The Church is the gathered people of God (1Peter 2:10) who have responded to Christ’s call for newness in life, attitude, understanding, and action. It is a people trying to be responsive to the teachings and mandates of Jesus Christ (cf. John 14:15) and endeavoring to be responsible to those with whom Christ gave himself in solidarity and in sacrifice (cf. John 21:15-17).
Therefore it is a people who have caught a vision of a different kind of life and lifestyle and are striving to live according to that life and to share the hope of newness with others. Thus, they become God’s instruments in the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth.
The Church is the New Israel. And like the Israel of old, it is to be a light to the nations and a symbol of God’s presence in the world. (Clergy Manual of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines)
The Church is the Gathered People of God
Many people today understand the church as a building. This is not a biblical understanding of the church. The word “church” comes from the Greek word ekklesia which is defined as “an assembly” or “called-out ones.” The root meaning of “church” is not that of a building, but of people. It is ironic that when you ask people what church they attend, they usually identify a building. Romans 16:5 says “… greet the church that is in their house.” Paul refers to the church in their house—not a church building, but a body of believers.
The church is the body of Christ, of which He is the head. Ephesians 1:22-23 says, “And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” The body of Christ is made up of all believers in Jesus Christ from the day of Pentecost (Acts chapter 2) until Christ’s return. The body of Christ is comprised of two aspects:
1) The universal church consists of all those who have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. “For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink” (1 Corinthians 12:13). This verse says that anyone who believes is part of the body of Christ and has received the Spirit of Christ as evidence. The universal church of God is all those who have received salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.
2) The local church is described in Galatians 1:1-2: “Paul, an apostle … and all the brothers with me, to the churches in Galatia.” Here we see that in the province of Galatia there were many churches—what we call local churches.
A Baptist church, Lutheran church, the Catholic church, etc., is not the church, as in the universal church—but rather is a local church, a local body of believers.
The universal church is comprised of those who belong to Christ and who have trusted Him for salvation. These members of the universal church should seek fellowship and edification in a local church.
In summary, the church is not a building or a denomination. According to the Bible, the church is the body of Christ—all those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ for salvation (John 3:16; 1 Corinthians 12:13).
Local churches are gatherings of members of the universal church. The local church is where the members of the universal church can fully apply the “body” principles of 1 Corinthians chapter 12: encouraging, teaching, and building one another up in the knowledge and grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.
It is a People Trying to be Responsive to the Teachings and Mandates of Jesus Christ
The UCCP Statement of Faith states We believe that the Church is the one Body of Christ, the whole community of persons reconciled to God through Jesus Christ and entrusted with God’s ministry.
The Church response can be expressed in the following varied forms and expressions:
In faithfulness to Jesus’ proclamation of his own mission (Luke 4:18-19), and the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20), the Church, as the People of God, is called to a ministry of love and service and the search for peace based on justice and reconciliation, in obedience to, and as exemplified by Jesus Christ.
Having been given a diversity of gifts, all church members are called upon to participate in this ministry, looking forward to the attainment of unity in faith, knowledge of the Son of God, and mature personhood according to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4:13).
Within the Church, some are called as ordained ministers, lay church workers and others charged to perform specific ministries to enable the Church to fulfill its mission and service and to build up the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:11-12).
Schools, health-care institutions, service agencies, sectors and organizations duly recognized by the Church shall contribute to the fulfillment of its life and ministry.
The ordination of ministers and the classification and assignment of all church workers shall be provided for in the By-Laws. (Adapted from the UCCP Constitution and By-Laws Article IV-THE MINISTRY OF THE CHURCH, sections 1 to 4).