categories: church
Feedburner Digg Del.icio.us Technorati

August 21st, 2008

by Bobby Gruenewald

53 comments (+ Add)

Defining Church

I was at an event with Mark Driscoll a couple of months ago and we spent a while talking about our Internet Campus and other online ministry efforts. One of the questions he asked was if we had a written definition of “church.” I told him that we didn’t, but asked if he had one. He went on to discuss some of his thoughts about it, and also how he felt it’s appropriate for church leaders to discuss/debate what “church” should be, given that technology has changed the way we connect, communicate, and congregate. So…I wanted to throw the question to you all. How would you define “church”? What are the things that are necessary to call something a church?

Tags:

add a comment

Feedburner Digg Del.icio.us Technorati

Comments

there are a total of53
  1. Aug 21, 2008 at 12:42 pm

    Excellent question and the right one to be asking in this age of emergence and globality (is that a word?) Simplistically, church is a relationship with other believers in community with Christ as the Head. Its purpose should be first to bring Him glory and then to draw others to Him. I don’t think God cares as much about the institution or the structure as He cares abou the people and their connections. Is the Word being communicated in a relevant yet undefiled way? Are people growing in their love for and worship of Jesus? Are people making decisions to turn their life over to His control? Is there an environment for corporate worship, communion and baptism? Is there godly leadership? If so, I think you might jsut have a “church.”

  2. Aug 21, 2008 at 1:05 pm

    I actually did a paper on this. I didn’t hit the technology side of it, but focused more on the theology, for example, what’s the difference between 4 Christians sitting in a room and hanging out, and four Christians meeting in a living room calling themselves a church: Here was my bottom line:

    A group of Christians may properly be called an authentic local church when they are willing and able to make at least three commitments:

    1) To embrace the purposes of the local church
    2) To engage in the core practices of the local church, and
    3) To embody the presence of Jesus Christ and His Kingdom in the community.

    If anyone is interested in the paper, it’s here. http://newlifecommunitychurch.net/mh/downloads/documents/General/files/Passing%20the%20Baton.pdf

  3. Aug 21, 2008 at 1:15 pm

    - 2 or more gather in Jesus name consistently
    - submit to the authority of scripture and the lordship of jesus
    - practice the sacraments (communion and baptism)

  4. Aug 21, 2008 at 1:25 pm

    I actually wrote my senior research paper for my Masters of Theology degree at Dallas Theological Seminary on this very topic and I used LifeChurch’s Internet Campus and Second Life Campus as prominently.

    The conclusion I came to as a result of Grudem’s “Systematic Theology” was that a church should have elements of Up-reach, In-reach, and Out-reach. This, coupled with Rick Warren’s description of the 5 purposes of the church helps to paint a picture of what a “church” is.

    Up-reach would involve the area of worship. Of course this would not be just music and preaching, though those are most common, but through whatever form of

    In-reach involves the areas of discipleship and (part of) mercy: building up those who have already trusted in Christ to become better followers of him through instruction and modeling, and meeting the physical, emotional, relational, etc. needs of people who have trusted in Christ as best we can.

    Out-reach involves the ares of evangelism and the other part of mercy. Sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ with people who have never trusted in Him for eternal life and meeting their physical, emotional, relation, etc. needs as best we can.

    My conclusion through my research was that churches that meet in an online capacity can accomplish these functions, but it will take creative thinking and organization to make them happen. I also concluded that this type of church would be much more appealing to the Millennial generation than GenX or the baby boomers simply because of the way the Millennial interact with each other through technology.

    One of the questions that remains is how does a church that meets in an online context celebrate communion and baptisms? Depending on one’s theological position on these things, I think it can be done. For example, if communion is understood as primarily symbolic, then is there an issue with having one’s Second Life avatar take virtual bread and wine (or grape juice :))?

    Sorry my comment became longer than the original post, but this is a topic I’m excited about. I commend LifeChurch for it’s innovation in these areas and I’m looking forward to what this type of thinking will bring to the church as we move into an increasingly connected and digital society.

