“Church …Redefined”

church.jpg  It is Sunday morning and all over the country families are putting on their “sunday best” getting ready to go to “church”.  They will arrive at a building at a certain time and the countdown will begin.  They will enter the sanctuary and children will be told to be quiet and all hats will be removed and then “worship” will begin.  Songs will be sung, offerings will be taken, scriptures will be read, a sermon with three polished points and an illustration will be preached, wafers and jucie will be taken, a benediction will be prayed and people will leave saying they have been to “church”. 

Now thanks to brave men and women “sunday best” no longer means suit and tie but in many “churches” you can wear jeans, even on the platform.  And now it is not even necesarrily “Sunday” but maybe your “church” meets on Saturday night or another time.  And now children may not even be allowed in the sanctuary but have their own facility where they can have “children’s church”.  And the atmosphere is far more relaxed with a variety today of styles and preferences of “worship”.  But when it is all said and done – Is this “church”? 

What is Church?  Have we defined it as a place we go to because that is what we do and all our lives it has been called church?

I recently engaged some folks in conversations about church and in all most all cases when the topic of church came up they told me about where they go, what time they meet, the quality of the children and youth programs, the style of worship and how their church is reaching out into their community (some pretty great things I might add).  I am not sure any of them talked about the “called out ones” or to put it into other terms the people of God in life everyday.  The conversations all tended to be about a place and time and something we go to instead of something we are.

Now please don’t misunderstand me.  I am not trying to get rid of the meeting place and time and elements and some of the things that take place.  But I wonder if maybe we have not made these the end instead of the means to the end.  Somehow we think that if we have butts in pews we are successful at being the church. 

Jesus said to Peter, “upon this rock I will build my church”.  Jesus had a bulding campaign.  But his building campaign didn’t involve bricks and mortar but people.  He was building his church.  HIS CHURCH.  HE was building his church.

Several times in Scripture it is made clear that we are the temple of God and that His Spirit dwells in people not buildings.  His church is a transformed people not a sacred place.  His church happens in life 24/7 not 1 hour on Sunday.  His church goes to work, has a family, deals with traffic…

But isn’t there something in the bible about gathering?  Yes, but is that relegated to a time and place?  The New Testament church didn’t have a building, a pastor, a “worship” leader, a children’s program, etc.  Was it any less the church?

Is a house church any less a church? (many in the “church” want us to believe it isn’t an acceptable “form of church”)

Is a group of believers gathered at a coffee shop any less a church?…

Is a group of believers meeting in a bar any less a church?..

Is a group of believes meeting in the breakroom at work any less a church?..

What are your thoughts?  How do you define “Church”?


10 thoughts on ““Church …Redefined”

  1. First let me say this about the response of those aked about their “church.” The question sets up the response. “Tell me about your church?” The natural answer is to tell of the location, programs, people, etc… I don’t think too many people have a problem understanding the difference between where they meet and the called out ones.

    Now to answer the questions.

    Is a group of believers gathered at a coffee shop any less a church?

    Is a group of believers meeting in a bar any less a church?

    Is a group of believes meeting in the breakroom at work any less a church?

    What are your thoughts? How do you define “Church”?
    I believe that each “church” like each individual believer has a specific purpose that God has in mind for them/him/her. This could be to simply obey the basic tenents of the scripture to love God and love our neighbor, but can also involve very distinct tasks or missions, that God is calling them too…i.e. Abraham, Noah, Joshua, etc.

    Most of us who meet at coffee shops, bars and the like are not trying to “do” church as much as we are just trying to “be” the church. So the question isn’t are these forms the church? Because in a tecnical sense, yes! They are. However, people who gather as believers are the church whether they study, pray, sing, give or even talk about “God” stuff during their meeting times. We cannot stop being the church. Even if we have no purpose in mind, we who are called out are the church wherever we are. It who we are!

    Knowing that as an individual is critical, I believe, to our sense of identity as a called out child of God. This identity will bring you through the best and the worst of times regardless of how we look, perform, talk, or even act in the presense of those around us. This is why being the church is so personal, precious and intimate, because it is deeper than reality yet as simple as the routines of life itself.

    With that said, I believe the days of Christians making statements like, “God, family, church,” like it’s some priority list that’s the formula of the Almighty himself, are over. If we choose to try and live like that we will one day realize that we are not people who can handle real life when it all comes crashing down. Sometimes it’s you and Christ and no one else can help. I think the church has as many facets as there are believers. The only thing that truly makes any sense to me anymore is, Jesus is the head and we are to love unconditionally in a sinful world. The work of the church, whether it’s corporate or home is to believe and not doubt; to love and not loose hope; to live as humans and to watch Jesus touch other through our lives not our retoric and self-righteousness.

