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By: Andreas Kurnia & Christiana Kuswanti


A. Definition

What is a church?

Kebanyakan orang pikir bahwa church/gereja itu adalah tempat/gedung suci. “Yok kita ke gereja hari Minggu”, atau “Sshhh…, jangan berisik kalo di gereja!” Dari dua kalimat barusan, kita bisa bilang kalau gereja itu adalah suatu tempat. Kalo gitu, yok kita sama-sama cari tahu apa arti gereja itu yang sebenarnya.

Asal usulnya gini nih..,
In the Greek word, there are two words that related to the word “church”. They are ekklesia and kuriakon.
Ekklesia, means simply “meeting” or “assembly” or”called out.” It was used widely of all kinds of formal and informal gatherings, not necessarily for religious purposes. As it is applied to Christian, the church means “those who have been called out to Jesus Christ.” Luther and other early translators understood this perfectly well when they rendered it “congregation,” that is, “those who come together.”
Kuriakon, means “belongs to the Lord”.
To sum up, the church is composed of the body of  believers who have been called out from the Lord, and who are under  the dominion and the authority of Jesus Christ.

A church building can not properly be “the Lord’s house” because in the new covenant this title is reserved for the church as congregation or people. (Eph. 2; 1 Tim. 3 :15; Heb. 10 : 21). A church building cannot be a “holy place” in any special sense, for holy place no longer exist.
In the Old Testament, it is true that there is a place called the ‘holy place’ which is the Tabernacle. However in the New Testament, all of that has been renewed by the blood of Jesus Christ. Jesus as the high priest, and we are as the church or temple of God. Much of this is well said in the following words, quoted by John Havlik in People-Centered Evangelism:
“The church is never a place, but always people; never a fold but always a flock; never a sacred building but always a believing assembly. The church is you who pray, not where you pray. A structure of brick or mable can no more be a church than your clothes of serge or satin can be you. There is in this world nothing sacred but man, no sanctuary of man but the soul.”
This is the true nature of the church. And this is what the early church experienced.

According to the book, Church Without Walls, by Jim Petersen, the definition of a church is people who are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, who is transforming their character and giving them gifts they are to use for service. Every believer is to use whatever he or she has to serve one another and his or her neighbors.
Therefore, in church there is always part of as a congregation who practices the love of Christ to one another in the church and to the world.

The term ‘church’ also applied to universal church and local church.

1.  Universal Church
Universal church, the body of Christ: “God placed all things under His (Christ’s) feet and appointed Him to be head for the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills everything in every way.” (Eph. 1 : 22 –23)

The universal church is a complete body of Christ as existing in every place. Every believer is part of the universal church.

Universal church also derives its definition from the baptizing ministry of the Holy Spirit. The key verse on this is 1 Cor. 12 : 13a, “by one Spirit we are all baptized into one body.” We can see that from this passage that the church is like the physical manifestation of Christ, i.e., his body.
Other passages which use the same imagery are Roma 12:4-5; 1 Cor. 12:11,18,27. The point in all of these passages seems to be that anyone who has experienced this baptism is automatically a member of the body of Christ.

Members of the church are to have an intimate relationship with each other as well as to Christ. Therefore what hurts one member will hurt all, and when one member is honored, all the others will rejoice with him. (1 Cor. 12:26)

2. Local Church
The local church is simply the physical, outward expression of the universal church. Paul addressed several of his epistles to specific local churches (“To the church of the Thessalonians ….”, 1 and 2 Thessalonians 1:1 ; also 1 Corinthians 1:2; 2 Corinthians 1:1).

Galatians 1:2 we find, “ To the churches [note the plural] in Galatia.”
 In Revelation 1: 1, John was instructed to write to “the seven churches.”  Paul referred not just to specific churches, but to many local churches in many places when he wrote, ”He [Timothy] will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church”  (1 Cor. 4 :17)

It is fundamentally a local community of believers of diverse age and socioeconomic strata who band together under a designated leadership structure for fellowship, teaching, worship, and outreach to the lost.
It is not the building or the organizational structure.

In view of all this the term “church” came to be used of the universal church, that is, the complete body of Christ as existing in every place (1 Cor. 15:9; Gal. 1:2, 13; Matt. 16:18); of local churches in any one place (Col. 4:16; Phil. 4 :15; 1 Cor. 1:2, etc); of single meetings, even where two or three met together (Matt. 18:19; Col. 4:15; Phil. 1:2; Rom. 16:5).