  5. Aug 21, 2008 at 1:32 pm

    @Mike Hannah, sorry I wasn’t trying to one-up you or anything. I know our comments are very similar, but I was typing my comment and saw yours once I clicked submit.

    Also, thanks for the link to your paper. I’ll be sure and check it out!

  6. Aug 21, 2008 at 1:38 pm

    It’s a honor to leave a comment with lifechurch.tv.
    You are the best online ministry going. Everyone else should learn for you.

    God is good and in all our getting, let get understanding. In this time and age God voice is louder then every. Man and our toys we create are Awesome. Bill Gate put it like this in one of his books, “It the best of time and it the worst of time. Simple because our information. We need to understand that knowledge is power and used wrong can and will destroy lifes. Today it is a must to have some kind of computer devices attached to our bodys. Technology is the BORG and resistance is futile.

    Let take this Concept of the BORG from Star Track. The Brog is a Collective, A Collective off what?

    Collective-denoting a number of persons or things considered as one group or whole.

    The Church is a Collective too. Individuals coming together to demostrate Charitible (share Love) services to the world. This can be done in the Church Building, in the community center, in the streets and also on the internet. God made it clear to us that He gets all the Glory in our doings. The Church is a place or places that are edifing Charitible Services.
    According to 1 Corthians 13:1-3

    1Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

    2And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.

    3And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

    Charity is God and God is Love. Church a place where God open up his heart to mankind and us feel his presents. Weather at Church, Conmmunity Centers, Streets and Internet. Jesus has to be Lift up to draw all men and women to God.

    We have to transform by the renewing of our mind daily by the word of God. Are we will be decieve by the Devil and his Homies. The Message of God love has to stay the same, but we have to be more creative in showing out love.

    Thanks:)

    BraCharles
    “Without Charity I am Nothing”

  7. Aug 21, 2008 at 1:47 pm

    Sorry for the type “O”.

    Blame it on my mind, not my Heart.

  8. Aug 21, 2008 at 1:47 pm

    At some point in the last half-century, the church was put in a position of having to compete for people’s time, attention and money. Many churches resisted the shift and entrenched themselves in the past.

    Other churches decided they had to compete in the consumer market or they would die. These churches reinvented themselves as highly competent vendors of religious programs and services. Their focus is on a worship service designed to attract a crowd and helping to facilitate “personal/individual” transformations. The church and community are valued, but only if they strengthen a Christian’s “personal/individual” relationship with Jesus.

    Yet both of these are in stark contrast to the biblical vision of the church in which individuals exist for the sake of the community and the community exists for God’s mission in the world.

    The Bible is not primarily addressed to individuals, because it is precisely as individuals that we are most likely to fail as Christians. The New Testament is not how to be better individual Christians, it is a picture of how the church should look. These are words for the colony of people living in a foreign land – it is a picture of the kind of community in which the Kingdom of God will one day shine in all its glory. These are words for the new community who are to be salt and light for the world.

    The church is to be a holy nation; set-apart; distinguishable; a people who are visible in the world. Not because of our programs or buildings, not because of the way we vote, but as a people who are faithful to their promises, love their enemies, tell the truth, honor the poor, suffer for righteousness, and visibly testify to the amazing community-creating power of God.

    Ultimately our most credible form of witness is the actual creation of a living, breathing, visible community of faith, a group of people devoted to living the life of Christ, a place where God is forming a family out of strangers. The church.

  9. Aug 21, 2008 at 2:15 pm

    My working definition of church is:

    “A community of people who worship Jesus so that other people will join the community of people who worship Jesus.”

    Kind of like what mike hannah said above, there’s a big difference between hanging with Christians and being the church. I can hang with Christians and I can even have great times of ‘worship’, without being the church. Also, my buddies and I can plan fantastic outreach events without being the church.

    Church is church when the community’s worship is evident 24-7. At that point, “the Lord will add to [our] number daily.”

