A post from Indispensable Churches
I’m thinking that it might be best to get this out of the way to begin with, to avoid or maybe compound potential confusion in the future.
In our English language we tend to use the word “church” in a number of different senses. One is to refer to a building or facility in which a particular community of believers gathers for worship services. I won’t be using the word “church” in this sense at all in these posts, unless I indicate otherwise.
Another use of the word “church” is to refer to a local congregation of believers (as in “Christ the King Lutheran Church of Lodi, Ohio”). Still another refers to a number of these congregations gathered together into a denomination (as in “The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod”). Yet another way we use the word “church” is in a fairly broad catch-all way (as in “The Eastern Church” or “The Church of the Middle Ages”). We also use “church” to speak broadly of all believers in Christ on earth at any present time (“the Invisible Church on earth” or “the Church Militant”), of all adherents of every congregation or denomination on earth at any present time (whether believers or not – “the Visible Church on earth”); of people who had been believers in Christ when they were alive and are now living with Him eternally, according to His promise (“the Church Triumphant”); and to speak of all people who, living or dead, ever believed in Christ (“the Universal Church”).
In these posts it’s quite possible that neither you nor I will be able to tell which definition of “church” I’ll be using at any given time. There are times when I may use “congregation” or “denomination” to be specific, but most of the time I’ll just be using “church” and “churches” in several of these above senses at the same time. I know that seems vague and potentially confusing, but that’s what we have to live with in “the church.” Just remember – in any given post from Indispensable Churches, I might be asking you to think about several different levels of “church” at the same time. Sounds like fun, yes?