Which Church??????????

John Gardner

Are you puzzled by the question, "Which church should I join?" If so, you may be part of the largest group of people in the world. If you are going to join some "church," why not join several? If belonging to one "church" is good, then would not belonging to several be better?

Or would you be better off if you did not join any? If this is a revolutionary idea to you then let me explain. The word "church" is an English word that receives much use and misuse today. If by the use of the word "church" we mean nothing more than "all of God's people" then we use the word as Christ and His Apostles used it. But this is NOT what is usually meant.

When the word "church" is used today it is usually connected to a descriptive word such as "Baptist," "Methodist" or "Catholic." (You may supply any other word.) When we speak of the "Baptist," "Methodist" or "Catholic" churches today, do we mean only "the people of God"? No!!! When we mention the word "church" we think of buildings, real estate, bank accounts, clergy, power, etc.

And yet, in the Bible the Greek word "ekklesia" when used in a religious context has no meaning except, "people of God." The Greek word "ekklesia" means ASSEMBLY or CONGREGATION. When "ekklesia" is joined to the expression "of God" then it refers to "GOD'S ASSEMBLY" or the "PEOPLE OF GOD" Unfortunately "ekklesia" is not uniformly translated in the English Bible. Only 3 times was it translated "assembly" (Acts 19:32; 39, 41). Over 100 times it was translated "church." If we had a uniform translation of this Greek word "ekklesia" as "ASSEMBLY" OR "CONGREGATION," much of the confusion would disappear.

The great body of theology that has grown up around the denominational church idea has come from a misuse of Christ's statement, "Upon this rock I will build my church" (Matt. 16:18). It begins with the Roman Catholic idea of his "church" and extends to every Protestant idea of his "churches." The question is, what would happen to the religious world if the word "church" and the materialistic concepts of it were to disappear from our language and our hearts??

If all of today's denominational "churches" were to disappear, would worship of God come to an end? Would atheism prevail over the entire world? Would the rule of God end? Would we return to the Dark Ages? If we had no denominational churches could we still serve God as he desires and be Christians; i.e., children of God?

IF WE WERE TO BECOME "CHRISTIANS" ONLY COULD WE STILL PRAY TO GOD? The obvious answer is YES. We do not depend on the "church" for the privilege of prayer. Some feel that they can pray better in a "church building" but no one depends on the church for permission to address the Father of us all in prayer. "Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need" (Heb. 4:16).

IF WE WERE TO BECOME "CHRISTIANS" ONLY COULD WE STILL FELLOWSHIP AND HAVE COMMON MEALS TOGETHER? Of course we could!! Families do it all the time, with or without the approval of the "church officers." The loving interchange of support and encouragement would continue with or without the "church." The early Christians and Apostles spent all of the time together that was possible. It did not require a "church."

IF WE WERE TO BECOME "CHRISTIANS" ONLY COULD WE STILL PARTAKE OF THE LORD'S SUPPER? YES, this would be possible! If some were to reason that without the blessings of "THE CHURCH" the observance would be meaningless we ask for proof. Jesus instituted the Lord's Supper ("Mass" to some) and asked that his disciples observe it until he came again. "For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he come" (I Cor. 11:26).

IF WE WERE TO BECOME "CHRISTIANS" ONLY COULD WE STILL SUPPORT THE NEEDY? YES we could! In fact, if current data is to be believed, we would do a better job. "Churches" are notoriously stingy when it comes to supporting the poor. (There are exceptions to this, and they should be praised for their good works.) Only 2,3,4 or 5% of the money collected by most churches is spent to support the poor. This is the average reported among most "churches." In the case of the famine in Jerusalem "the disciples, each according to his ability, decided to provide help for the brothers living in Judea. This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul" (Acts 11:29).

IF WE WERE TO BECOME "CHRISTIANS" ONLY COULD WE STILL PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE ENTIRE WORLD? Of course we could! Although it is commonly believed otherwise, Jesus did not send his Apostles out to build bigger and better "churches." He sent his disciples out to DISCIPLE THE WORLD (Matt. 28:18-20). "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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." Revolutionary idea, is it not? Disciples were sent to make other disciples. The "churches" of today spend little of their resources to care for the needy or for preaching the gospel to the entire world. Most of the money today is spent for buildings and pastors' salaries. Without these expenses much more could be done.

IF WE WERE TO BECOME "CHRISTIANS" ONLY WE COULD STILL DO EVERYTHING THAT GOD COMMANDED? The ekklesia of God, the assembly of saints, the people of God, or God's congregation would still be alive, well and functioning. The only thing that would be lost if the current church idea were destroyed is the denominational machinery that masters the people and saps the wealth. Man's authority would be replaced by God's authority. The popes, bishops, cardinals, elders, pastors would all be left behind so that GOD might rule over us. The authority would be returned to Jesus Christ from which it was usurped originally!!!

AND THE PEOPLE OF GOD CAN RETURN TO BEING "CHRISTIANS" ONLY. "The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch" (Acts 11:26). The Christians (or disciples) of the first century did everything God wanted done without denominational machinery. Without man made Lords and Rulers, the first century disciples "turned the world upside down." It can be so today.