I am amused by some of my Christian acquaintances and friends. They spend time postulating and posing ideas in their minds as to what exactly is meant by some of the weightier things in God’s word. The church and the form it takes is one current fashion. I read recently that the church is “invisible.” I have heard that it is not an organization, a corporation, an entity, or an institution.
So when Paul told Aquila and Priscilla to greet the church in their house they were greeting some formless ethereal empty space, just a loose gaggle of folks. They were greeting the individuals and not some composed entity comprised of individuals?
These types of people have been at this sort of thing for a while. It is nothing new as “there is nothing new under the sun.” But, instead of concentrating on the condition of their own souls, and minding their own things, they seem to find greater contentment in theorizing and in issuing heavy postulations.
Some people fret over the rules of capitalizing. They would not have you use a capital “c” when you put the word church on a sign or a document. They apparently have never been taught the rules and do not own a copy of The Elements of Style, an English dictionary or a bible lexicon. The problem is that some would issue decrees and must have things spelled and shown a particular way else they think there is peril about. Some are so bold as to state that churches should do things this way or that, and thereby they may confuse the simple and confound the word of God. These folks should be ashamed. They suggest that it is somehow important to always use only a lowercase “c” to spell the word church in any occurrence. These folks should be encouraged to do something of value, and to not waste their time (which is really God’s time, on loan).
As dumb as I may be and as poorly as I may be able to read, here is what I understand of things large and small.
As has been commented on at this site at length, the word “church” is a perfectly good English word — whether it comes to you capitalized or not.
However, when used as a proper noun indicating a particular assembly in some identifiable place, as when it is placed upon a sign, on a letterhead, or in printed materials, the common rules (of at least the English) language encourage us to spell it out using the title case. That is simply good form. Proper capitalizing lends nothing to either the meaning of the word or to the makeup of any group. And none of us will be saved or be damned because of this one way or the other. It is just not worth anyone’s time. There are weightier things out there.
The word “church” accurately conveys the purpose of the organization. And it is in fact an organization no matter what postulates people may prefer. It properly indicates a called out assembly – an assembly drawn out of a greater or larger group — an assembly of purpose. As it has purpose it also has structure.
A church, according to the New Testament, as an assembly, is an organization with officers, structure and function, which would be in fulfillment of its purpose. This is how any dictionary states an organization must be found. The Merriam-Webster website (www.m-w.com) lists this as the definition of organization — “1 a): the act or process of organizing or of being organized b): the condition or manner of being organized, 2 a): (an) association, society (charitable organizations) b): an administrative and functional structure (as a business or a political party); also; the personnel of such a structure.”
A church is also properly described as an entity as it has both its own particular form and function. An entity is defined as — 1 a): being, existence; especially independent, separate, or self-contained existence b): the existence of a thing as contrasted with its attributes, 2: something that has separate and distinct existence and objective or conceptual reality 3: an organization (as a business or governmental unit) that has an identity separate from those of its members.
Therefore the church, whether speaking of it in a total sense as including all assemblies, or as of a single assembly, is certainly an organization, it is certainly an entity — whether full or in part, whether large or small.
This is the second listed definition of corporation from the same source. “A body formed and authorized by law to act as a single person although constituted by one or more persons and legally endowed with various rights and duties including the capacity of succession.”
It is therefore also reasonably and properly defined as being corporate, a corporate entity. The law prescribed in its case is the law of God.
But, none of this should be construed to prove that the church is in any sense a modern corporation or business entity that is or should be legally incorporated, for nothing of that sort has been identified here. It is not incorporated but rather is corporate. But then why fight over words?
The caveat is that there is no larger organization or entity mentioned in God’s word which is above, that supercedes the local assembly in authority, or that charters the work and organization of the particular assemblies or any group of assemblies. In that single sense the church is not a corporate and organized group as some would understand that to mean; and there is no instituted or organized structure beyond the individual assembly ever listed in the scriptures.
A hardhead might say that at least it is not an institution, as some folks will not have that word used to describe it.
According again to Merriam-Webster’s it qualifies as one of those too. An institution is found in “the act of instituting: establishment.” I feel certain (without bothering to look) that the giant hardbound Webster’s Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language that sits on my bookshelf will no doubt define these words just about the same as we gave it to you here.
The church was in fact instituted by God. The word simply means established or built, so therefore it has been and is instituted. That fits nicely with what is taught in the scriptures that the church was established by Christ and through the hands of the apostles and prophets. That must mean that it is in fact an institution, as it has been constructed and established. It therefore is found and confirmed to be instituted, corporate, organized, and an entity, and all this with or without a capital “C.”
What do you think? How do you read it?
Why can we not just keep it plain and simple and state things in language easy to be understood, neither contrary to the word of God nor to the common rules of language?
The following was said of Jesus — “The common people heard him gladly.” (Mark 12:37)