Is it okay to call ourselves "church"?

church titleThat's a good question to ponder.

Jesus said that He would build His church (Matthew 16:18). Just what was it that He promised to build?

Many people use the term “church” to refer to the place where Christians gather or the meetings that are held in that place. We’ve all heard people say things like they’re “going to church” or their “church seats 500 people” or “church was good this morning.” We usually understand what they mean.

But, interestingly, the New Testament use of the word “church” has nothing to do with buildings or the meetings that go on in those buildings. In fact, the earliest church didn’t have any formal buildings. It was a movement of believers who met in homes or wherever they happened to be in order to celebrate the risen Lord Jesus Christ.

The English word “church” is translated from the Greek “ekklesia” (ek-klay-see'-ah) which is used about 120 times in the New Testament. It simply means an assembly or gathering. In other words, church is people – people who gather together to honor Jesus Christ.

We call ourselves Westside Bible Fellowship. It may come as a surprise to some to learn that it hasn’t always been this way. When we started in 1980, we were called Westside Bible Chapel. But in the early 1990s the Elders made the big decision to change our name. We did this to take the emphasis off the building (“chapel”) and put it on the people who gather (“fellowship”).

So, what’s the big deal? It’s far more than terminology or splitting hairs over semantics. This plan of Jesus for the church puts the emphasis squarely on what matters most to Him. Buildings, bright lights and bands aren’t really that important in the grand scheme of things.

What’s important to Him are the worshippers whom He has called to Himself and whose lives He wants to change and use to impact the world.

The bottom line for us? If the people who make up the assembly of believers called the church is so important to Christ, they must be for us as well.