Saturday, November 14, 2015

How to Define Church

“I'm not even supposed to be here today!”
-Dante Hicks

Some concepts are hard to define. Take the word church. When we say, “I'm going to church Sunday”, we understand that to mean we are going to a building where other people are going. We show up at this building and depending on our tradition we will sing, talk, listen, take communion, or even genuflect. Some may open a Bible when they show up, others may take notes while other people open their Bibles, some may open a lectionary. Some may read passages in their native language and others may read in Latin.

But church is not merely a building. We call various buildings “church”. And we define various gatherings as the members or “bodies” of First Baptist Church, or First Christian Church or the Methodist Church. But the building is only where the people show up, they could really designate anyplace and show up. Some traditions, after a particularly fiery service, will say, “we had church today”. Meaning that something dramatic or emotional happened during the service.

We also call the people who are of the Christian faith “the church”. In other words, the people themselves who have committed their lives to the belief and practice of the Christian faith are the church. We see this illustrated by the bulk of the New Testament. The believers in Rome, Paul says, “To all who are in Rome...called to be saints.”-1:7. In his letter to the Corinthians, 1:2, “To the church of God which is at Corinth...” and He introduces his letters to Galatians in the same way, “to the churches of Galatia...” and in Ephesians he says, “to the saints at Ephesus”.

Paul is talking to individual people when he addresses them as the church in this city or that city. The people did not meet in buildings at that time, they met in homes. So Paul is writing to people's home addresses letters to be read to all the people who come together in homes to read the Word, pray, and go out and share the news of Jesus Christ as Messiah.

For some reason, in modern times, we have made a big fuss about coming to church activities, coming to a building and meeting there and we call that church. We don't call Bible study church, even though it is, we don't call believers meeting together for lunch church. Many tend to emphasize coming to the church building for certain services as the only definition of church that is applicable.

And if you don't come? Well then we'll throw Hebrews 10:25 in your face and quote it as if it confirms the idea that we should go to church services at such and such time in such and such a building and be connected there. I'm not trying to say don't go to a church, getting involved with a group of people where you can be challenged and grow is great. But to say that this verse speaks specifically about going to 9:45 services every Sunday and nothing else is ridiculous.

So how do we define church? The church is the group of believers gathering together, it is not individualistic, you cannot say that you personally are the church and never interact with other people of the faith. Church is gathering in homes, church is chatting over the gas pumps early Saturday morning, church is the lunch break conversation, church is the group of people holding the same faith doing life together. The building has nothing to do with it. You can't contain God in a building anyway.
  Acts 17:24"The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands."


Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Don't appreciate the removal of my comment

cslewis3147 said...

life is full of the unappreciative...