“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations.” Matthew 28:19
If you asked a middle schooler, “What is a church?” you’ll probably get a blank stare. But probably most people would simply answer “a building” or “a place where people worship God.” They’re not completely wrong.
There’s just one problem. If you can only identify a church as a building, then chances are you might not know if you actually belong to it. The reality is a church is so much more than brick and mortar. It’s something far more than a way to spend your Sunday mornings before heading to your favorite breakfast spot.
No, a church is something so much more special than that. It’s something God has called us to, and there’s a special place in it for each of us.
The Church Isn’t Just a Building
When you were very small, did your parents ever do that cute illustration of a church with their hands? In case you can’t remember, here’s how it goes.
Interlace your fingers with your fingers pointing down to the floor and say, “Here’s the church.” Next, lift your first fingers to touch each other and say, “Here’s the steeple.” Finally, flip your hands over so your fingers are on the top side. Then wiggle your fingers and say, “Open the door and see all the people,” and wait for the kids to roar with laughter.
Many people think that’s what a church exactly is, a building with people inside. What’s great about this toddler-fun activity is how it emphasizes the people part. A church isn’t just a building; it’s the people inside of it.
We are God’s church.
“…for the sake of His body, which is the church…” Colossians 1:24
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her…that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle for any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.” Ephesians 5:25-27
The Greek language translates holy as hagios (hag-ee-os), which means “set apart,” to be separated from sin and consecrated to God. According to Vine’s Expository Bible Dictionary, hagios is a comprehensive term that means more than simply “sanctified” or “sacred.” It means to be devoted to God and being open to His commands, which some people call sainthood.
But sainthood isn’t something we achieve. It’s a manner through which God calls us out of His grace (“…For by grace we have been saved…” Eph 2:8). We continue daily fighting sin, practicing righteousness, and remaining in fellowship with God.
As a result, we (meaning each of us) become “a holy temple.” We are “set apart” from the world.
We are the church.
All of us.
United in Christ
“For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit, we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. For, in fact, the body is not one member but many.” 1 Corinthians 12:12-14
Though many people from different backgrounds make up the church, we are united in Christ. We are united through the Holy Spirit into one body with one Head, Jesus Christ. Within that unity, we work together to represent God’s kingdom and to spread the gospel message.
(Related Article: What is the Gospel?)
Each of us has a unique gift to offer to accomplish this goal. We each have a special part to play. Ephesians 4:11-13 says this:
“And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God.”
The apostle Paul is saying God has called each of us to do a certain job within the church body. In verse 16, he explains the main goal of it all.
“…But, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies according to the effective working by which every part does it share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.”
As a church, we work together to grow our faith and to edify the body of Christ through love.
Edifying the Church Body
There are a lot of ways to edify the church body. Let’s do a quick “if/then” evaluation to find where you might fit in. Keep in mind these are only suggestions and certainly not an exhausted list.
Are you good at…?
Smiling? Greet people when they arrive at the church.
Driving? Offer to drive a golf cart around the parking lot so people can get to the service on time.
Waving? Stand in the parking lot and greet people as they drive in.
Playing and crafting? Volunteer in the children’s area.
Understanding technology? Offer to help the production team.
Photography? Take pictures of the church’s big events or help videotape the services for live streaming online.
Singing? Join the choir.
Cooking? Help in the kitchen.
Talking on the phone or web design? Offer to help the church secretary or somewhere in the office.
Praying? Join the prayer team or a prison ministry.
Cleaning? Offer to help tidy up the church after each service.
Traveling? Help organize mission trips.
Washing cars? Offer to fundraise for mission trips or other church events.
Making coffee? Serve coffee and drinks in the church café.
Talking in front of a group? Lead a small group.
Any time we offer our time and talent to the church, we are building it up. We are edifying it, and we are making it better and better so it can meet the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of the community.
In addition to edifying the church body, God has called us to edify others as Christ draws them. That is the mission of the church. Matthew 28:19 says,
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.”
Jesus’ command here seems to paralyze most believers. Often, we’ll ask ourselves, “What can I do? I’m not a pastor!” This is the work of the devil, and you need to rebuke it in the name of Jesus.
So, exactly how do we make disciples?
Because God has called all of us to play a part in the church, it means we are already uniquely qualified to disciple others. God placed that ability in us even before we were born. I love the old saying, “God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called.” Such a true statement.
Our qualifications are made known by the skills we have. What are you good at? What do you enjoy doing? Is there something you do that seems to come naturally?
We ask ourselves these questions, but often we’ll pigeonhole the answers within a very restricted context. Or sometimes, we simply answer, “What am I good at? Nothing.”
God says otherwise, and Paul reminds us of it in Romans 12:6.
“Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them.”
Our gifts are different, and all of them are given by God’s grace. And since we know His grace is for everyone, then we know His special gifts are for everyone.
God has given you a gift, a special skill. You are already fully equipped to make disciples.
Gifts of Spiritual Fruit
So, what does that look like? If we all have unique gifts that enable us to make disciples, how do we use those gifts? What can we do?
Most people automatically assume you have to be a great theologian or an amazing speaker or extraordinarily blessed to reach others for Christ. But that’s simply not true. Just as the “if/then” evaluation showed us, there are many simple skills we have that are effective in reaching others for Christ.
I often like to remind people (particularly students) the importance of exercising the fruits of the Spirit. When we strive to show fruit and incorporate those practices into our daily lives, it naturally draws the people around us. In case you’ve forgotten, these are the fruits of the Spirit.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” Galatians 5:22
I would also add forgiveness to that list. We should always forgive as God has forgiven us (Matthew 6:14). All on its own, forgiveness definitely bears fruit. We should also throw in Micah 6:8.
“And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?”
Justice, mercy, humility…mix these with forgiveness and the fruits of the Spirit, and you have the perfect combination of walking in righteousness with God. And it’s how we can make disciples in our workplaces, schools, neighborhoods, even at the grocery store, bank, and sports fields.
Being the Church
Think about it…
How much better would standing in long lines or sitting in traffic be for everyone if we were more patient?
How much better would it be if you diffused an argument between friends, coworkers, or your children simply because you were peaceful, kind, and forgiving?
Would it make someone’s day substantially better because you chose to be generous to them?
Could you improve a friend’s situation because you were faithful to them by taking the time to listen to a problem and offering a soft place to land?
We make a direct impact on the people around us every time we pursue righteousness. Believe me, people always notice. I’ve experienced it many times.
The world is so full of darkness. We’re all under constant attacks by the devil. The people around you can’t help but see your light shining when we pursue righteousness. And it’s by your light…by your godly example…by your fruit…that you draw people to Christ, make disciples, and become the church.
It’s really that easy.
You’re Never Alone
Still nervous about making disciples? Remember Jesus’ great promise to you in Matthew 28:20.
“And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
When is the end of the age?
Some people say it’s when they die. Certain Bible scholars would say that it’s when Jesus returns to judge the world, conquer Satan, and finally establish His earthly kingdom. But I humbly suggest that neither is true.
God has no end. He is everlasting. Heaven is everlasting. And so, there is no end to “the age.” That means His faithfulness goes on forever. He will stay by your side forever, and He will never leave you. That’s His promise to you.
God realizes what He’s asked us to do. He knows He’s asked us to be the church, to build it up with our God-given gifts, and to make disciples. He knows it can be challenging at times. But He promises never to leave us. He will walk with us through every step as we respond to His calling.
We are the church. There is a place for you in it as it grows in faith. And you have a special gift, a way you can reflect Jesus, that will draw others to it.
So, ask yourself. How can you be the church to someone today?