What is it about?

What does it mean to be the church? What does the church do? Both of these questions are important, but their order matters. In this article, I argue that we must understand the church's nature before we can establish what it does. The church is a transformative community that forms us as citizens, participants, and co-laborers in God's Kingdom. To establish this, first, I will define the nature of the church. Then I will address its formational task. Finally, I offer an ecclesial framework.

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Why is it important?

When we begin our discussions about the church with what it does (services, ministry, evangelism, mission, hospitality, etc.), we risk valuing the church only for its ability to carry out its tasks. In other words, the church becomes valuable for what it does. The extension of this is that if the church is only valued by what it does, then church members are valued for contributing to those ministries. Rather, when we start from what the church is, the church becomes valuable because of its identity as the Body of Christ, Bride of Christ, Temple of the Holy Spirit. and People of God. The church's worth is defined by its relationship and identity in Christ, as are the members of the church. From this robust understanding, we can reimagine the "tasks" of the church so that they reflect its divine calling. In other words, ministry flows from identity, not visa versa.


Writing this article invited me to think deeply about the church. What does it mean to be the church? How does the identity of the church as the Body of Christ, Bride of Christ, Priesthood of All Believers, Temple of the Holy Spirit, and People of God inform what we do? So often discussions about the church function on form/format (models) or ministry (discipleship, evangelism, and mission). What would happen if we started with what the church is? What if we started to define the nature of the Church and believers using Genesis 1-3? If we take seriously that identity, how might it change what we do? I hope you enjoy this article.

Melissa Davis
Regent University

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This page is a summary of: The Sacramental Ontology of the Church, Pneuma, March 2021, Brill, DOI: 10.1163/15700747-bja10014.
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