Are we “the church” at all times? If I meet one of you in the produce aisle at a local grocery store, are we “a church”? Is everything we do “church” merely because we are regenerate? When I play a board game with my wife, watch a football game with my pastor, or go out to dinner with my wife, should we consider these “churchly activities”?
Consider how Baptists have historically defined “church”:
A Confession of Faith (1643) “Jesus Christ hath here on the earth a spiritual kingdom which is His Church, whom He hath purchased and redeemed to Himself, as a peculiar inheritance: which Church is a company of visible saints, called and separated from the world by the Word and Spirit of God, to the visible profession of the faith of the gospel; being baptized into that faith, and joined to the Lord, and to each other, by mutual agreement, in the practical enjoyment of the ordinances by Christ their head and King.”—Baft. Conf., 1643, Art. XXXIII.
Orthodox Creed (1679): “The marks by which she [a church] is known to be the true spouse of Christ, are these, viz. Where the word of God is rightly preached, and the sacraments truly administered, according to Christ’s institution, and the practice of the primitive church.”
Second London Confession (1689) “The Lord Jesus Christ collecteth out of the world to Himself, through the ministry of His Word by His Spirit, those that are given to Him by the Father, that they may walk before Him in all the ways of obedience, which He prescribeth to them in His Word. Those thus called He cornmandeth to walk together in particular societies or churches, for their mutual edification, and the due performance of the public worship which He requireth of them in the world. The members of these churches are saints by calling, visibly manifesting and evidencing their obedience unto the call of Christ; and do willingly consent to walk according to the appointment of Christ, giving up themselves to the Lord, and one to another, by the will of God, in professed subjection to the ordinances of the gospel.” *_Art. XXVI., sees.5, 6.
“New Hampshire Confession” (1853): “A visible Church of Christ is a congregation of baptized believers, associated by covenant in the faith and fellowship of the Gospel; observing the ordinances of Christ, governed by his law, exercising the gifts, rights, and privileges invested in them by His Word.”*
Edward Hiscox: “A CHRISTIAN CHURCH is a company of regenerate persons, baptized on a profession of faith in Christ; united in covenant for worship, instruction, the observance of Christian ordinances, and for such service as the gospel requires; recognizing and accepting Christ as their supreme Lord and Lawgiver, and taking His Word as their only and sufficient rule of faith and practice in all matters of conscience and religion.”
Baptist Faith and Message (1963): “A New Testament church of the Lord Jesus Christ is a local body of baptized believers who are associated by covenant in the faith and fellowship of the gospel, observing the two ordinances of Christ, committed to His teachings, exercising the gifts, rights, and privileges invested in them by His Word, and seeking to extend the gospel to the ends of the earth.”