Recognizing the church

January 28, 2008 at 12:49 pm | Posted in Christianity | 1 Comment
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Not too long ago, I started attending a home church. It is a small gathering of 5 people who get together, study God’s Word and pray for each other. We are planning on doing some things this year, but for right now, we are just meeting and praying together.

Recently, someone made a comment to me that made me wonder how others view the church and what it is supposed to be. I was told that I was “on their heart” and that they were concerned for me. They reminded me that I should not forsake the assembling of the body. They knew about my attending this home church and wanted to “encourage” me to keep looking for a church that had “30, 40, 100; even 1 million people” in it so that I could truly worship with others. They said that while my studying the Word was good, if I were at a church that had more people, I could enjoy that “corporate worship” and the presence of God that comes from it.

Even as I listened to this “encouragement” I had to bite my tongue. I know that I can be critical and I was trying to understand the spirit in which the statements were made. I’ll be totally honest though. I was aggravated and upset by the comment. It did get me thinking though…

What I thought about even as I ended the conversation was this: What makes a church? What is it that truly makes a church? Is it the building? Is it the worship? Is it the programs? Is it the number of people there? Some of these questions might sound trite or unnecessary, but after the conversation, I began wondering if they weren’t more important…

What is it that makes a church? According to the concerned caller, it was the number of people and the “worship atmosphere”. Obviously, people who are in churches with less than 30 people (which in rural Alabama is many of them) can’t really get into the presence of God because there just aren’t enough of them. All of those home churches in China, Romania, and Bulgaria where people are being persecuted and KILLED for their faith can’t be real churches that know the presence of God because they don’t have enough people. Since they don’t meet God’s quota for the number of people required to make a church, they just miss out on the presence of God. Maybe when they stop hiding in the basements of houses or running from the police, they’ll just settle down and grow large enough to finally “sit in God’s presence” and begin to understand what being a Christian really is about. It aggravates me and makes me sick just writing that…

I wonder where my concerned caller got God’s quota from? Was it the Bible? Who was it that decided that 30 was the minimum number you could have to experience the presence of God? (I have to tell you too, that I’m getting really tired and fed up of all the “spiritual phrases” and Christianese that today’s churches seem to spew out, but that’s another blog).  Who defines what a church is? Jesus does. In Matthew 16:18, He tells Peter that He will build His church on the confession that He is the Christ. The word that He uses for church is the Greek word ekklesia. This Greek word means a meeting, assembly, gathering or congregation; but it doesn’t say how large. So, does God have a quota? Actually, I believe He does. In Matthew 18:20, Jesus says that where two or three are gathered in His Name, He is in the midst of them. Seems to me that the minimum number of believers needed to be in the presence of God is two. So, if there is five of us meeting together to study the Word and pray, that meets God’s minimum…

If we meet God’s minimum for Him to be present and He is among us, then are we missing something? Is there some kind of mystical worship service criteria that we don’t meet (that isn’t found in scripture)? Where does it say that we have to sing 5 songs and dance and shout to worship God? Isn’t studying His Word to find the truth and then applying it to our lives in the effort to be more like Him and to truly represent Christ to the lost worship?

Is all of this because I don’t go to a brick building with a lighted sign out front that declares it as a church? To be totally honest, there are many “churches” that don’t look anything like the one that the Bible describes. There are others that do. But is the building and the sign and the board of directors what makes the church? Or is it the people in it who live their lives according to what the Bible says, even when it means giving everything up in order to be obedient?

I was talking to a friend of mine who recently said that they wonder if the Church (the Body of Christ) is going to be found in the buildings. They don’t think that what we call church (especially in America) is moving in a direction that glorifies God and that, because of that, many people who are looking for God and can’t find Him in the buildings will begin to move out of those buildings and seek Him elsewhere, maybe even in home churches…

What does the church look like to you?

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  1. I’ve worshipped in a tiny storefront church with about 25 people and I’ve worshipped in a large downtown church with a membership of 15,000 that televised its services. I felt a lot closer to God in the storefront church. There was a greater sense of sincere faith in the storefront church, more concern about the spiritual welfare of each person in the room. In the larger church, the pastor didn’t know my name (even though I had attended for several years), and I sometimes thought the primary reason people showed up there on Sunday was because that church was the “place to be seen” and make connections.

    This is only loosely related, but a Roman Catholic archbishop recently told me this joke:

    A fellow shows up at a church for the first time. He’s clean and well-groomed, but he’s not dressed for church: instead of a suit, he’s wearing worn jeans and a plaid shirt. As everyone is leaving at the end of the service, the minister takes the fellow aside and tells him, “You should really talk to God about the way you dress for church.”

    The next week, the same fellow is back, dressed in the same worn jeans and plaid shirt. At the end of the service, the minister again takes the man aside and say, “Didn’t I say you needed to talk to God about the way you dress?”

    The fellow nods. “I did. He said he’d never been in your church.”

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