    Thanks for the questions.

  2. When I am actively involved in ministering to the needs of others (presently taking care of my sick wife) church and worship is happening.

  3. Ed,

    I love your comments about us being instead of doing. Church has got to become a lifestyle not an event. it is my life intertwined with His love and grace that compels me to live and love and worship and minister etc.

  4. Good meanderings, Darrell..

    Hmmm….It may be easier to define what “church” isn’t. Or separate a “church building” from the “biblical church” .

    This question reminds me of Mother Teresa’s words about promoting World Peace- “go home and love your family”. Church is wherever we chose to allow it, but if it isn’t at our home- if it isn’t where we work and spend our hours-what is the point? Church is where we speak words of encouragement , spread unconditional love, and model Christ. If we want to help create new believers we have to be Christlike and minister- wherever we are. We have to be the church.

    Re Ed’s comments on the “formula of the Almighty”. As I get older, life seems to become more complicated and nothing is what I once thought it was. Yes, there are times when it is only Christ and I, but there are other times when without the bond of my family I am not sure that I would want to go on. (Too dark a comment?) I would never say that there is not a need for us to have a connection to a body of believers, but “church” (or congregation) is not the only avenue for meeting that need and in some cases- chase people away.

    BE The Church!

  5. Lori,

    Thanks, good to hear from you. “Be the Church”! Be it at home, be it at school, be it in the grocery store, be it in traffic, be it in a group of two or three or a sanctuary filled, be it wherever you find your self and may others around you see the bride of Christ reflecting His glory and may they become drawn to him and overlook her blemishes and imperfections.

  6. There are those of us who live “church” on a daily basis, we can have church in a movie theater, in a home or in a sanctuary. But Church to me is about reaching out to those who are lost and do not know God. Those who do not walk with Him and Talk with Him each day. Church in my mind is a place for others to hear the Lords Word in hopes that something that is said by the pastor or a connection with a member of the church would help guide them to being more open to knowing the Lord. Church is a place to “Fill Your Cup” then take the Church outside. We never know who crosses our path that needs to hear Gods Word, so GO BE THE CHURCH!

  7. My thoughts are this: Church is where 2 or more are gathered in his name. There in the midst he will be. Church is being in the fellowship of the brethren for his name sake.

    I have been touched by the spirit of god in the most peculiar places because it was where god was. Where HE wanted to be. Not the location where I decided to pray him into. I think that is very profound.

    The lord is so awesome to be wherever we glorify or magnify him. We call the holy spirit to come and he comes. He is so faithful and true.

    And Church (the building) is just an added blessing that even when we have a hard day, week, month, or year. God gives us a place we can almost be guaranteed to meet him even when we can barely get ourselves out of bed.

    I’m thankful that church can be everywhere. But even more, on the days I don’t feel like life is easy, and I don’t feel like praying (come on you know what I’m saying) that I can get up and go somewhere that my brothers and sisters in the lord are going to be to help me stand up, hold my head up high and remember that I am a child of the Living God.

    Church Rocks no matter where it ends up being!

  8. Hi Lori. It’s been a long time. It’s true that we need each other. I hope you didn’t understand my comment to mean…”I would never say that there is not a need for us to have a connection to a body of believers…” This certainly isn’t what I implied. I think what I am trying to say is that when a life is so disfuntional and a person is in such deep dispair that suicide seems like a logical choice, one realizes that Christ is it. The church, your family, counselors, drugs, etc, simply is not sufficiant.

    I have gone from saying on a daily basis, “my life couldn’t get any better,” to telling my son, “I don’t want to live anymore.” All this in three short years. I love God’s people. I love some aspects of the organization we know as the church. I love my family. I can live with or without them. I can’t live without Christ. Yes it is dark.

    I’m still hurting and at times you wouldn’t know I’m a Christian, but Jesus knows me and I know him. That’s what will last when you feel that the organizations and the people have all abandoned you.

    Thanks for spuring me on to share what many may never experience in a lifetime.

    Tell Jerry hello for me.


  9. Pingback: To go or not to go? « Stephanie’s Weblog

  10. You may not get this Ed…I went to Alaska for a week and then got sick when I got home so it has been awhile. I don’t think I misunderstood your comment- I was rambling on about my journey and struggle with keeping things in order. There are times when family seems close and God feels far away..

    Anyway, it was good to “hear” you ,(and Darrell) when I read the blogs I can hear your voices..

    You have alluded to pain and truthfully I don’t have a clue what you have been going through, but I want you to know that I feel your pain- my struggles with my mom have changed me.

    We’ll have to catch up another day. Keep writing. Lori

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