Editors note: This
is the sixth in a series of eight monthly articles on the 16 Foundational
Truths of the Assemblies of God, written by faculty of Assemblies
of God Theological Seminary.
"The Church is the
Body of Christ, the habitation of God through the Spirit, with divine
appointments for the fulfillment of her great commission. Each believer,
born of the Spirit, is an integral part of the General Assembly
and Church of the Firstborn, which are written in heaven."
"A divinely called
and scripturally ordained ministry has been provided by our Lord
for the threefold purpose of leading the Church in evangelizing
the world, worshiping God and building a body of saints being perfected
in the image of His Son."
When each of our daughters
was born my wife and I made sure that the finest medical services
possible were present. But we werent through with our responsibilities
once the children were safely brought into the world. We created
a home where their lives were nurtured and they grew up in a supportive
atmosphere that provided security and encouragement as they matured.
Similarly, to be "born again" into a redemptive relationship
with Jesus Christ is to be birthed into a new life and a supportive
family where maturity in a relationship with Jesus Christ can occur.
The word "church"
conjures up a variety of images. Is the church a building where
religious events take place? Is the church a club in which we choose
to hold membership? None of these popular uses of the term "church"
can describe it exactly because it is, most importantly, the spiritual
community that we are placed into upon coming to Christ (1
It is crucial that we
allow the Bible to be our ultimate reference point. There are at
least 80 descriptive images in the New Testament for the church.
These biblical descriptions are not so much around institutional
or structural terms. The clearest biblical references focus on people
who have been reconciled to God through the saving work of Christ
and now together are a community/family that belong to Him for His
The nature of the
The church is a special group of people who are in relationship
with God. God has initiated that relationship through the redemptive
work of Jesus Christ and is creating a community under the guidance
of the Holy Spirit that represents Gods eternal purposes.
Peter uses a poignant picture when he describes the church as the
"people of God" (1 Peter 2:9,10, NIV). This term denotes
a unique and special relationship with a community that represents
Gods purposes to the rest of the world. Peter describes the
people of God as a "chosen people" and a "holy nation"
focusing on the God-ordained identity of His people to represent
Him globally. Peter continues His description of the "people
of God" by calling them a "royal priesthood" and
"people belonging to God" with a divinely ordained purpose
centered in the eternal redemptive plan of God.
The church is not meant
to be either a cozy club or an end in itself. Believers have a significant
part to play in completing Gods work. To be part of Gods
family is a privilege and a responsibility. Regardless of the individualism
rampant in our world, our faith in Christ includes being active
players in communities of faith called and empowered by the very
presence of God giving visible testimony to Gods eternal purposes.
Paul regularly describes
the church as the body of Christ. This metaphor is used in his writings
in Romans 12:4-8, 1 Corinthians 12:12-26 and Ephesians 4:11-16,25-32
to express the fact that the church is not merely a sociological
entity or just a group of people who think alike. The body of Christ
is a fellowship of interdependent believers that commits itself
to representing Jesus Christ in every nook and cranny of common
The church, of which
you are a part, is simply not an ordinary community. It is a group
of people who participate in a divine communion and literally is
the place that the presence of God dwells. Such a community/people
cannot be taken for granted and is the place that God has ordained
redemption be most graphically lived out (2 Corinthians 5:20).
The purpose of the
What does the church do? What is the divine purpose of the church?
As the church we are to be the community of Gods people that
brings glory to God.
We fulfill our purpose
as the church as we worship God together (Isaiah 6:3; Revelation
4:6-8). We worship God for who He is as the Creator and Sustainer
of all creation (Colossians 1:16,17). We worship God for what He
does because the redemptive actions of God, that are seen most clearly
in Jesus Christ, testify to the true nature of the God we serve
The vibrancy of Pentecostal
worship is the crucible in which we gain a glimpse of the eternal
agenda of our Lord. We see who we are in comparison with who He
is and we are humbled by the fact that He has redeemed us. We are
overwhelmed that He would commission us to be people who bear witness
to the world of His redemptive purposes.
We fulfill our purpose
as the church as we participate in mutual edification and spiritual
growth in the context of the community of believers. Ephesians 4:11-16
makes quite clear that the context for every believer to learn what
it means to follow Jesus is in relationship with fellow believers.
Living as a "Lone Ranger" Christian who refuses to be
in relationship with fellow believers is a biblical impossibility.
The pure light of Gods grace given to each of us at salvation
is refracted into its visible and varied forms of grace in the diversity
of spiritual gifts that edify the whole community of believers together
(1 Corinthians 12:1-11).
We fulfill Gods
purpose as we act as an agency to evangelize the world. We direct
our efforts under the empowerment of the Holy Spirit to those who
have yet to acknowledge Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord (Acts 1:8).
Following Jesus clear example and command, we bear witness
to the redemptive work of God in Christ (Mark 16:15 and Matthew
Leadership for the
While the reality of Pentecost is that all believers are now called
and empowered for ministry (Acts 2), the Lord has provided that
there be leaders gifted to prepare Gods people for effective
service. The spiritual giftedness for leadership described in Ephesians
4:11-16 does not create an elite class of Christians, but it does
recognize and set apart (ordain) gifted men and women for a particular
role. The task of these gifted leaders is to be at the forefront
of equipping the believers in the congregation to effectively serve
the Lord. The context of the local church is that place where spiritual
leaders bring the believers to maturity. The effectiveness of that
local congregation depends much on the Holy Spirit-anointed leadership
that serves there. These spiritual leaders should be viewed as gifts
from God to strengthen the church for its calling.
deep appreciation for Gods marvelous and mysterious creation,
the church, is more important than ever. We live in a world that
clearly values self-expression and human autonomy. Yet Gods
alternative is to have communities of people (local churches) that
are led by spiritually gifted men and women. These local churches,
called and empowered by the very presence of God, are to give visible
testimony to a Redeemer God through their worship, love for one
another and vibrant evangelistic efforts. The church is a community
of the King that invites people to come and encounter Jesus Christ,
be part of the family of God and participate in Gods redemptive