Wednesday, March 10, 2010

What is the Church? Nine Key Characteristics

For the past year or so, I've been preaching through the gospel of Matthew during our church gatherings. Last week, we studied Matthew 16:18-20. Since this is the first time Jesus deals specifically with the church, I thought it would be a good time to look more closely at what the church is. This coming Sunday, I'm preaching on the subject, "What is the Church?"

Unlike what the picture to the left suggests, the scriptures make it clear that the church is an assembly or community of people. But what are key characteristics of the church that make it unique?

The following are the nine characteristics I am going to emphasize. What do you think? Have I left any out that should be added? Are any of the nine unnecessary? Please tell me what you think and why.

1. The church falls under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

2. The church is guided by the Holy Spirit.

3. The church is built upon the scriptures.

4. The church is made up of followers of the triune God.

5. The church pursues holy, self-sacrificial living.

6. The church practices the ordinances of baptism and the Lord's Supper.

7. The church is committed to unity and edification of the body.

8. The church is on mission to make disciples of all nations.

9. The church strives to do all for the glory of God.


Arthur Sido said...

On six, what about foot washing?

Eric said...

That's a good question. I certainly think it should be practiced. Is it an ordinance? There does seem to be a lot of disagreement over this one; that's why I didn't include it.

Alan Knox said...


Your question, "What is the church?" deals with essence or identity. I think some of your 9 characteristics rightly speak to identity as the church. However, I think some of them may speak more to the health of the church, activities, or mission of the church, but not necessarily the identity. In other words, I think some of the things in your list could be missing and a group of people could still be a church... perhaps an unhealthy or immature church, but still a church. What do you think?


Eric said...


Thanks for your comment. I intended for the above list to describe healthy churches. When I say healthy, I mean churches that are trying to be biblical.

I agree that some churches do not have all of the above characteristics. They are still churches.

The real key is the lordship of Jesus Christ. Whoever is "in Christ" is in the church. That is the most basic foundation.