ecclesiology [ec·cle·si·ol·o·gy]: the study of the church.
Have you ever wondered, “Does God’s Word have anything to say about the church?” You don’t have to look very far before you can answer this question with a confident “yes!” That’s why it is so important that any believer, whether male or female, commit themselves to studying the doctrine of the church, otherwise known as ecclesiology. Unfortunately, it is rare that you will hear two women chatting over these matters. Many pastoral leaders know a great deal about such topics. But, oftentimes, it seems like it’s easy for us as women to think of church matters as an issue only for pastors. How often do church members simply show up to the building in which Christ’s Body gathers and go home without much thought to the events in which they just participated? I’m afraid it happens often, and we are all guilty of it at some point or another. Without a proper ecclesiology (theology of the church), it is far too tempting to merely be a church attender even if the records say you are a church member.
As the wife of a man preparing for pastoral ministry and church planting, I’ll go ahead and confess that, in the past, I have far too often glazed over during one of his passionate discussions of church matters thinking, “Why do we have to know this?” or “This sounds so nit-picky, a little bit boring for me.” But the more I read the Scriptures, and the more I saw what my husband had been saying play out in various church bodies we were a part of, the more I got it and God ignited a passion in me to understand what His desire for His Bride really was. I say all of these things not to point fingers but to speak from my own experience with trying to understand why those topics were pertinent to me.
Noting the definition above, what, specifically, does it mean to study ecclesiology? Well, it really means to study anything pertaining to the church. I am speaking of things like church membership, fellowship, the ordinances, the teaching and preaching of the Word, roles of women and men in the church, exercising spiritual gifts in the body, the leadership of the church (elders, deacons, office of the pastorate), and more. Truly any matter related to the Body of Christ is encompassed under the idea of studying ecclesiology. So, allow me to share with you three main reasons why we as women ought to study this theological doctrine.
- The Bible Speaks to it. We could pretty much end the conversation here. It is so important that women know about ecclesiology since the Bible speaks at great length about it. Second Timothy 3:16-17 reminds believers that “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” This passage not only speaks to the sufficiency and inerrancy of God’s Word, but it also shows that if the man/woman of God wants to grow in righteousness and be “equipped for every good work” then they ought to equip themselves with the whole counsel of God (which undoubtedly includes understanding His purpose and teachings on the body of Christ). If God has laid out in His Word the way in which we ought to operate as His Body, then we are ultimately responsible and accountable to obey it.
- To Become a More Intentional and Effective Church Member. Let’s go back to the difference between being a church attender and being a church member. A right understanding of ecclesiology helps us to strive towards being a more biblical and God honoring member of the Body. This happens as you more intentionally obey the commands of Scripture related to the Body of Christ. Having a biblical understanding of a matter like the church ordinances (baptism and the Lord’s Supper) will help you to be not merely a participant in it, but to actively and appropriately worship the Triune God through these practices. For example, are we careful to ask the Lord to search our hearts and repent of what He lays on our hearts before participating in the Lord’s Supper? Or do we simply sip down the juice and throw back the cracker as we move on to the next part of the service? Again, I’m sure we have all been guilty of not properly observing this ordinance, but we can change that! Tithing is another area where it is so easy to fall into routine and to miss having a biblical motivation for giving. It is easy to fill out a quick check and throw it in the plate to make sure you’ve given your 10% instead of realizing it is an act of worship that requires a cheerful heart (consider Scriptures such as 1 Cor 16:2, Matt 23:23, 2 Cor 9:6-8 and more). Having a strong doctrine of the church helps us to avoid breezing through a public reading of the Word or taking lightly a decision to pursue church membership. It also helps us to intentionally worship and glorify God through these and many church-related acts and decisions. As you learn what the Scriptures say about church matters, then you can more effectively fulfill what the Scriptures lay out for members of the Body and more intentionally glorify God with all of your being.
- To Select and Participate in a Biblical Body. This comes back to obedience and intentionality. When you have a better understanding of ecclesiological matters, it radically changes the local church you choose to be a part of. Instead of just selecting a church based on convenience or the few preferences you have, you can select a church based on whether it lines up with what you see in the Scriptures. You’ll find yourself actually reading through those church mission statements, searching to find if they hold to the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 (if you’re a Southern Baptist), and maybe even searching out information on their church polity. Being part of a biblical church is vital to your spiritual health and, for those of you who are married, it is crucial that you partner with your husband in ensuring you have joined a Body that you both believe follows God’s Word faithfully. And, if you have children, what a necessity and what a blessing for your children to see!
Though I could continue and spend much more time on all of these, I hope this provides you with enough motivation to begin your journey in studying ecclesiology. The Lord is honored when we seek to glorify Him all the more. I am praying for you all as you seek to walk in greater obedience. Glory be to God!
Macy Tyler is a recent graduate from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary with a Master of Arts in Biblical Counseling. She is passionate about making disciples, biblical counseling, teaching and studying the Word, and teaching theological matters to women in a comprehensible manner. Macy is currently a stay-at-home wife who is awaiting the arrival of her firstborn in June, but also works part time for a missions organization called Light Ministries. Macy and her husband Trey are residents in Little Rock, Arkansas where they recently moved to pursue Trey's calling to church planting and pastoral ministry.
*This post was also published at Biblical Women