How Do You Define a Church?

Bethany Keeley-Jonker

August 31, 2010

It disturbs me that the word church has ceased to have any real content. If we depart from a biblical standard what right do we have to call what we do “Church”? In scripture “church” is an assembly of believers gathered in one place to interact with one another in tangible ways...such as the church at Aquilla and Priscilla’s house. Basic to the church was the public reading of scriptures, spirits joined in public prayer, a shared meal culminating in the eucharist, one or several spontaneous prophetic messages given by people in the congregation or a tongue accompanied by an interpretation, the group singing of hymns, choruses and spiritual songs and might include a short spontaneous exhortation or water baptism. As good as that organization might be, I don’t believe the new Testament supports the view of church being a sacramental body dedicated to public service.<br><br>This is all intensely interpersonal. The symbolism of the eucharist is lost when the communal experience of a shared meal followed by breaking a loaf of bread into pieces and sharing a cup of wine is replaced by a highly stylized ritual theater that features plastic-like disks and individual shot glasses of grape juice. We’ve replaced the sharing of a prophetic word or tongue and interpretation with a mandatory prepared 30 minute lecture given by the designated, degreed preacher. Single purpose, highly stylized architecture, rows of pews focused on a single lectern further emphasize the impersonal, performance oriented nature of our religious theater. I don’t believe we can support the view of the church being a sacramental body dedicated to service<br><br>For most people today “church” is a building topped with a steeple, pews, special religious clothing, an organ, choir robes, a scholarly prepared 30 minute lecture and the offering plate to fund all this. If it’s all impersonal with little participation or inspirational, spontaneous, Holy Spirit inspired ministry then yeah, let’s take the next step and replace it all with computers. Its easy to collect money on line and easy to organize and fund service projects which is an admirable activity, just not church.

September 1, 2010

I agree with some of your disturbance. There is always "church: the way it should be" vs. "church: what it is in the view from outside". Church in North America has become an institution assumed to provide religious services to its market segment. "Religious services" are understood usually along the lines of moral reform or emotional comfort. <br><br>I understand the church to be the communal witness to the end of the age of decay announced by Jesus of Nazareth, inaugurated in the resurrection and received at Pentecost. It is a mixed witness, enlivened by the Spirit but compromised by the weeds in the midst of the wheat. You've got to be pretty deeply steeped in Christian theology to understand the church to be this rather than yet another clanging religious gong attempting to improve its wedge of the religious market share. <br><br>I think online versions of church although not necessarily illegitimate must struggle to embody this reality given the fact that we are beings who occupy space and time. pvk

September 23, 2010

My church is not contained in a building - it couldn't be. We have always advocated to others to "stop <i>going</i> to church, and start <i>being</i> the Church."<br><br>The internets is just another venue for the followers of Christ to connect and continue the journey together.

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