1. The first mention of "the church" in the Bible came from the lips of our Lord Himself. It is found in this morning's text passage, the obvious starting point for any study of what has been called the "Body of Christ." The Greek word translated throughout the New Testament as "church" is ekklesia, a perfectly common term which referred to any public assembly of citizens. In fact this same Greek word is used in the Septuagint -- the first Greek translation of the Old Testament -- to refer to the "congregation" of Israel which was constituted at Mt. Sinai and assembled before Jahweh at the annual feasts in the persons of its representative males. But by the end of the first century A.D. the term had become almost exclusively Christian, used to identify those who were baptized as followers of Jesus Christ and who assembled for teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread and prayer in towns and cities throughout the Roman Empire.
2. In God's purpose there is only one church, one gathering of all believers under the headship of Jesus Christ. This great, eternal assembly has come to be known as the "catholic" church, the Church U __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __. All of us who recited the Apostles' Creed during our worship service confessed to being part of "one, holy, universal ( catholic ), apostolic church." It is made up of all true believers -- those justified by God on the basis of faith -- including those of past generations as well as the present ones, from all cultures and societies.
3. There is also, of course, the Church P __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __: those individual bodies of Christians who worship together as the communio sanctorum, the "communion of saints." They make up what Saint Augustine called the "V __ __ __ __ __ __ church," whose task it is to make the invisible kingdom of Jesus Christ visible to the secular world by bearing witness to Him in their local communities.
4. The purpose of this sermon series is to re-orient ourselves toward God's original purpose for those who have come together as the communio sanctorum known as The Church of the Saviour at Myersville, Maryland. Our church began as a group of believers earnestly seeking to become a true New Testament church presence in Frederick County, free of all denominational and traditional trappings. We started with a Bible study called "Becoming a Church," immersing ourselves in the pages of the New Testament, learning as much as we could about God's original design and purpose for the local church. Much of what we learned changed our understanding of ministry, accountability and Christian duty, and the Church of the Saviour was chartered in October of 1994 in order that we might serve God as an authentic Community of Saints. He saw fit to plant us here in Myersville and we rolled up our sleeves and went to work. So much of this was completely new for so many of us! In some ways our church has exceeded our expectations; in some ways we have struggled awkwardly. Our desire has ever been to serve God faithfully as a local body of believers. Let us "refresh" ourselves with what God's Word says about the local church. Let us honestly evaluate our progress and our effectiveness. Let us be refined by the Holy Spirit as we study, re-committing ourselves to the work of the ministry. Let us begin!