Study 11 – The Church

What is the church?

Brainstorm (write on board/ paper). How is the word used by us?

The word church means an assembly (a gathering of called-out ones. It refers to people, not buildings or organisations. It is used in two ways in the N.T.:

(1) Local churches.

(2) The church universal (believers everywhere in every age).

The church is called the body of Christ, a gathering of believers. Ephesians 1:22-23, 5:29

[See also Acts 14:27; 1 Corinthians 11:18]

(Once only does 'church' refer to churches in an area Acts 9:31 [A.V. Greek text has 'churches'].)

Who are the members?

Those who have been called to faith in Christ and redeemed by him.

1 Corinthians 1:2; Ephesians 5:25-26 [Acts 2:38-47, 5:14]

They show their new-found faith in Christ by being baptised and gathering with the other believers. See Acts 14:27; 1 Corinthians 11:18[Acts 16] (and other texts above).

What are the functions of the local church?


(a) Worship of God.

Worship is a wide term, currently used too narrowly for 'singing'. It includes singing, prayer, reading the Bible, and preaching.

[It has an even wider use for the whole of the Christian's life.]

(b) Teaching and preaching the truth.

Paul's example:

(c) Ordinances. Baptism and the Lord's Supper (see next study).

(d) Fellowship ( sharing spiritual things.

(e) Discipline.

(f) Evangelism (Mission).

How is the church ruled?

Leaders in the church

Leaders in the church are referred to as elders and deacons and sometimes leaders.

In each local church there was a group of elders also known as pastors, overseers (bishops), and under-shepherds. The names are interchangeable. Their role is preaching, teaching, ruling, pastoral (shepherding) work and being a good example. See:

1 Peter 5:1-4; 1 Timothy 3:1-13; 1 Timothy 5:17-20; Hebrews 13:7; Acts 20:17-18; Titus 1:5-9.

Also there was a group of deacons (servants) to help the church. Philippians 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:1-13

Church membership

Early churches obviously recognised who belonged, e.g. 1 Corinthians 5:13; Acts 5:14.

It is the duty of all of us if possible to belong to a local church.

Hebrews 10:24-25; Acts 2:43-47

Qualifications for church membership:

    • Believers

    • Baptised by immersion

    • Willing to join with that body in unity and love

In our church you need to agree to the central doctrines of the faith and be in sympathy with a summary of biblical truth (the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith).

[If you are interested, ask the elders at Grace for the church Constitution and Confession of Faith and discuss the matter with them.]