In Matthew 16, Peter, one of Jesus’ closest friends, announced verbally for the first time that he believes Jesus is the Messiah, “the Son of the living God.” Jesus uses Peter’s words as a catalyst for His next statement, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). Feel the force of those words.
At first glance it would be easy to think Jesus was referring to a building. Jesus even uses the illustration of a building block or a foundation, which all church buildings have. But the church Jesus was speaking of was not the building. In the original text the word used in Matthew 16:18 is ekklesia meaning a group of people who are called for a purpose. To put it in context, this word was also used to describe town hall meetings across the Greek speaking world. These gatherings were held when an issue or decree from a government official was announced to the public. The people who were gathered, who had been called to be there, were the ekklesia. This is the word Jesus used to describe His people, the people called by God to gather together in worship of him – the church.
In The hymn “I am the church” the lyrics say, “The church is not a building. The church is not a steeple. The church is not a resting place. The church is a people.” The true essence of the church is the people who are called out by God for the purpose of doing what Simon Peter did, confess Jesus Christ as the Messiah and Son of God. That mantra, that anthem is what the church is built on.
That’s the foundation and where two or three are gathered in the name of Jesus and confess him and follow him, there the church is. The people of God are the church whether we meet at the physical address of 2978 W 1100 N, Huntington, IN or we meet outside of a church building for fellowship, study, or service. For example, when the people of Faith Chapel meet at the men’s breakfast, at the meal ministry, on the softball field, or at Blessings in a Backpack, we are the church and the gates of hell (literally meaning the gates of death) have no victory over us. We are the church together. And we will not lose. Praise be to God.