Ekklesia.  This is the Greek word translated “church” in Matthew 16:18 … and the word appears 114 other times in the New Testament.  Jesus said He would build “His church.”  Jesus wrote letters to 7 churches in Revelation 2-3.  Paul planted churches in most signifiant cities within the Roman Empire.  Today, buildings all over town are called “churches.”  The word is common … but what did Jesus mean when He talked about “church”?  What was Paul planting?  If we are members of a church, what are we a part of?  If we are considering finding a church, what are we looking for?

The word “church” literally means a congregation of people gathered around a purpose.  Or (to say it another way) a group of people called out from the flow for a particular cause.  When Jesus created His church and committed to build it, He was saying that there would be a group of people who would be called out from the world, UNITED AROUND HIM, and engaging in His mission. As John Stott says, “[the purpose of God] is not just to save isolated individuals and so perpetuate our loneliness, but rather to build His church, that is, to call out of the world a people for His own glory.”

Sadly, we tend to place the church in one of two categories:  either we see the church as purely vertical (i.e. we are only relating to God), or purely horizontal (i.e. we are only concerned with making friends.)  When we are only horizontal, the church is merely a cure for our loneliness.  When we are only vertical, we can be duped into thinking that I don’t need any other people in my life to live as God intended.  Both of these extremes are incomplete understandings of the Christian life, and the importance of “church”

The church IS a place designed for personal worship and inspiration for personal piety … but it is also a place of interconnected relationships and service to others.  We are set apart for Christ … but we are set apart TOGETHER for Christ.

At Wildwood, we talk about following Jesus together to the glory of God.  As we do so, we see four opportunities for influence … we call them the “4 Fours.”  We are for the nations, for the community, for the next generation, and for the church.  This Sunday at Wildwood in our 8:30, 9:45, and 11:00 service we will talk about what it means to be “for the church” and how to live as though the Body of Christ MATTERS in our spiritual lives.  We will do so by looking at Romans 12:1-5.  Around these verses, we will sing, pray, celebrate the Lord’s supper, and encourage one another as we gather together.  Hope you can make it this weekend as we talk more about what it means that we are “FOR THE CHURCH.”  See you Sunday … and bring friends!

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