B. Figures under which the church as set forth in the scriptures

1. The Body, of which Christ is the Head

A. The Relation of the church to Christ, who is its head
Efesus 1:22, 23; Kolose 1:18; 2:19. (Christ is the head of the body, the church) There is a vital relationship between Christ and the church, both partaking of the same life, just as there is between the physical head and the body. We must be partakers by faith of Christ’s life before we can become members of Christ’s Church.

Christ with His fullness is the source of church life as Ephesians 1:23 said  “ his body is the fullness of Him (Christ here) who fills everything in every way.”  Christ also the center of church unity and the Cause of its growth (Eph. 4:15).

Jadi, Church and Christ ini sama-sama in ONE life, but Christ is the head of the church.

B. The relation of the members one to another
Di Roma 12:4-5 yang menjelaskan tentang setiap dari kita punya tubuh yang banyak anggotanya, dan tidak semua punya fungsi yang sama, dan di dalam Kristus, kita yang banyak membentuk satu tubuh, dan setiap anggotanya , yaitu kita, belong to all the others. Kita akan sama-sama bersatu dan berpegang erat, dan bertumbuh dalam Dia yang adalah Kristus seperti di Efesus 4:15-16.

Kalau ini masih kurang jelas, kita bisa belajar lebih dalam lagi di 1 Kor 12:12-27, tentang one body, many parts dan juga Ef 4:1-4 tentang unity in the body of Christ.

Pada dasarnya, scriptures ini semua sama-sama menjelaskan hubungan kita satu sama lain di dalam gereja, both local and universal church.

2. A Temple, A Building, A Habitation, A Dwelling-Place for God’s spirit

Many of the Scriptures in the bible wrote about the figures under the church. Early from the beginning we have talked about the more in-depth meaning of a church that church is not necessarily a place.
The building called a church is just as simple as a media/place for us to be together to grow in Christ as a whole.
Look at 1 Kor 3:9-17, 1 Tim 3:15, 1 Kor 6:19, dan 1 Pet 2:4-8, and spend time on those.

3. The Bride of Christ

Ephesians 5:25-27 says about Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her like husband to love his wife. Christ is the Bridegroom (John 3:29), and the Bride becomes the wife of the Lamb (Rev 21:2). All these represent the church as the bride of Christ. The church and Christ has a special and personal relationship.

C. The Calling / Vocation of the Church

1. To worship God and to glorify Him on the earth
Eph. 1:4-6 “ For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will – to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.”

2. To evangelize the world with the Gospel
Matt. 28:19, 20 –“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Acts 2; 5:42; 6:5-8; Eph. 3:8; Acts 15:7

3. To develop each individual Christian until he attains unto the fullness of stature of Christ
Eph. 4:11-15. Hence the gift of pastors, teachers, etc. Herein lies the value of church attendance-it promotes growth; failure to attend leads to apostasy (Heb. 10:25-28)
I Thess. 5 :11; 1 Cor. 12

4. A constant witness for Christ and His word
Acts 1:8 “ But you will receive the power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

5. The future glory of the church
Eph. 3:10,21 ; Rev. 21:9-27.

D. Things to consider
What are the considerations in choosing a healthy church?
Mark Dever in his book, 9 Marks Of A Healthy Church explains about the characteristics of a healthy church.

1. Expository preaching
It is a careful explanation of meanings of particular portion of God’s Word and applying it to the congregation. If a preacher only take a portion of Scripture and advise strongly on a subject that is important to the congregation without really preaching the point of the passage….it makes the preacher and the congregation only hear in Scripture what they already know. By expositional preaching, or taking the point of the passage of Scripture, we hear things from God we did not intend to hear when we began.

2. Biblical theology
Expository preaching is good, but it is still need to be tested. Is the preaching reliable and accurate? This is more to the understanding of the doctrines of the teachings, the doctrine of salvation, the doctrine of Jesus Christ, for example. “If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, he is conceited and understands nothing.” 1 Tim 6:3, 4a

3. A biblical understanding of the Good News
The Good News of Jesus Christ is the gospel, and it is the heart of Christianity. When the church understands and has a heart for the gospels, it means the church has a heart for the truth, and therefore, shares the gospels.

