In this lesson you will learn what the Bible teaches about God's Church and what it means for you.
"...I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it."— Jesus Christ (Matthew 16:18 Matthew 16:18And I say also to you, That you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
American King James Version×)
Jesus Christ established His Church and gave it a mission. The Scriptures indicate He intended it to be a warm and loving fellowship of His faithful disciples, a source of strength and purpose for them.
Yet most people see the Church as playing little or no role in their everyday lives. To many even the concept seems antiquated. The very word church carries, for some, a distasteful connotation.
For others church conjures up images of quaint country buildings with steeples and crosses, or maybe massive medieval cathedrals in the heart of Europe. When they think church, they think of a place for worship services.
An excellent example is the cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris. It represents, for many, the essence of the meaning of church. Begun in 1163, its construction continued through several lifetimes until 1345. Its 115-foot soaring interior, flying buttresses and great rose windows obviously were all designed for otherworldly purposes.
The Encyclopaedia Britannica notes that the cathedral "is situated on a spot that Parisians have always reserved to the practice of religious rites" and "was built on the ruins of two earlier churches, which were themselves predated by a Gallo-Roman temple dedicated to Jupiter" (Internet edition, "Paris," "Notre-Dame de Paris").
This is not an unusual practice. Throughout history people have ascribed religious significance to places and buildings where they, and often their ancestors, felt closer to God or to the god or gods they worshiped. Church buildings, cathedrals, temples, altars and shrines have long been the focal point of worship.
Like the faith it represents, the cathedral of Notre-Dame it has suffered through the centuries. Britannica explains: "After being damaged during the French Revolution, the church was sold at auction to a building-materials merchant. Napoleon came to power in time to annul the sale, and he ordered that the edifice be redecorated for his coronation as emperor in 1804" ("Notre-Dame de Paris").
The ravages of time and disbelief have not been so kind to many other great European cathedrals. Shrinking church attendance throughout most of Europe has, in recent times, raised the question as to what to do with enormous church edifices that are no longer used enough to justify the high costs of their maintenance.
Is a church building that is no longer used for church services still a church? An even more important question: What does the Bible mean when it talks about the Church?