WHAT IS CHURCH?
When we hear the term "church", many times we conjure up the image of steepled buildings with steeply pitched roofs and a cross on top. People who attend meetings in these types of buildings are called “church members”.
But when the New Testament speaks of the Church it is not so much addressing meeting halls as those who are meeting within the halls. Churches do usually meet in buildings, many of which can be described as previously, but the Church as defined in the Bible is much more.
Paul, when writing to philemon, spoke of the “Church in (his) house” (Phil. 2). He also spoke of the Church in the house of Priscilla and Aquila in both Romans 16:5 and 1 Cor 16:19, along with a reference to the Church in the house of Nymphas in Colossians 4:15. Obviously, these are references to believers, not the buildings they meet in. Paul also spoke of the Church as being the body of Christ in 1 Cor 12:27. A picture of believers as members of a union in which Christ is the head (Ephesians 4:15) and we, individually are parts of a body that walks in submission to Him.
MEANING OF THE TERM "CHURCH"
The word translated "church" in the New Testament is almost exclusively the greek word ekklesia. To the greeks it meant any assembly of people. In the New Testament it became an excellent description of the Christian congregations who met for fellowship, worship and teaching.
The english word comes from the greek word kuriakon, which means “house of the Lord.” Kuriakon derives from the word kuriakos, “of the Lord.” Both of these terms are apt descriptions of the nature of the church. In 1 Cor 3:17, the body of believers is called the temple of God, the individual Christian is called the temple of the Holy Spirit in 1 Cor 6:19. So, whether individually, or as a group, it is the believers who are called the House of God, not a building. We as believers meet on the basis of our relationship with, and love for, Jesus Christ and in that sense “House of the Lord” is a fitting description. We as believers belong to the Lord and this is the only criteria for membership in the church.
1 Peter 2:9-10 gives a wonderful description of what the Church is all about: “but you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.”
Believers chosen by God, priests in the sense that we represent our friends and family before God in prayer and stand for God to them, a holy nation; citizens of a heavenly kingdom, ambassadors here to proclaim God’s mercy to those who’ll receive it, a special people, the people of God. What a great thing to be a part of!
Because of what the Bible teaches about being a member of the Church, we at Calvary do not have a formal roll-type membership. Our concern is that people have a real relationship with Christ and become members of His body, rather than a focus on an organizational commitment. If you attend Calvary Chapel and are a follower of Jesus Christ, you are a member.