We have been considering our church’s name for several weeks now (see Part I, Part II, and Part III), and this week, we conclude by looking at what it means to be a church. A church is a community of worshipers engaged in God’s mission. The Church was founded by Christ around the confession (an act of worship) that Jesus is Lord. Those who shared this confession formed a community of worshipers, a community that Jesus commissioned to go and disciple the nations in this worship. In commissioning his disciples to this task, Jesus not only gave them the mission, but the means of accomplishing that mission as well.
The means that God has given the Church to fulfill her mission are two: word and sacrament. Of course, these are also the elements of the Church’s worship, and so we see the tight connection between the worship of the Church and the mission of the Church: the Church engages in mission by worshiping, and her worship, without losing its fundamental Godward orientation, also has the effect of being an act of mission.
Now, we don’t want to reduce our idea of “worship” to a couple hours on Sunday morning, but we should acknowledge that our gathered worship on Sunday is the highest point of the life of the Church. Everything else that she does throughout the rest of week bears the stamp of her corporate worship. When a family reads the Bible, sings, and prays together, they do so as an overflow of the Church’s worship. When an older woman teaches a younger woman how to follow Jesus in her station in life, this is worship spilling out into community. When men get together to study how to be better husbands, following Christ’s example, this too is a natural result of worshiping together, so much so that in a sense, it can be called worship as well, because our life together has been shaped by worship.
The Church is not a social club, or a community events organizer, however. We are not simply a bunch of people who like doing the same kind of things on Sunday mornings. If you are a follower of Christ, the Church isn’t a nice addition to your walk with God that gives you some options to fill up your personal calendar. Your individual walk with God is the result of your having been made a part of Christ’s Church. It is the Church, not the individual believer, who is the Bride of Christ. It is the Church, not the individual, that is described as the body of Christ. This is why it is so important for members of the Church by becoming a member of a church: the Church is where God is present in the world. The Church is the center of God’s plan. The Church is where the life of Christ is made present to His people through Word and Sacrament.
So if you claim to be a member of the Church, but aren’t in fact joined to any particular local church, you may be a body part, but you’ve been amputated from the rest of the body. You may be a glowing ember, but if you aren’t in the fire, you will quickly go out. The local church is the place where the individual is joined to Christ, finding life and strength in preaching, singing, praying, baptizing, and eating a meal with God.
Ultimately, we are Christ Reformed Evangelical Church because the Church is the place where Christ meets with the worshiping community of believers engaged in God’s mission.