By Pastor Jeff Alexander
Calvary Baptist Church of Lamar has served this community for over 50 years. I have been pastor here for the past 19 years. One question that I frequently face has to do with the fact that there are many different churches in the community. Are they not all pretty much the same? Is there such a thing as a true church? How would one be able to know what it is? Questions like these provoked me to search the Scriptures to determine exactly what makes a church a church. I found at least three things.
First, Jesus Christ made it very clear that He alone was the church’s Architect, Founder, and Builder. In a discussion with His disciples over whom others thought Jesus to be—a prophet, the Christ, or a deceiver—Peter confessed that Jesus was the Christ. Jesus immediately informed Peter that his knowledge was supernaturally endowed, and not a matter of his superior intellect, nor of mere human opinion. To this Jesus added, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18). Here is a clear fact: Jesus said, “I will build my church.” I believe that that is just what His is doing. But how? Notice the next point.
Second, Jesus Christ builds His church when the Lord adds to the church “those who [are] being saved” (Acts 2:47). Many church members are not members of His body at all because Jesus did not add them. The size or popularity of a church should never be the criterion of whether or not it is Jesus’ church. Our Lord’s own testimony is that His kingdom is a narrow way that only few find (Matthew 7:13, 14).
Third, Jesus Christ made it clear that the church is not simply an organization like the Rotary, Elks, Lions, or whatever. The church is an organism—a living organism, whose life flows from its Savior, growing and maturing His people into what God has purposed that they shall be (Colossians 2:19). “We are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ” (Ephesians 4:15). In other words, the body—the church—is to look and act more and more like its Head, Jesus Christ. Early believer’s were called Christians—“followers of Christ”—because they so resembled their risen Lord (Acts 11:26). Every church member needs to carefully examine his own life in this regard (2 Corinthians 13:5). Are you evidencing a family resemblance? Your relationship to Christ should cause others in the community to “recognize that [you] have been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13). Has Jesus changed your life? That is what church is all about.
How does one know what is the right church? Well, did Jesus build it? Are its members, those who are regenerated and changed from habitual sinning to habitual righteousness. Are they those whom Jesus has added? Do the members of the church bear a growing resemblance to Jesus Christ? Do they love Him, worship Him, and serve Him, not just on Sunday, but all the time? Is Jesus Christ their greatest treasure?