Firstly, a church is not a building.
When I was a kid, I learned a neat little rhyme about church. Maybe you know it. It goes:
“Here is the church,
Here is the steeple,
Open the doors,
Here are the people.”
The problem with that rhyme is that it misrepresents what the church actually is. In fact, it’s a bit of a misnomer to call the building in which we are sitting right now a church. Because in every place in the NT where Jesus and his apostles describe the church, they are not describing a physical building, they are describing a body of people. The Greek word that they used which we translate today as “church” is the word ekklesia, which didn’t mean “building”, and it wasn’t a religious word either. An ekklesia was simply an assembly of people who had gathered together, usually for a political purpose. So for example, in Acts 19, when there was a riot in the city of Ephesus, the gathering of people who got together to protest against the Apostle Paul was called an ekklesia: same word as the word we translate “church.” So the church is not a building; it is people.
In fact, in 1 Peter 2:4-5 that we read together before, Peter describes the church as a temple or a house, but he’s not talking about a building – he’s talking about people. Have a look at what he says:
As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him—you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house…
You see that? The church is not made up of a bunch of dead stones put together. It’s made up of a bunch of living stones: people, people who have come to THE living stone, Jesus Christ, and who are being built together into a spiritual house with him.
Now one of the implications of this is that this building is not the house of God. I don’t want to hear any of you describe this building as the house of God. That is unbiblical. God does not live in buildings. What does Stephen say in Acts 7 just before he is stoned to death by the Jews? He says, in verse 48 [SLIDE], the Most High does not live in houses made by human hands. Where does God live? God lives in us, by his Spirit. This building is not the house of God; we the people, we the church, we are the house of God.
And so, that rhyme that I learned as a kid should instead go, “here is the building, here is the steeple, open the doors, and here is the church, here is the house of God.”
And so that’s the first thing the church is not: the church is not a building, the church is a body of people, like so.