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Uplifting The Church - Pt 1 - What IS Church?

Updated: Sep 14, 2023

crucifix cross Jesus in the sky drawn with condensation trails in clouds

See image in my personal photography portfolio.

Misuse of the church

The miss-use of the Bible is quite a common thing, and really, it's the main reason why Christians get a bad name. I've seen people who believe they're going to heaven no matter what crimes or sins they knowingly and willfully commit, just because they say: "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus". I've watched, in person, as pastors got on stage and told the whole congregations about how very big their bank accounts are. I've known people who were kicked out of churches for using the very tools we were given by God, Christ and the Holy Spirit. And in my own presence people have been intentionally destroyed by church leaders who gossip, slander and insult, even using the pulpit to pass those things on.

"thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these." - Jesus Christ - Mark 12:30-31 (KJV)

Frankly, I'm frustrated at the hypocrisy I've seen and the forcefulness of its use. I'm downright sickened by those who knowingly make a lifestyle out of going against the gospel, while still calling themselves "Christians". And the thing that bothers me the most is that so many people are missing both the meaning of the word "church" and the way it should be treated. So before I get too high on my soapbox, let's explore what a church really is. Actually, let's start with what a church is not.

A church is not...

A church is not a building. It's not a bank account. It's not a piece of land, a mill that produces media or a copyrighted logo. Church is not a company, a mission or an idea. You don't need money to protect it, and get this, you don't even need a specific place to build it. So now let's get to the good part, the best part in fact. Let's get to what the church really is.

A church is...

A couple of references in the Bible are as follows:

"He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord (loves) the church: For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones." - Paul, Apostle - Ephesians 5:28-30 (KJV)

"Christ is the head of the church" - Paul, Apostle - Ephesians 5:23 (KJV)

Christ does not love a building, nor is He the head of one. Jesus loves the people in that building, park or any other place they gather in His name.

"For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." - Jesus Christ - Mark 12:30-31 (KJV)

Jesus holding children in stained glass window

No stock photography here. See image in my personal photography portfolio.

Brittanica says it like this:

church, in Christian doctrine, the Christian religious community as a whole, or a body or organization of Christian believers. The Greek word ekklēsia, which came to mean church, was originally applied in the Classical period to an official assembly of citizens. In the Septuagint (Greek) translation of the Old Testament (3rd–2nd century BCE), the term ekklēsia is used for the general assembly of the Jewish people, especially when gathered for a religious purpose such as hearing the Law (e.g., Deuteronomy 9:10, 18:16). In the New Testament it is used of the entire body of believing Christians throughout the world (e.g., Matthew 16:18), of the believers in a particular area (e.g., Acts 5:11), and also of the congregation meeting in a particular house—the “house-church” (e.g., Romans 16:5). - Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. "church". Encyclopedia Britannica, 22 Jun. 2023, Accessed 22 August 2023.

In other words, the entire church is the worldwide body of Christians, people who truly strive to follow Jesus Christ. My church is the body of people I meet with in my local area. Therefore, Church is not dependent on money, place or structure. Church is dependent on the group of people we meet with and their desire and ability to follow Jesus Christ. So while a building or a bank account are convenient ways to support the church, they are not the church's core. Simply put, the church and its core are made of people.

From the inside out

So how do you really support the church? How does God want us to support our church? The answer is simple, by applying what Christ commands us to follow, the second greatest commandment... love. And here are the two best descriptions I've found in the Bible for what love is:

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails." 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (NIV)

"Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again." - Jesus Christ - Luke 6:38 (KJV)

Holding a hot air balloon

This is not a stock photo. See image in my personal photography portfolio.

In other words, none of the negative things I've seen in churches belong in a group of people who strive to follow Jesus Christ.

I've worked in the Early Childhood, media production, computer, automotive and electronics industries. I've been involved in peer counseling and Christian ministry for many years. They've all taught me one of the most important things I've learned about all life, that everything that grows properly, it grows from the inside out.

