Mar 2, 2009

What is Church?

I just finished reading Ian Morgan Cron's Chasing Francis: A Pilgrim's Tale, which indirectly examines the life Saint Francis of Assisi. I am also currently reading Total Church: A Radical Reshaping around Gospel and Community by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis. Their focus so far seems to be the idea that church is mission, and mission is church--all within the framework of very deliberate community. These, among a few other readings, sermons, and general influences have brought me to take some more time to specifically think of the nature of church. I began by asking myself "What is church?", but then realized that the greater question must be "How does God define church?" What has been revealed by the Word (i.e. Jesus)? I have only begun to answer this question, and will delve a little deeper with readings and discussions.

Overall, however, I currently am inclined to think of the term "church" as no longer relevant or useful (much like the term "Christian"). I am more apt to talk in terms of the Kingdom of God (or the Kingdom of Heaven). This is the language that saturates the Biblical narrative. Yet, is the Kingdom synonymous with the Church, or is there a difference? Looking at the church as it is practiced today, and trying to be a good scholar, I would be initially inclined to answer with a "yes" and a "no." But I do not believe I am equipped to discuss that at length here.

As I begin to seek more specified answers to the aforementioned questions, I came across Andrew Schwab's article "Church Shopping" (, which seems to offer some good early thoughts. As always, it is interesting to read some of the comments. The emerging generation certainly has an interesting perspective. It is refreshing to have some international voices, as well as elder wisdom, in the mix.

Finally, I have come across the idea of the culture moving toward "post-Evangelicalism," and wonder if there is some validity in this development. But it also begs the question: "What truly is Evangelicalism?" Another question to note as the journey continues. In light of this, and the creative musings of Ian Morgan Cron, I appreciate the closing words of Richard Stuart (a commentator on Schwab's article):

"What finally put a stop to this in my life was leaving evangelicalism altogether. I went to a church that, instead of having a special service for every demographic slice, has one liturgy for everyone, with young and old and in-between with all their flaws and foibles, that actually gets to know people as they are without giving up on telling them what they can become, that has never sacrificed doctrine for popularity, and whose every last act in its services is rich with symbolism and meaning, if only you look for it. 
"I joined the Eastern Orthodox Church. You know, the one that the Catholics split off from. With the funky languages, the icons, the 'dead rituals' as evangelicals call them. But they're not dead, not at all, unless you want them to be. It's not a perfect church, you'll never find a perfect church. But it gets the essence of Christianity, the daily struggle to grow closer to Christ and one another. They're all reviled as old, out of touch, and all the other insults that are wrapped up in the term 'ritualistic.' But I would really, really encourage you (and all the other commenters here) to just go to one one Sunday, see for yourself."

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