What is the local church?

Church is a simple concept and a living, loving experience, if only we strip away the complexities that tradition has heaped on it.
The late Maurice Smith's brief article strips it bare and reveals its simple vigour.

It is a number of people who have a current experience of Jesus Christ...
These people know in their hearts that they are in the same family. They are not held together by a common belief in the bible or by sharing the same teachings, but like any other family may have great differences of opinion.

The place where the church is seen and judged is in their daily relationships with one another and the people around them. Because they have seen the wonder of Christ, their own natural strength has been taken away and they are now weak and dependent on him. As they stay in this simple attitude God's love comes through them to one another and to those with whom they come into contact.

The homes, the streets and the shops are the main centres for their activities. They do not need special buildings, special clothes, or special anything to set them apart. They are different on the inside because they have been given new hearts with new desires.

Sometimes they may want to come together in larger numbers for various reasons, but they do not see this special gathering as the local church. Such meetings need not be regular, where one man, or a few, become prominent. They have no obsession with meetings, nor do they consider others unspiritual who do not wish to attend. Each believer is vital to this local church and they will serve each other in everyday situations with the love and abilities which God gives to each one.

These people do not need permanent leaders, but spiritually mature men and women will guide them until they are out of the childhood stage. The main thing taught will be trust and dependence upon Jesus Christ and his Spirit within each person, so that they do not get tied down with rules and regulations, but grow up into God and find their own identity in him. This will enable them to pursue their own burdens and desires towards people and not be organised to serve the work of leaders.

The local church is people at all stages of growth living out their daily lives. They do not have to join anything, for they are born into the church when they have a heart experience of Christ. So there can be no line drawn round a certain number of people to make them members of a particular church, or a special name given to identify them. They are! They are now members of the Body of Christ and can only be closely linked in real life to a few joints of supply, and each of these is connected also to a few others, so that the whole church is joined together by genuine friendships and not by organised groups or official membership.

How can we recognise these people who are the church? I am sure you know: by their love for one another, that's all!

It is essential that each person quickly learns that they do not need anyone else in order to stand secure in God. Strong individuals, dependent on God alone, make a strong church. They will bear with the weak until they become secure in God's love, but will not make these growing ones dependent on the church. The members do all need each other in order to express the full nature of God in the locality because they all have such different gifts. Some have large gifts, others small, but all the people are equal and equally important.

Every person will be a worshipper in their own heart, and will be worshipping in their daily lives, whether shopping, working or playing. When they choose to come together then they experience a communal joy.

It is all very simple really, but to remain simple requires that the premier personal relationship of each individual is continually towards the head, who is Christ. Then they will refrain from taking authority over each other, or judging one another, and quite normally get on and enjoy their life together as the church. Let's stop looking for it and live.

© Maurice Smith - 1989