A human infant first develops his/her inner most functions, such as heartbeat and breathing. Socially, the young baby is only aware of itself and the few people who deliver its needs. Later on, babies begin to develop strength and dexterity in their limbs. Then, even later, the infant will develop efficient use of their fingers and toes, along with the social awareness of other people's needs.

Other animals, plants and even solar systems are the same way. Even human-made products share this trait. They all depend on their core becoming strong before their outer features can be supported. Anything that does not develop in this way will, throughout its entire lifetime, be plagued by turmoil and breakage. The main church and our local church are no different. So what is the core that we have to strengthen before the church can grow outward, then begin to support the communities around it? Again, it's the people that gather together in the name of Christ.

How to not properly grow from the inside out

I don't think I know a single person within or without of the Christian faith who hasn't seen what I've seen, a disregard for those within the church who need help. This is especially true when it comes to financial help. My wife and I, for example, have always tithed, even in times of financial hardship, even when we had no income at all. And in the same churches when we or others we know have needed that kind of help in return, the answer was almost always "no". That's happened in all of those churches I've attended except two of them.

I've been to churches that had thousands or even millions of dollars stashed away. Many of them were led by people who have excessive financial lives. They talk regularly about the support they give to the outside world with little or no proof of that support. But when it comes to the needs of the people that donate that money to them, they are often met with excuses as to why there is no help. And, at times, I've even heard pastors say that the poor cannot be supported, citing miss-used Bible quotes. And yet the Bible is clear about how we are to support each other.

"And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them." - Acts 4:33 (NIV)

How to properly grow from the inside out

child girl climbing a sand dune hill

All images are original, not stock. See this one in my photography portfolio.

Recently, my family and I have had a turn of hardship and unusual events. During the approach of homelessness, serious physical illness and the loss of a parent; one of our church communities helped support us financially, emotionally and spiritually. They prayed with us consistently, helped with funeral costs and, in person, offered nothing but kindness and friendship. Unfortunately that community is out of town for us and was just a temporary revisit. Yet they reinforced our vision of being conduits for God's gifts.

In other churches, we'd witnessed pridefulness, gossip, virtue signaling, slander, bigotry, lack of love for one's neighbor and the fear giving back the financial resources God brought in. The worst part was seeing these behaviors grossly embedded into church leadership.

So in our rebellion toward such anti-Christian behavior, we did something unusual. Grace and I opened a separate bank account. This is now where our tithes go. Now, with complete transparency, all of the money that goes into that account goes back out to other people in our community who need it. And when we finally start our own church, that transparency and support for the people around us will come with it. Our goal is to both, strengthen the core of the church before moving outward, and to set an example of following the scripture that clearly tells us to be generous. And that is only step one.

Where we've seen behaviors in churches that are anti-Christian, we replace those behaviors within ourselves with that which is Christian. That means not retaliating when we are attacked with gossip, slander or insults. Instead, we search within ourselves for empathy or sympathy and an understanding of why people become angry enough to do such things. When we see someone who needs help financially, we give what we can even through poverty; looking past our financial fears and into the faith that God will always give it back (because we trust our endless examples that he will.) When people have skills that can uplift the church, we uplift those people and welcome their strong points while lovingly helping them overcome their weak points.

We let God decide where the resources go, not our fears. We fill people with love and positivity over what they do right, but don't judge them for what we think they do wrong. We forgive and move forward, 7×70 times (meaning don't keep track) as Jesus has instructed us. And when we do this all within our core group first, with transparency and open communication, that group becomes strong enough to set examples and support for those outside of it.

"You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven." - Jesus Christ - Matthew 5:14-16 (NKJV)

For more information

See Uplifting The Church - Pt 2 for a personal story of how I put aside self-defense and opted for positivity.

I have an article called "Being A Conduit" that gives much more detail about how and why we pass on God's generosity.

Read the Bible, especially the New Testament, especially Matthew 5-7 and Acts

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