  10. Aug 21, 2008 at 2:48 pm

    Elements necessary to have a church:

    - Christ-followers gathered to worship, serve, send, and disciple.
    - Pastoral leadership.
    - Commitment to following the leadership of the Godhead.
    - A ping-pong table. (Guitar hero if you’re postmodern.)

  11. Aug 21, 2008 at 2:53 pm

    Ecclesia is Gr. for church, correct? I don’t know, I’m an engineer by training who has worked for banks over the last 2 decades.

    The first appearance of Ecclesia is Acts 2, correct? (Not to confuse, I know that the word appears in the Gospels, too, e.g. when Jesus says to Peter on this rock I will build my church).

    I think Acts 2 best embodies Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer (from Gospel of John). So I think any definition of church needs to be derived from Jesus’ principles of unity and also the principles from Acts 2, which was a bit like the churches debutante ball (I don’t know, I was born, raised, educated, and work in the Northeast).

  12. Aug 21, 2008 at 3:54 pm

    My definition is two or more people gathering regularly for the purposes of the Kingdom.

  13. Aug 21, 2008 at 4:23 pm

    [...] read this thanks to the LifeChurch.tv guys (the comments are the where you should [...]

  14. Aug 21, 2008 at 4:37 pm

    Bobby,

    I feel defining church is kind of like saying ‘Describe God.’ I think more than trying to define it, we should discuss in what new areas is it moving. For example, 20 years ago we would not have had multisite video-linked campuses, but I am sure God was already planting some ideas in many great leaders.

    I think dreaming big about the future of the church can definitely allow leaders to get inspired to help lead the charge of spreading the Gospel in even more new and relevant ways.

  15. Aug 21, 2008 at 5:05 pm

    I have wrestle with this question for a while now. I still am, but here are my thoughts anyways.

    1. a place where people can connect
    2. a place where both spiritual and physical needs can be met
    3. a place where God can be found and praised through the hearing and doing of the word.
    4. It is both inside and outside of the physical walls of the church and bigger than any denomination.
    5. a group of people who engage each other for the benefit of themselves and those who do not know Christ.

    Thanks for the opportunity to share. I look forward to reading all the other post.

    igor

  16. Aug 21, 2008 at 5:47 pm

    A few questions that came to mind while reading comments is, what is the definition of “gathering?” What is “community?” Am I gathering with a community of people via Facebook? Am I gathering with one or two others via conference calls or Skype? Is a multi-site church one church or many churches connected to each other? Is church a place/location, a group of people, or a theological concept (or all 3)?

    Just throwing out some more questions to ponder. It’s a complex concept, to say the least.

  17. Aug 21, 2008 at 6:42 pm

    Church is family. My immediate family is my local church body, my relatives are nearby church bodies, and my distant relations are the bodies that meet around the world — but we are all one Body, all born again in Christ. Church is not an organization or a structure or a method or a setting. It’s a people, a people bound together because of one reason: we all have the same Father and we all worship His Son together.

  18. Aug 21, 2008 at 6:59 pm

    A church is a small group of THE church. The principles of Acts 2:42-47 are a good model.

  19. Aug 21, 2008 at 10:12 pm

    Awesome question…

    I think first we have to ask what church isn’t…

    It isn’t a building…
    It isn’t a bunch of people doing stuff and reading the bible…
    It isn’t a meeting even of believer’s…

    It is those “called out”… (meaning out of the world, deception, and damnation)…

    The church is the body of Christ… He is the head… the church is universal, and it is invisible…

    I am not sure we can define “Church” any more than we can define the trinity…

    We can apprehend it, but I am not sure we can comprehend it…

    We can mimic it, fake it, and model it… but we cannot reproduce it any more than we can bring someone back from the dead…

    Jesus calls, and like Lazarus, his church comes out…

    I am positive this didn’t help much, and it surely didn’t answer the question very well, but its the best I have, and apprehend…

    What I know is this…

    I have been in and amongst, and seen the church…

    I don’t know where or how the wind blows… but I can see its effects…

    I can guess at the wind, and strive after it… but I mostly just thank God when I see its effects, (speaking of the Spirit’s work that is)…

  20. Aug 21, 2008 at 11:34 pm

    Community, with defined spiritual leadership. There must be a leader.

