What is a church? Many people define the word church in different ways to suit their fancies. What does the Bible say?

The Local Church, Another Church, and the Parachurch: An Examination of the nature and purpose of the New Testament Church

by Gary Pierpont*


The mention of the word “church” triggers many different thoughts and concepts. To the average person in the pew, that word can mean the building he worships in or the group of people who meet in that building. To a theologian the word carries with it deep biblical meaning whether he sees it as a local institution, a denominational label or a worldwide or universal concept. Indeed many see all three of those ideas as different aspects of the “church.” However well-meaning these ideas may be, they must be examined in the light of the Scriptures. If the final authority for faith and practice is the Bible, then one’s ecclesiology, especially as it relates to the nature and purpose of the church, must conform to the teachings of the Word of God.1 If a man finds his view of the church does not conform to the Scriptures, then he must either change his belief or be in opposition to the Bible.