What is Church?

This is  a somewhat controversial question.    It does mean different things to different people of different faiths.   I adhere to a Christian faith which for those reading who are non-christian may disqualify me from the discussion.

I am currently reading a book by Hugh Halter and  Matt Smay called The Tangible Kingdom: Creating Incarnational Community.  It is the story of Hugh Halter’s journey to attempting to discover how scripture describes church.

I have been taken by many statements in the book but one statement in particular concerning the revolutionary change in the christian church that was brought on by the Emperor Constantine has me thinking:  “The church was no longer defined as ‘a people who’ but rather ‘a place where’. Before Constantine the church was known as a group of people who lived a certain way and treated others in ways that reflected this belief in Jesus Christ.  They lived this way so profoundly and loudly that they were persecuted and even killed for their actions and beliefs.

Now in reality the statement reflects a lot of history and much of it positive.  Constantine took a small-ish religion and brought it to the forefront of the people of the time.  But the long lasting repercusions may be causing a need to change the paradym of church somewhat.

Many will say this requires us to move back to a simpler less institutionalized model.    I think to do so would alienate a generate of church attenders.    Some would say that it just means they need to get on board with this change or get left behind. I think this is troubling since this would in affect create reverse discrimination to those who attend church.

I think that it comes down to something that I heard Andy Stanley say today from the stage at North Point Community Church.  As followers of Christ we must represent  the true nature of our God instead of the humanly interpreted system of church (I am paraphrasing fairly I think).  Andy was simply echoing the words of Jesus when he said to love others.  (John 13)

Easy to say, s0 extremely easy. But my question with Church, religion and faith has always been, “But what does it really mean – right here, right now?”

It seems to mean that just like Jesus we go into the neighborhood.  In the Message version of scripture John 1:14 says: “The Word (meaning Jesus who is often called the Word) became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, Generous inside and out, true from start to finish.”

I believe that until people see the glory with their own eyes and the work and generosity of God’s people that Church will not happen.

We need to step out of the building and into the street and begin to wake up each day saying what will God’s love require of me today.

Also check out The Tangible Kingdom on Amazon as well as the North Point Online services at http://northpoint.tv/messages/nponline.  These are great resources to discover or re-discover Church for yourself.



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