  21. Aug 22, 2008 at 3:33 am

    Whatever else we call church we miss the point by refering to it as “my church”…”their church”…”his church”…or even “our church.” The church is not and cannot be owned. It is His church…His body…His bride…His people called by His name (2 Chronicles 7:14). It is funny however that I have been considering the same things that your question poses. Rick Warren has some excellent thoughts about it on his site. You can link to it from http://pressingonwitheddie.blogspot.com/2008/08/to-church-or-not-to-church.html

  22. Aug 22, 2008 at 6:24 am

    Simple. I am the church. You are the church. We are the church.

    I/we become the church when we start our relationship with God. It’s not what we do that defines church. Church is being.

  23. Aug 22, 2008 at 7:49 am

    I like Gabe’s concept of “up-reach,in-reach, and out-reach” (Although it does sound like something a preacher would come up with…)

    Hirsch and Frost did a pretty good job of covering this topic in “The Shaping of Things to Come” - I would highly recommend that book or even better, Hirsch’s follow-up: “The Forgotten Ways”

    Speaking of “what makes authentic church” I’d love to hear Neil Cole’s take on this conversation. His book, Organic Church, was also definitely a persuasive book on what church should and shouldn’t be.

    Two of his quotes I’ll always remember:
    “We’re lowering the bar on church and raising it on discipleship” (paraphrase)
    and
    “Bad people are the best soil because there’s a lot of fertilizer in their lives”

  24. Aug 22, 2008 at 8:13 am

    God is Good,

    I’m enjoying all these comments. Keep pour it out Church:)

    BraTodd Bishop, I feel what you are saying, “Church is Being”. I want to add to it, “Being Alive in Christ Jesus is Church”

    The Holy Ghost has move me to say that.

    Thanks BraTodd, God is using you in mightily on this Discussing.

    I feel like have Church………LOL

    To all my Family. It’s good to fellowship with you on this discussion topic. I wish churches could open up like we can here in the online Forum Discussion format. I truely believe that God Divine Order has place us here to go deeper in his present and reach our families, communities, cities, state, country and world. Sound like the Great Commission to me.

    Lets ask ourselves, is Church the Great Commission?

    Thanks again for all your comments. “You All Rock for Jesus”

  25. Aug 22, 2008 at 8:43 am

    Greg, most of the definitions of Church Ive seen wont hold up under examination because they are too intricate. Once you go beyond, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name” you get into debatable forms of theology that simply confuse the issue. Once you add anything to this definition you really cant stop defining the church. You have to go on and on and who is to decide where to stop defining it.

    I looked at some of the definitions given in response to your question and they are all over the map.

    Whatever definition one uses it has to leave room for the church to exist apart from the institution. There is no place in scripture where “church” is defined as a place, no where. I believe in a society that is based on institutions just about any sustainable Christian movement will eventually become institutional, but that is only because of the way our society is based. But being an institution that meets in a place has no foundation in the Scriptures.

  26. Aug 22, 2008 at 9:33 am

    Traditionally the Reformation defined church with two elements:
    1. Where the Word is rightly divided
    2. Where the Sacraments are rightly distributed
    Of course, neither of these are focussed on size of the church - which many today use to describe if a church is too big or too small.
    And neither of these are necessarily focussed on place. This was a good starting place for the Reformation, but needs expansion…

    The Evangelical Covenant Church describes church as having 4 Elements, the 4 “als” as we affectionately call them:
    1. Biblic-al: empowered by the Word of God (being conformed by the words of God)
    2. Devotion-al: engaged with the Life of God (through conversion and spiritual formation)
    3. Connection-al: encouraging one another in the faith and forming a new community. (Christians grow best in community)
    4. Mission-al: compelled by the priorities of God in our world (both evangelism and compassion/mercy/justice).