4. A biblical understanding of conversion
We have conversion/turning because we are deeply convinced of our guilt and helplessness and of the way of salvation by Christ. How did that happen? Ef 2:8 answers this, “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” The change each person needs, no matter how he may appear outwardly, is so radical, so near the root of us (sinful human beings) that only God can do it. We need God to convert us, not by our efforts. The true conversion goes to a sincere commitment, a self-conscious decision, transforming mind, and life given to our spirits.

5. A biblical understanding and practice of evangelism
Biblically, evangelism is presenting the good news freely and trusting God to convert people (Act 16:14), and salvation comes from the Lord. The church is more concern to know and teach the gospel itself than to teach people methods and strategies to share it.

6. A biblical understanding of church membership
The practice of church membership among Christians has developed as an attempt to help us grasp hold of each other in responsibility and love, serving to one another and encourage in discipleship. Church membership means being incorporated in practical ways into the body of Christ, it means traveling together as aliens in this world as we head to our heavenly home.

7. A plurality of elders
Elders take part in leadership in a church. Preacher or pastor is also fundamentally one of the elders in his congregation. Pastor is the main teaching elder, but all the elders should work together for the improvement of mind and characters of the church. Having elders in the church is started by recognizing ones who are godly, discerning, trusted laymen to help the congregation to grow together, and they are needed in the church. (Acts 14:23, 16:4, 20:1, 21:18; Titus1: 5, James 5:14)

8. A biblical church discipline
Each local church has a responsibility to judge the life and teaching of its leaders, and even of its members. (2 John, 2 Peter 3, James 3:1)
Biblical church discipline is simple obedience to God and a simple confession that we need help. Its purpose is positive for the individual disciplined, for other Christians as they see the danger of sin, for the health of the church as a whole, and for the corporate witness of the church.

9. Working to promote Christian discipleship and growth
Continuous concern with church growth, both quality and quantity. Growth is the sign of life. When something stops growing, it dies. The church sincerely disciples one another to grow together and concern of increasing godliness in the lives of its members. (1 Pet 2:2, “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation.”)

E. How about para-church?
Para means “beside” or “alongside.”
In definition, para-church is any spiritual ministry whose organization is not under the control or authority of a local congregation.

Sebuah para-church mempunyai sifat sepesifik yang consern akan suatu bagian (secara waktu dan bidang) kehidupan anggotanya.
Para-church mempunyai sifat fleksibel, temporal, dan temporary. Dan bertujuan untuk mendampingi gereja dalam bidang-bidang dan lingkungan-lingkungan spesifik yang tidak terjangkau gereja.

Para-church organizations are a type of voluntary society. Why have para-church structures arisen over the course of church history? The most basic reason is a sense of vision and calling, often linked to frustration with existing church institutions such as church-state issues, democracy, and interdenominational battles.

Fundamentally, para-church organizations testify to the energy and vitality of the gospel and church. They spring up because Christians want to renew and extend the church’s witness. They are, and have been, a fact of the church’s life.

Is it a church? We think yes because it is also a part of the universal church as a body of Christ.

1.  Petersen, Jim. Church Without Walls.  Navpress, Colorado. 1992.
2.  Little, Paul E. “The Church.” Know What You Believe. Chapter 7. Victor Books.1989
3. Banks, Robert and R. Paul Stevens. “Church and Ministry”. The Complete Book of Everyday Christianity: An A-to-Z Guide to Following Christ in Every Aspect of Life. InterVarsity Press.1998
4. White, Jerry. The Church & The Parachurch. Multnomah Press. 1983.
5. Renwick,A.M. The Story of The Church. Eerdmans Publishing Co. 1963
6. Snyder, Howard A The Problem of Wine Skins. InterVarsity Press. 1975
7. Dever, Mark E. Nine Marks of a Healthy Church. Center for Church Reform. 1998
8. Evans, William. The Great Doctrines of the Bible. Moody Press. 1974
9. Berkhof, Louis. Manual of Christian Doctrine. Eerdmans Publishing Co. 1991
10. Rusli, Leonard and Johannes Setiabudi. Peran ICF sebagai Para-church. LM Nov’97, Madison.