toes and feet. They all have a job. No one is more important than the other. All of the members, these are just like all of the members of our body make up the body with Christ as the head.
“The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ.”
1 Corinthians 12:12
Here Paul goes on to explain to the assembly of people meeting in Corinth that we all have different gifts. We all make up this body. No body part or member is more important than another.
“In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary.”1 Corinthians 12:22
I’ll let you go read this whole passage on your own. I think it is kinda cute how Paul describes and compares the body and the need for each part.
But that is where we get the idea of members from. As followers of Christ, we are all equal members of the body- the church.
But where each of these places churches? Were they seperate?
No! and yes!
The church- the actual one true church as it is in the bible is ALL those who put their faith in Jesus. That is the church. A church is the assembly of those followers. That most often happened in homes as it was illegal to be a Christian in the early church. You could be stoned to death, literally. There was no building. There was no organization.
When Paul is writing to the church of God that is in Corinth or of Galatia, for instance, he is addressing all those followers of Jesus who assemble in that area.
All true followers of Jesus who have put their faith in Him are THE church -and- they have their assembly in Corinth, or Ephesus, or, say 102 Main street, or First Baptist United on Cherry lane. All denominations, all believers of Christ are the church. We are one body. Not a bunch of bodies. We all work together.
So everyone that Assembles is part of the Church?
This is a sorry fact, but true. Churches- places where people assemble are full of people today that assemble, but have not put their faith in Him. They go to church, but they are not part of THE church. And there are many people who are members of the body but do not assemble or go to church. And that brings up a great question…
Do I Have to go to a church to be a part of THE church of God?
Covid really did a number on us. Isolation was tough, but then it kind of grew on us and now everything is online and alone. Can you find creative ways to gather alone? Yes, but what does the bible say about going to church- going to assemble- fellowship?
The bible talks in great detail about the need for us, all our parts of the body, the small, the seemingly insignificant, the large, and the unassuming, we all have gifts that work together for God’s glory. We altogether are like a living organism that works in tandem.
I was attending a bible study one time and I loved what one of the women said.
She said, “so often we come to the group thinking, What am i going to get out of this today? Am I going to be fed? Is my soul going to get what it needs? But, is that why God asked you to come? Maybe you, the insignificant one, the one who you believe could never make the difference will say the exact right thing or ask the exact right question that brings someone else to God tonight. Maybe you are here to feed someone else. And isn’t what it is all about? To love one another as ourselves? You see, God doesn’t make mistakes.”
All of Paul’s letters in the New Testament touch on the need to gather, work together, build each other up. Hebrews is a great book to read more on this.
Assembling with other Christians was and is part of His design for us because as Jesus said…
“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”Matthew 18:20
He wanted us to be together. To worship together.
A Fantastic Resource- How to Choose a Good church and 10 questions you should ask!
What now? How do I find a church?
I am going to do a whole episode just on this, but I wanted to give you some direction from here.
This is all going to feel strange for a bit. Know that. Know it is going to be different. But know this…
Feelings do not override the Bible. The Bible is our guide here. Not our feelings that are being highjacked by old religious baggage. Not old men sitting around dictating what is right and wrong. God is our compass and The Bible is His word. It is true and what the Bible says about the church, the people, the fellowship, that is your guide.
Nothing in my life and in my faith journey compares to the spiritual amazingness I feel when I am with a group of women praying, like really praying. God is in the room. Go find that pretty girl. It will change your life.
One of my favorite quotes ever and so fitting-
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.1 Thessalonians 5:11
What is the Church in the Bible?
- The Church…
is not a building, organization, or even one single denomination.
- The Church…
is ALL the followers now, before and forever giving their life to Christ
- The Church…
is the body and Christ is the head. We are all the members of the body with gifts of equal importance, that bring all the glory together to God.
- a church…
is a group of members of THE church, gathering in His name, anywhere, all for His glory.
- Join the Christian Women After Religion Community
Let’s share! Share your creative, God-led story, heal from the old religious junk and make friends while we do it. Support, friendship, and collaboration at the FB group — Here
Historic San Ysidro Church in Corrales, NM, erected in 1868