    David T Olson in the last 3 chapters of “The Crisis of the American Church” describes the Gospel as having 5 aspects or what Olson calls “The Messages and Missions of Jesus.” He finds these throughout the Gospels, but ultimately expressed in these 5:
    These 5 can also help define what church is:
    1. The Cross - Forgiveness of Sins and Reconciliation with God. So a church needs to present opportunities for salvation and life-giving connection with God.
    2. The Grave - Breaking bondage to sin and to satan. So a church needs to find ways to help people “break the power of cancelled sin.”
    3. The Resurrection - Re-forming hearts of stone into hearts of flesh. So a church needs to find ways to do spiritual formation.
    4. The Ascension - Where Jesus becomes Lord of individuals and the world. So a church needs to find ways to move into the world as Christ’s ambassadors transforming every “domain” until it becomes the kingdom of our Lord.
    5. Pentecost - Where Jesus commissions the New People of the kingdom. So a church needs compelling and authentic Christian community to be a light to the World.

  27. Aug 22, 2008 at 9:37 am

    The Body of Christ….Reading the Word….and actively living out what it says to do.

  28. Aug 22, 2008 at 10:14 am

    A community in the name of Christ. Working out salvation within culture. It needs to be simple and complex all at the same time.

    http://www.matthewsblog.waynesborochurchofchrist.org

  29. Aug 22, 2008 at 10:33 am

    Thank you for this question Bobby. It is a question that I believe is too often overlooked and long overdue with today’s culture being what it is.

    For the record I like Gabe’s upreach, inreach, and outreach idea very much.

    This gives me a lot to think about.

  30. 32Judy
    Aug 22, 2008 at 3:43 pm

    According to Bill Hybels, THE CHURCH IS THE HOPE OF THE WORLD…while I know we have a long way to go, I believe the Church does better imparting hope than any other means in the earth…

  31. 33Jeanne Oakley
    Aug 22, 2008 at 3:59 pm

    I think church is a verb. It’s the action of following Christ.

  32. Aug 22, 2008 at 5:26 pm

    bobby,
    it will come as no surprise to you that I love this question you and driscoll are raising. it’s an good example of the theology we hold and how we live it out. for instance, when (as one of the commenters suggests) the church is a PLACE,then a building and space of permanence will likely be important. We live what we believe about the church, but often few leaders actually take the time to write a definition. Of course these folks do have a definition of church, but articulating it is the hard part. don’t know how clear I’m writing but there ya go.

    church (to me)= is the people of God doing the business of God in the world.

  33. Aug 23, 2008 at 9:41 am

    I agree that the church has a “being” component, but we are the spiritual body of a God who DOES WHO HE SAYS HE IS.

    Another thought: Maybe there’s no such thing as A (singular) church — only THE (collective) church. “THE church in Aquilla’s house.” “The church in Corinth.” Are there verses in the NT that use the phrase “A church?” I can’t think of any. Just like I really have a problem when pastor’s preach about their church, using words like “this body…” NO, there is ONE BODY (Eph 4).

    THoughts?

  34. Aug 23, 2008 at 9:43 am

    I have to clarify. I don’t mean that there aren’t local expressions of THE church, and then of course, what do you call those gatherings? On further thought, I think the word “Churches” does come up. So I guess my point isn’t valid.

    Huh.

  35. Aug 23, 2008 at 11:33 am

    The Church is the Body of Christ. When “two or more” gather, there the Church is. There are local churches that are a part of the Church (capital “C”). Church happens in church buildings, theaters, schools, prisons, apartments, underground, tents, online and wherever members of the Body gather to lift up the Head (Christ).

