Both the ancient Nicene Creed (325 AD) and the Apostles’ Creed (390 AD) affirm our belief in the Church. The Nicene Creed reads: We believe in the only holy catholic and apostolic church. Similarly, the Apostles’ Creed attests to our belief in the holy catholic church. The church is essential for the Christian faith. In This is Christianity, Maxie Dunnam emphasizes our absolute need for the church. He writes,
Whatever our experience, there is no Christianity apart from the Church. This is true because there is no such thing as solitary Christianity. Although our Christian faith and experience must be personal, they cannot be private. The more private we seek to make them, the more distorted they become. Jesus’ life and ministry were never matters of private religious feelings that he kept to himself: He lived his life for others. A personal experience of Christ kept private soon dies.
Jesus promised his presence to be with us in the community (see Matthew 18:20). The community is key!
What exactly is the “church” of which we say we believe? Oftentimes, when we hear the word “church,” we automatically think of buildings on Dickson Street (Central), MLK Boulevard (Genesis), or Lindell Avenue (Wesley). However, the earliest churches were understood as people, not as a place. But just what kind of people?
One of the adjectives used to describe the church is that it is “holy.” Of course, this does not mean that the church is filled with perfect people and perfect leaders. The church is made of imperfect people who know not only the power of sin in their lives, but also know the power of the grace of Jesus Christ and the gracious work of the Holy Spirit to forgive, reconcile, heal, and transform. We continually return with humility and gratitude to the truth of God’s love, grace, and forgiveness because we are unworthy to be a part of the Church.
The descriptor of the church as “holy” reminds us that the church is not merely another human institution. The church is “set apart” for Christ and his purposes. Being “set apart” is what being “holy” truly means. We are set apart to be sent by the power of the Holy Spirit to carry out Jesus’ ministry of teaching, discipling, healing, reconciling, proclaiming, empowering, worshipping, and much more so that we, and others yet to know Christ, might grow into the full measure of Christ (see Ephesians 4:13).
We should not miss the importance of our “sent-ness.” We are not a part of the church merely to satisfy consumeristic desires. The church is truly the sent people of God. Our God is, after all, a sending God. The Father sends the Son, the Father and Son send the Holy Spirit, and then God sends us out into the world in the power of the Holy Spirit. Remember Jesus’ words, “as the Father has sent me, so I am sending you” (John 20:21). We are a set-apart people in order to be a sent people!
The other descriptor for the Church in the creeds is “catholic.” It is helpful to note that “catholic” does not imply that we must believe in the Roman Catholic Church. Instead, “catholic” means “universal” which points out that the church is global in scope. Timothy C. Tennant correctly calls attention to the importance of affirming the Church as catholic.
It is our confession that the Church of Jesus Christ has burst forth from the parochial, swaddling clothes of our Jewish origin and is a global movement of all tongues, tribes, and nations. In this section of the Creed, we remember that we are first and foremost not Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, or Pentecostals. We are the first Christians. We belong to the worldwide body of Christ that stretches back through time and space around the world.
This brings me back to the church’s sent-ness. To be global in scope believers must be open to the guidance of the Spirit to be sent into the world around us to speak of and act on the love, forgiveness, and grace of God.
Of course, there is much more to be said about the church and the call of the church in the world. Let’s stop here for now.
May the peace of Christ be with you all!
 Maxie Dunnam. This is Christianity. (Nashville: Abingdon, 1994), 84.
 Timothy C. Tennant. This We Believe: Meditations on the Apostles’ Creed (Wilmore, Kentucky: Asbury Theological Seminary, 2011), 87-88.