Vol.XX No.IX Pg.4
November 1983

A New Church"

Robert F. Turner

From time to time brethren inform others that there is a "new church" in town. And, depending upon circumstances, this is generally hailed as good news. But, what is meant by a "new church"?

The word "church" is never used in the New Testament in reference to a building. But since this has come to be a commonly accepted usage of the word in English, brethren sometimes are referring to a new meeting place when they send out their "new church" announcements.

And, the building of a physical edifice is not unimportant. Great emphasis was given to the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem (Neh. 1:3; 2:18) and also the temple (Hag. 1:8).

It is a serious thing to commit ourselves (Neh. 2:18; 4:6) to such responsibilities as spending time and resources, and commendable and worthy of rejoicing when such resolves are completed (Neh. 12:27), because such things "send a message." It says to those around us that we are serious about what we are doing (Neh. 6:1516). It likewise reflects our "pride" in and attitude toward the work of God. To start projects that are not finished or to be content to meet in poorly maintained facilities when we could do better conveys a negative message to those in the community (Neh. 2:17; Hag. 1:2-5).

But the primary use of the word "church" is to describe people — a certain kind of people: those who at one time were in the world but now belong to Christ: (1 Cor. 1:2, "the church of God... them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints...") Having a new building, then, is not nearly as important as having "new people" to assemble in it. Even as important as the job was of rebuilding the walls and temple, the real need was to "rebuild" the people (Neh. 1:5-11; 9:1-2, 32-35). Thus, unless the people that have built the "new church" are what they ought to be, the new building will not accomplish much.

The word "new" is significant in this regard. It is not a reference to time ("recent") but to character. The new man" (Eph. 4:24) or the "new creation" (2 Cor. 5:17) is not the recent convert but the person in Christ who is different from the person he or she was before their conversion (1 Pet. 4:3-4).

Thus in this sense the local congregation is to always be "new." This "new church" will be characterized by people with new attitudes which will determine its course and conduct. There will be no division (1 Cor.1:10-11), toleration of sin (1 Cor. 5; Rev. 2:12-17), or lukewarmness (Rev. 3:14-16). But there will be love (1 Thess. 3:12; 2 Thess. 1:3), fidelity to the truth (Rev. 2:2-3), and a desire to work (Phil. 4:10).

The time will come when another new building is needed, the first one having grown old. But may the time never come when the church no longer is "new" and thus has lost its influence in the community and among the brethren (1 Thess. 1:7-8; 2 Cor. 9:1-2). David Smitherman