I was born in upstate New York and raised for the first 18 years of my life in a Pentecostal church, along with nine other siblings. We were in service at least four days out of the week; my mom was dedicated to God and the mission of the church and was determined to instill the same belief system in her children. I didn’t know if she was trying to church us to life, or church us to death, but that’s the mind of a child. Regardless of my personnel thoughts, it was obvious her heart was in the church, and she was in love with God.
As time progressed and she continued to work diligently, I began to hear the people murmuring and complaining about her having favor with the pastor, and many other hurtful things were said out of malice that tragically affected my mom and ultimately separated the family. The mom who would wake my six sisters up “before day in the morning” with the smell of burning hair on the hot comb for church, the one who would make sure we went to church at least three times a week, the one who would invite the pastor over every Sunday for dinner against our wishes, the woman whose heart was in the church, had ceased to exist. Our family was separated and devastated.
For me, this was personal and tragic, but as I grow older and wiser, I am better to understand the lesson of life. Hurt is hurt no matter where it comes from or what form it comes in, but it has been said, “there’s no hurt like church hurt.” Let us examine this hurt, from a holistic point of view in mind, body and spirit with the objective of getting a full understanding of the cause, effect and the possibility of restoration.
What is the church? Webster’s Dictionary defines church as “a building that is used for Christian religious services.”
The biblical definition reveals the origin of the church.
• The original Greek word is ekklesia. ‘Ek’ is out of; ‘kaleo’ is to call, and this means “out calling.” It’s gathering of people called out to a public place for a special purpose.
• What Jesus the Christ meant when He said in Matthew 16:18, “I will build my church.” In Matthew 18:20, He makes it clear by saying, “when two or three are gathered together in my name, I am there in the midst.”
• According to 1 Corinthians 1:2, the church is an assembly of the saints. This title describes the people in Christ to be sanctified and set apart (‘ekklesia’– the called out).
Most people, believers and non-believers, think church is a building or a structure to be claimed by a religious organization. “This is our church,” but it’s more than that. Not understanding the eternal importance of God’s church can be a great loss for mankind. If the church is just a building, what happens if a natural disaster destroys it; is the church destroyed?
Wikipedia defines it as “an organized body of people with a particular purpose, especially a business, society, association, etc.”
Many Christians consider the church to be an organization or a place where likeminded people come together to fellowship and worship. As a society, they have formed a church.
Many Christians consider the church to be an organism or “a body made up of organs, organelles or other parts that work together to carry on the various processes of life,” according to Webster’s definition.
In 1 Corinthians 12:12-14, we see, “Just as a body, though one has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body – whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free – and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.”
Many people in general believe the church is similar to a hospital or “a place where sick or injured people are given care or treatment and where children are often born,” according to the Wikipedia definition. Some people see sin as a sickness that needs to be taken to a place that can heal it. “The church” is the hospital.
Luke 5:31 says, “And Jesus answering said unto them, They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick.”
The Wikipedia definition of a temple is, “a building devoted to the worship, or regarded as the dwelling place, of a god or gods or other objects of religious reverence.” Many religious people believe the temple to be a structure built to house the spirit of God or a place where God’s spirit dwells.
In 2 Samuel 7:5, it says, “Go and tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord says: Are you the one to build me a house to dwell in”?
Now, what is actually the view of the church?
• Is it a church building – a structure claimed by a religious organization?
• Is it an organization – a society of likeminded people?
• Is it an organism – moving parts, operating or living for one purpose?
• Is it a hospital – a place where the sin sick go to recover?
• Is it a temple – the house of God?
To be continued in my next faith column…
Michael Ruttlen Sr. is senior pastor of Pickett-Rucker United Methodist Church in Lebanon. Preacher’s Corner features a new local preacher each month writing a column.