Yesterday, I tried to articulate the difference between the universal church and the local church. It is my feeling that too many people today emphasize the universal aspect of the church to the exclusion of the local body of believers. That's a problem considering the overwhelming evidence in the New Testament of the church is the local gathering.
Okay, so when three Christian friends get together once a week at Applebees for fellowship and accountability, is that the local church? Does that count as their local church? I would say no. There are many cogs in the wheel of what constitutes a definition of a local church. From the New Testament through the early church Fathers, the important components of the local church were clearly defined.
In trying to be clear, I have come up with a definition of the church. It is certainly a definition that has been influenced by many dead and modern theologians. But here it is:
"The church is the local gathering of believers who confess Jesus as Lord and organize under qualified leadership to observe the ordinances, to hear from God through the preaching of His Word, to serve one another by using their spiritual gifts, to hold one another accountable for personal holiness, and to take the message of Jesus to a lost world."
The evidence is clear in the NT that the church must is led by Jesus as the Head. That authority is acknowledged when people confess Him as Lord of their life. His day to day authority has been delegated from Him to a group of qualified leaders called elders. They are to share the leadership responsibilities in the practical outworking of the church. They are to ensure that the gathered body of believers remember the ordinances (baptism and communion). They are to let God speak through the preaching of His Word. They are to encourage the regular serving of all Christian's spiritual gifts. They are to ensure that the body of Christ be pure, through the process of church discipline. And they are to help the body of Christ take the message of Jesus to a lost world.
That's how I define the church.
Is There Anything I Missed?