What Is A Church?

June 29, 2007
by Gordi Whitelaw

1 Corinthians 12:12 – The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. (NIV)

I recently sat down to dinner with a good friend. My friend grew up in Ireland, a country with a very strong sense of national identity. Irish people know what it means to be Irish. My friend understands what people mean when they joke that Canadians tend to define themselves by what we aren't, rather than by what it means to be who we are. This time, however, my friend and I did not discuss national identity. Instead, the question that we tried to work our way through was this: What is a church?

The question was still echoing in my head weeks later as I was reading First Corinthians. Paul was obviously struggling with that same question when he wrote the letter. The Jews had centuries of tradition, as well as a common race and culture to help them define who they were. The early Christians, though, had none of that. This would have been particularly true in Corinth, which in terms of diversity must have been the Vancouver or New York of its day.

Paul comes up with several answers: the Church is like God's field; like God's building; like a temple.

Then in chapter 12, he comes up with that beautiful image: the Church is the body of Christ. People who are called to serve as part of the body of Christ are called to love and accept one another, not merely to accept our differences, but in fact to celebrate them. God has made us all different so that we can all contribute in different ways.

That's a church, isn't it!

Prayer: Thank You, Lord, for making us all different, for giving us all different gifts and unique personalities so that we may all serve You in our own unique ways. Amen.

About the author:

Gordi Whitelaw
West Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

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