What is the church? People use the word “church” in English very often to describe a place that you go to, like a grocery store or a movie theater are places. “What a cute little church” might be said upon spotting a country chapel somewhere. The Bible, however, discusses a people who follow Jesus. In that sense, the church is the people. They may gather together in a place, but with or without the place they are the church.
The New Testament book of Acts describes the earliest days of the followers of Jesus. After his resurrection, Jesus spent some time instructing his apostles. Acts describes how they wanted to know some specific answers to what would happen next related to a physical kingdom on earth. Jesus answers,
“It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:7-8)
The rest of this amazing book of the Bible describes the incredible ways that God spreads the gospel (the good news about Jesus the savior and king) through the apostles and others under the power of the Holy Spirit. In Acts you can see the progress of the spread of the gospel as people in Jerusalem, then Judea and Samaria, and then further out in the Roman Empire hear the gospel and follow Jesus.
What about the “church”? Well, in your English translation of the Bible (using the ESV for instance), the word “church” is used 19 times. Each time “church” translates a Greek word, ekklesia. This word describes the people— the assembly of believers who were joined together in their faith in Jesus. Something that is obvious as you read through Acts is that these people were also a movement. Here are a few clear examples:
- “In those days when the number of disciples was increasing…the Word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.” (Acts 6:1,7)
- “But the word of God continued to increase and spread.” (Acts 12:24)
- “The word of the Lord spread through the whole region.” (Acts 13:49)
- “In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.” (Acts 19:20)
On May 15th I begin a new role as the Executive Pastor of Harvest Community Church in Orlando, Florida. Last weekend I joined with about 50 people who are in the area and interested in becoming part of this local assembly of believers…this church. What stood out to me is that “the church” is already present in our community. What I think God is calling us to do is to be the catalyst, under the power of the Holy Spirit, to help unite this church together and see it become a movement! God is already moving and preparing people as seeds of a great movement. Our prayer is through this movement of Jesus followers thousands of people in South East Orlando and beyond will know and follow Jesus!
Can I ask you… are you invested in a local church that is a movement helping people know and follow Jesus? I don’t just me that you go to church, but that you invest time, energy, talent, and finances to see support a movement?
If you’re interested in learning more about Harvest Florida, check out this earlier blog post.