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The church was a mystery God held closely until the right time. What does it mean to be the church at a place that is not our home? To answer that question, we must understand what we mean by a church “congregation.”

The church itself is one, but congregations are many. The one church exists worldwide as the people of God indwelled by the Holy Spirit. It also exists in heaven among those who have already died. While there is only one church, there are gatherings of believers or “congregations” worldwide.

A “congregation” is a local manifestation of the “church,” so we should not be surprised that the definitions sound similar, though not identical. A “congregation” is not a mini-church or micro-church. Every congregation is just as much the church as every strand of human DNA contains a person’s entire genetic code.

The definition of “congregation” sounds similar to the “church,” but the differences are in the particulars.

A church “congregation” is a local expression of God’s manifest presence in the one true church: (1) at a particular place, (2) among particular people, and (3) for a particular time— all for God’s particular purpose.  

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