What made the word “church” lose its attraction? It’s been my disheartening observation that we are moving away from having the word “church” included in the names of our gathering places or making church less like church.
Why is this happening? I’m going to take a guess, not only is it trendy, but the primary reason we are doing so, is to increase the numbers of those who we feel would more likely come.
I remember some years ago, I heard one church’s drawing appeal as “The church that’s not like a church”, while another church’s slogan is “Church for people who don’t like church”. I’m not kidding. You can Google it.
But what is a church and who is it for? Jesus Christ spoke the following words to Peter.
“…That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Matthew 16:18b KJV
Jesus’ statement to Peter (Simon Barjona) was in response to Peter’s answer in rightly identifying Jesus as the Son of the Living God. The church is built on Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God. Jesus is the Rock of our Salvation.
So what is a church? The word church comes from the Greek work “ekklesia” which is an assembly of “called out ones”; those who have been called out of darkness into the marvelous light, Christ followers. A church is not necessarily the building, but the gathering of where believers meet. Is it limited to only believers? No. But the worship service is geared toward believers.
What’s been happening lately is a focus on trying to get more into the doors of the church building. What’s wrong with that? Shouldn’t we try to get more people?
Jesus did give the disciples a commission as he was ascending back to heaven. He told us how to add to the kingdom.
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20 ESV
We are to make more disciples, but how? Do we change how we “do church” to make it more appealing to draw in more people? Do we remove the word “church” from our name so that it’s less cumbersome, and frees us to reach more people? No! Jesus said:
“And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to me.” John 12:32 KJV
After Jesus ascended back to heaven, the apostles, after receiving the power of the promised Holy Spirit, they preached Christ, and him crucified. That is how the numbers of believers increased.
In fact, in one day 3000 people became believers upon hearing the proclamation of the gospel, the good news of Christ dying to save sinners. The Apostle Paul declares that through the gospel the power of God works, saving everyone who believes. See Romans 1:16
As churches were established, the new believers continued in the apostles’ teachings, prayers, and fellowship with other believers. See Acts 2:42 This is what happened in church along with the reading of the scriptures, singing of hymns, psalms and spiritual songs. Its purpose? To equip and build up the saints in the knowledge of God’s will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, so that they would be fruitful.
So it appears that we are actually making growing the church more difficult. All that has to be done is preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ! That’s how churches will grow in numbers, with new believers. We don’t have to hire “church growth” experts. We don’t have to change our name, or remove the word “church” from our name. We don’t have to hire entertainment or buy new hi-tech equipment. Jesus already gave us the formula, lift him up. We just have to preach the gospel, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. He promised. It’s his church.