What is the church?

1 Timothy 3:15
the church is the pillar and bulwark of truth

What is the church according to you and how do you define it?

The first thing that comes to my mind is that the Church is the community of believers, the body of Christ …

Romans 12:4-5 For as in one body we have many members,and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.

1 Corinthians 12:12-14 The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with 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. Now the body is not made up of one part but of many.

Here’s a good resource:


Originally posted by **Michael Allen **

The first thing that comes to my mind is that the Church is the community of believers, the body of Christ …

From a Lutheran perspective, both of these, articulated by our confessions as; the congregation of believers where the word is preached and the sacraments administered.


From Wikipedia: ‘Church is a Christian religious institution, place of worship, or group of worshipers’.

When referring to the bible, the word for church was ekklēsia (ek-klay-see’-ah) which means a congregation, body or assembly of believers. The bible doesn’t reference the word church as an institution or a building. It always uses the word ekklēsia.

To me, the church is the body of believers in Jesus Christ.

The Church is God’s instrument of salvation on earth. The Church is the voice of Christ.


Do you mean the church as an institution? As in the RCC? I ask respectfully :slight_smile:

Define what you mean by “institution”?

And are the terms “church” and “institution” necessarily dichotomous?

Well, the word ‘church’ has multiple definitions. If you feel you can combine multiple definitions to mean the same thing, then I guess (to you) there aren’t multiple definitions! I don’t believe the definition of church as ‘an assembly’ can be combined to mean the same as the definition of church as an ‘institution’.

An example: in the RCC, the assembly of believers (congregation) can’t decide what the church (as an institution) teaches. The church (as an institution) dictates to the assembly of believers what they are to believe. There is a difference in the use of the word church.

**Modern Catholic Dictionary
by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.
CHURCH. **The faithful of the whole world. This broad definition can be understood in various senses all derived from the Scriptures, notably as the community of believers, the kingdom of God, and the Mystical Body of Christ.

As the community of believers, the Church is the assembly (ekklesia) of all who believe in Jesus Christ; or the fellowship (koinonia) of all who are bound together by their common love for the Savior. As the kingdom (basileia), it is the fulfillment of the ancient prophecies about the reign of the Messiah. And as the Mystical Body it is the communion of all those made holy by the grace of Christ. He is their invisible head and they are his visible members. These include the faithful on earth, those in purgatory who are not yet fully purified, and the saints in heaven.

Since the Council of Trent, the Catholic Church has been defined as a union of human beings who are united by the profession of the same Christian faith, and by participation of and in the same sacraments under the direction of their lawful pastors, especially of the one representative of Christ on earth, the Bishop of Rome. Each element in this definition is meant to exclude all others from actual and vital membership in the Catholic Church, namely apostates and heretics who do not profess the same Christian faith, non-Christians who do not receive the same sacraments and schismatics who are not submissive to the Church’s lawful pastors under the Bishop of Rome.

At the Second Vatican Council this concept of the Church was recognized as the objective reality that identifies the fullness of the Roman Catholic Church. But it was qualified subjectively so as to somehow include all who are baptized and profess their faith in Jesus Christ. They are the People of God, whom he has chosen to be his own and on whom he bestows the special graces of his providence. (Etym. Greek kyriakon, church; from kyriakos, belonging to the Lord.)

I recently heard it described this way.

We know where the Church is, we don’t know where the church is NOT.

So, the RCC and the Orthodox,is where it is (both recognized as Church). Other members of the Body of Christ, are unknown to us. We pray that those not in visible communion, may be united by Christ in some less perfect way.

That’s not true. Because the bishops and clergy who have been called by God, who have been approved, and who have been ordained to proclaim the true Deposit of the Faith, they are also the “assembly of believers”.

They can no more “decide” what the Church “teaches” any more than the “assembly of believers” can. What is taught is always considered, regardless of the various ways the teachings are expressed, as the whole Tradition as was handed down to us from the Apostles.

So really your idea isn’t based upon what the Church actually is but rather a mischaracterizatoon of what you think the Church is. It’s a false dichotomy.

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