What is the Church?
Many people’s first response would be a building with a steeple. You may have been taught that the church is not the building but the people inside the building; the congregation. Others say the church is representative of all believers while some denominations specify that THEY are the Church and other believers are just Christians. But are any of these ideas what the church was originally? What was Christ’s intention when he set things in motion? What did the apostles risk their lives to establish?
Some are beginning to re-think the idea of the church, not to make it something new but to make it what is was during New Testament times. In fact, more and more people seem to be living the Christian life without being part of a congregation and attending regular services in a house of worship setting.
Research conducted by the Barna Group reveals that, while still in its early stages, one of the biggest trends among Christians is the ‘house church.” The concept is based on the early church that most often met in homes of believers rather than in church buildings. According to Barna, there are basically two types of people experimenting with house churches and other atypical “church” ideas: those seeking a deeper more intense experience with God and those wanting something other than the traditional approaches to spirituality and faith.
While the church buildings are full of people who are casual and unintentional about their spiritual maturity, those who are truly serious about growing more like Christ are looking elsewhere for growth stimulation. Maybe it’s time we all re-think “Church.”
A.W. Tozer on Defining the Church – “It is time for us to reconsider this matter of the church. Most people think of the church as a familiar social fact. Their attitude toward Protestantism generally is that of a matter of course, and people, even average Christians, think they are in favor of the church. They favor the church much the same as they support motherhood, decency and sanitation. It is as accepted as a convention that we never question or doubt. If anybody does question or doubt, they are considered communists or atheists. People will even pour out their money to support social convention. But I wonder how many ever sit down and say, “What is this? Maybe the church is just something that is here; it doesn’t have any value and doesn’t have any reason for being here.” How many present-day Christians have ever searched the Scripture with a serious burden on their hearts to know what the church is? Is it simply a convention that is carried on? How many Christians have ever prayed earnestly for light from heaven about it? It seems that the average person spends more time and intellectual labor each year filling out income tax forms than he or she spends in a lifetime trying to learn from the Scriptures and from the light of the Spirit what the church is and what he or she ought to do about it. Why is it in the world? What did Jesus mean when He said, “On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it” (Matthew 16:18b)? If people were to chew their pencils and walk the floor and go out for a walk and come back and work on it and search and think and discern and divide and go through all that they have to go through to make out their income taxes every year, I believe that they could come up with some wonderful answers.”