  36. Aug 23, 2008 at 8:12 pm

    I am intrigued with Bill Easum’s comment that no where in scripture is the church linked to a place. It seems to me that this simply isn’t true. The place is the city in which it is worshiping or as he would say “two or three gathering”; thus Ephesus. Now maybe he meant a building for a place, but place is a lot broader than a building. A city-wide church is such a non-entity in our culture but it sure was the place in scripture. Maybe his focus was more on “institution” and not so much about place. Place is sure an issue with virtual churches. Or should I say, non-issue?

  37. Aug 24, 2008 at 10:59 am

    Well I dont want to split hairs, but by place I meant a static location. So I guess I should have said a building, but then you can counter, “Well they met in homes and that is a building.” I think most people know what I mean by place- the type of institutional church building we call “church” so we can “go to church” Christians dont go to church, they are the church where ever they gather.

  38. Aug 24, 2008 at 3:32 pm

    I think an underlying issue or question with “virtual” churches and their derivatives is beyond semantics of “church” and really about substance. What elements constitute a church experience? I think a majoriy of evangelicals would concur that wherever 2 or more are gathered in the name of Jesus Christ there is a “church.” A consistent assembly of saints at a location with shared geography then becomes “the church that meets in Mike’s house in Chicago versus the house that meets in Pam’s house in Seattle.”

    So we go online…where’s the “line” in “online” community? I visit great blogs (like this one!) and exchange ideas with other saints. Is this a church? By the definition of saints gathered together under the name of Jesus, sure. But does it qualify as community in the Acts 2, Hebrews 10:25, John 17, real relationship kind of way? Likely not. Even if we play hymns in the background and exchange IM prayers, it seems like it would be tapestries of a church, functions of gathering, but still missing something…

    Isn’t part of what we’re poking at with the debate of “church” ultimately relational? Knowing and being full known as we seek to truly know and be known by the real God and make Him known to all men. I can maintain simulated intimacy and love with a brother I have known in person and now am separate from (as Paul did via letters), but that is facilitated by the origin of face-to-face relationship. Starting with and staying in a world of simulated relationship lacks potency, and that relational potency is part of the transformative ethos of a gathering of saints (i.e. “the church”).

    There’s still something else, but that’s a thought at least…

  39. Aug 24, 2008 at 3:38 pm

    To add a bit more…

    Part of the church Body is interdependence. Virtually I can experience, but am I experienced? I can see but am not seen, observe but am not known, taste but not contribute, hear but not testify.

  40. Aug 24, 2008 at 3:57 pm

    Mike,

    I actually think that the list of things in your last comment are all possible with current technology. And interestingly, they are not always present when people physically gather in a “church” building.

  41. Aug 25, 2008 at 5:43 am

    “Gathering” in relationship is absolutely the core value. In our attempts to do away with locations we cannot do away with relationships. I would add to the discussion that it certainly isn’t about a church building. But as has always been the case with we humans, gathering has locations, even if it is in virtual space. I sometimes think that a lot of post-modern folks are more concerned about de-locating than they are locating. I am sure this is over-reacting to buildings. Buildings aren’t our problem, but not relating well certainly is the problem. Some relate well online, some don’t. Nothing new about that problem in trying to be effective in communicating the gospel.

  42. 44chapmc
    Aug 25, 2008 at 6:03 am

    When I think of a Biblical Church, I think of some core “marks” or “things” that a church does, according to the NT. Some of these are things that ONLY a church does. Some left off of my list might be more important to a community, but can be accomplished without a church. So, these marks would be a celebration of the Christ-instituted sacraments on a regular basis (baptism, Lord’s Supper), Preaching, and exercising church discipline - the hard part of discipleship. Of course these can’t be done without people focused on Christ, living by His grace - meaning we’ll naturally see worship, outreach, etc. I love technology and have used it extensively in ministry, but the sacrament part is the only thing that we really have to be physically present for - Just as Christ is present for us!

  43. Aug 25, 2008 at 8:06 am

    I had to pause at this comment: “up-reach,in-reach, and out-reach”…

    Church is made up of those three elements above, but I think it is in the “out-reach” that we “up-reach” and it is only as a result of the “up-reach” that we are allowed some sense of “in-reach”.

