Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Church – A Who Or A What?

Disclaimer: This is NOT a rant, nor am I in any way attempting to state that I solely possess the perfect viewpoint of what "church" is.

On a Sunday afternoon last weekend, my wife and I stopped in a local restaurant for a quick lunch. This place has the most incredible burgers your mouth could ever experience, by the way - but that is hardly the point of this blog. While we were waiting for our order, a friend of ours spotted us and came over to our table. This guy is one of the greatest guys that I know. Roughly two years ago, he and I shared four intense days together with about 40 other men where the Lord Himself touched each one of us and radically changed our lives – in a true and lasting way. We've seen each other little since then, not for any specific reason, it's just the way things go. I'm sure everyone can relate.

As the inevitable question rolled around, I actually welcomed it with open arms. "So where are you guys going to church these days?" he asked. I simply responded with, "Well, we're not, really." Not as he was referring to anyway. He let out a groan and a "Come on brother" or something. Of course a five minute stop by our table doesn't allow for what the Lord has done in us over the last year, so I pretty much left it at that. "Well you need to come out and see our new church!" He proceeded to say. "Your new church?", I thought, but never said. Did they throw out all of the people and start over? Did everyone swap memberships with Be Like Us Baptist across town? I wonder.

OK, let's be honest. I, of course know what he meant, after all, this guy loves the Lord and far out-loves others than I. It's not what he meant, it's what he said that causes me to ponder our understanding that we have of this peculiar entity that is "the church"? Perhaps our nonchalant use of the word actually truly defines how we see it - a building, a structure, an organization. Or is it even possible for modern day, positional Christianity to envision church without buildings, endless programs and services that play out like clockwork each week?

From my experience, it seems inevitable for the conversation, the drive, the focus to switch to new structures and building projects. Homeless outreaches have to wait as new mortgages are paid. Spiritual widows and orphans are pushed to the side because the parking lot has got to be blacktopped and painted to accommodate the influx of new arrivals. After all, more volunteers are needed now to make everything run smoothly. I'm telling you folks, I've seen it with my own eyes. I've been in church staff meetings where NOTHING that relates to the eternal Kingdom of God is brought up… NOTHING!

I ran across a scripture weeks ago and it continues to rise up within me nearly every time I see the elaborate campuses that we build in the name of "Christianity". It's found in 1 Timothy 5:16b and it states this: "…let not the church be burdened, so that it may assist those who are widows indeed." If you read this blog even occasionally, you know that "church" in the Greek is "ekklesia" - a meeting, an assembly, the called out ones. This inevitably causes me to ask a bold question, are these organizations that sit adorned on every corner even the church? Not the Western church that we've all heard about and have grown so weary of - the true Biblical church in the eyes of its Husband, Jesus Christ. I'll leave the answer up to you, for it's your responsibility to know, as it is mine.

I confess, I fall short - I too set up false idols within temples made of flesh. But, with the help of the Holy Spirit and wisdom derived from God's Holy Word, I'm changing. I'm seeing with my natural and spiritual eyes, a Kingdom that will never pass away. Will you look with me? Lift up your head, rise above these earthen vessels and see it. Do you see it? The buildings will burn, the pews and steeples with them. Emotional pep rallies deemed "moves of God" come and they go, leaving only a few within the walls that were once bulging at the seems. This must change, we must see... the world that sits back and scoffs at out worldly ventures must see. Come out true church - wake up from your slumber!

So how do you see the church? What is your role in it? Do you think it's something we "attend" or something we are? Discuss.


Alan Knox said...


Excellent post! The church is definitely a "who" and not a "what". The church is the people of God assembled. What is my role? God has used me to teach, shepherd, lead, encourage... to do many different things. God has also used others in the church to carry out the some roles in my life. We cannot "attend" church, but we can meet with the church.

I've also tried to change the way that I speak about the church. We no longer "go to church" but we "meet with the church" or we "go to" the place where we meet, which is a rented reception room. I also don't say "church service" in reference to the time that we meet. These phrases do cause others to give me weird looks, but they also lead to good conversations.


Anonymous said...

I am with Alan there, I have made different mental changes in the way I refer to "church". When i'm leading worship and praying for the church. I always refer to church as a city wide people. "Lord unify your bride in this city, I never refer to the church as the specific 80 people gathered in toccoa,Ga. We need unity among believers in Toccoa, not a specific group of people. We are all ones called out. And also in the same breath I try not to accuse others of not being a called one simply because they attend an organized meeting weekly. (don't we all do this) So therefor when I, in my heart, judge the hearts of those who simply attend an American Christian Church meeting, I am joining into the work of Satan creating division among the called out ones.We are called to "live" as called out ones not simply gather as called out ones.
So Yes most definately we are a who not a what.

Good Stuff!