Sunday, March 18, 2007

Q&A: What's A Church?

As I'm addressing various questions that have been put to me ever since unveiling the church's new vision to become actively involved in planting new churches to reach the 100,000 people in Jackson County with no church family, the next one I'd like to tackle is this: What, exactly, are we talking about when we say the word "church", and what does it mean to plant one?

Now, nobody's actually asked me, "What is a church?", but several of you have asked the question, "What definition of 'church' are we using?" This is a very astute question because there are different ways that this word is used. According to, "church" can mean (among other things):

  • a building for public Christian worship.
  • public worship of God or a religious service in such a building: to attend church regularly.
  • the whole body of Christian believers; Christendom: the universal Church
  • a Christian denomination: the Methodist Church.
  • a body of Christians worshiping in a particular building or constituting one congregation: She is a member of this church.

None of these definitions is really accurate for what we're talking about. We're certainly not interested in establishing a new worldwide universal Church, nor do we want to make a new denomination. The other three definitions are all linked to buildings, and we're not interested in buildings either. We're also not talking about events or programs. So what is our definition of "church"?

A church is a group of people who have banded together for the purposes of

  • Worship
  • Community
  • Outreach
  • Discipleship
  • Service

This group of people can meet in a barn, in a mall, in a park, or anywhere else. They do not need to buy a building or own any property in order to advance their mission. They might even change locations often as their needs change. What matters is not where they meet, but that they are united in mission, vision, and values to advance the kingdom of God.

So as we get closer to the day that we give birth to a new congregation, we will be asking each of you to pray about whether God is leading you to be a part of this new church plant. Those of you who are willing to join this new church will meet periodically to make decisions about what kind of a church you will be--your structure, your strategy, your vision, and so forth. One of the things that will need to be decided is where you will meet. Very likely, your first location will be in a rented facility, such as a school. But the building is really unimportant. It's just a tool to accomplish the foundational purpose of advancing the kingdom of God.

Over the next couple weeks, we'll be getting into some of the nitty-gritty about upcoming decisions regarding when, where, and how we will go about pursuing this vision. I certainly appreciate any continuing questions you might have, as each question is an opportunity to clarify, to inform, and to help us all be on the same page. May God give us strength and perseverance as we march forward in obedience to him and his call for our church.

Soli Deo Gloria!

1 comment:

healtheland said...

Well, the early church used to meet in the homes of believers, seven days a week. Meeting once a week at buildings whose sole purpose was worship was an "innovation" imposed on the church by Constantine, and the daily meetings and the house churches were banned under penalty of death. (Interestingly enough, the day of the meetings, Sunday, and the early churches, just happened to coincide with the time and place that the pagans were meeting prior to Constantine's edict.) Another thing that is fascinating: the Gentile Christians made the decision to obey Constantine to end the persecution. But the Jewish Christians - and Constantine is said to have reviled all Jews - did not. The first "great schism" perhaps? What is more interesting is how the Asuza Street conference that sparked a worldwide Christian revival held a little over a hundred years ago was a picture of the pre - Constantine church. It began not in a church, but in prayer meetings held in a person's house. Why? Because the leader of the meetings, William Seymour, had been fired and locked out of his church after preaching one sermon and had no place to go or stay until a member of the church took him in, and Seymour used his house for the prayer meetings. And rather than have the prayer meetings once a week, they had them nightly. When the size of the crowds became too large for the house to accommodate them, they moved to a barn, where they continued the nightly prayer meetings. And the rest, as they say, is history. Perhaps a group of true believers should go back to that model so that history can be made again. There is defintely a need for it because the movement started by Seymour (who was actually a Methodist) has "evolved" into Word of Faith/prosperity and modalism (Oneness Pentecostal or Jesus Only) heresy.