    The Post-Karmic Stream: http://theburkholders.blogspot.com

  44. Aug 25, 2008 at 10:36 am

    we are the church.

  45. Aug 25, 2008 at 10:56 am

    or for a definition of what the church is NOT. I would read Pagan Christianity by Frank Viola.

  46. Aug 25, 2008 at 3:44 pm

    To make this short, I am not a theologian or a scholar by any means _ don’t know why I felt I had to preface my comments like that _ but I think that however we define church it must be able to hold true in it’s simplest form; for me, two believers. I think there needs to be community and an intentional advancement of the kingdom of God.

    Jesus did about everything by two’s. From Genesis to Revelation we see the Lord administrating things in two’s. I think He was on to something, “Two are better than one”, “where two or more are gathered”, “He sent them out, two by two”, etc.

    Community is essential for accountability, fellowship, “sharpening”, remembrance, etc. Still can be accomplished with only two believers.

    The Advancement of the Kingdom of God keeps the church growing and keeps things from being just another “accountability” group.

    I think this could look a million different ways and is not limited to or defined by infrastructures, but by objectives. I think that “churches” by this simple def. are already happening under the umbrella of the church as we know it. Plus, most church started this way, a husband and wife, etc.

    So here’s my rough rough def. in one sentence: A church is at least two Christ-followers committed to fellowship with each other and purposefully advancing the gospel message.

  47. Aug 26, 2008 at 12:16 am

    Wow. Interesting.

  48. 50Ken
    Aug 26, 2008 at 12:19 pm

    Body of Christian believer that’s living out the great commission.

  49. 51Ken
    Aug 26, 2008 at 12:19 pm

    Body of Christian believers that’s living out the great commission.

  50. Aug 26, 2008 at 8:59 pm

    While I’ve found the comments to be insightful, I’m not sure the heart of the question is being answered. Bobby, it seems like your question was more of a practical inquiry than a theoretical one? I was assuming you’re interested in how our ecclesiology plays out in our current Internet- and technology-driven world. (Am I right in assuming that was your original intent?)

    It seems like the words “community,” “body,” and “gathering” are used a lot in the comments. And it also seems like we can’t be/do church alone; we need others involved. It also seems that the Gospel of Jesus is a central element, as well as the Great Commission (make disciples, bring them into Trinitarian community, teach them what Jesus taught, etc.).

    I would say that it is possible to be/do church without being in close physical proximity to one another (after all, the Church is united by the Holy Spirit, right?). I’d also say that community is done best when it is done in physical proximity to one another, and that technology is best viewed as a tool or a secondary means for building community or gathering for worship, not a primary one. Sadly, I don’t have any directly Biblical reasoning for feeling this way; it just seems like being able to stand next to someone in worship, sit in a circle and read Scripture, or weep with someone who is hurting is best done when you’re right there with them, not via twitter or satellite-feed. But then again, some churches are doing amazing and laudable things in the name of Jesus using technology, LifeChurch being one of ‘em!

  51. 53Jill
    Aug 27, 2008 at 12:49 pm

    The Church is definitely a people, not a place. An organic expression of the very living Christ Himself.

    Speaking of the book “Pagan Christianity?” that Kevin mentioned (of which I also highly recommend), the sequel to it is out now. It’s called “Reimagining Church”. It sets forth a beautiful vision of the church based on the eternal purposes of God, and it picks up where “Pagan Christianity” left off and continues the conversation. (“Pagan Christianity” was never meant to be a stand alone book; it’s part one of the conversation.)

    “Reimagining Church” is endorsed by Leonard Sweet, Shane Claiborne, Alan Hirsch, and many others. You can read a sample chapter at http://www.ReimaginingChurch.org. It’s also available on Amazon.com. Frank is also blogging now at http://frankviola.wordpress.com/ . Also, have you seen the spoof video for “Pagan”? Very funny. Check it out at http://youtube.com/watch?v=hslswIal9u4 .