Church, according to Miriam-Webster’s online dictionary:
a building for public and especially Christian worship
the clergy or officialdom of a religious body
a body or organization of religious believers:
a public divine worship - goes to church every Sunday
Webster defines church according to the way this word is used today. I was taught this same definition as a little boy when I would put my hands together and recite the rhyme: “Here is the church, and here is the steeple; open the door and here are all the people.”
Jesus, however, introduced the term “church” with a very different meaning in mind. He used a word “ekklesia” that simply described a group or assembly of people. This is the original definition of the word. He described “church” as those people who were following Him—people walking in allegiance to him. People. His followers. Nothing more than that.
Jesus did not spend much time describing how to organize his people together or how to do meetings. Rather, his focus was on a lifestyle of loving others and obeying Him: “Go into all the world…” “Let your light shine…” “Do what you see the Father doing…” “Love one another…”
Church, as defined by Jesus, was simply his followers living life for and with him.
Over the years, however, the word “church” began to include the many structures a
nd forms that WE added to the original meaning:
Public meeting places (buildings or storefronts)
Organizations of believers who get together to be led by a worship team and preached to by a pastor
Denominations that we join
But, as John Eldredge reminds us:
‘Church is not a building. Church is not an event that takes place on Sundays. I know, it's how we've come to think of it. ‘I go to First Baptist.’ ‘We are members of St. Luke's.’ ‘Is it time to go to church?’ Much to our surprise, that is not how the Bible uses the term. Not at all.’
No. Not at all. Church is God’s people—those who are choosing to live life with Jesus… 24/7. That is it. Nothing more.
But don’t God’s people gather together? Yes. We do see gatherings take place in Scripture. Many gatherings. Most often informal and simple. Normally in homes (Romans 16:5). Everyone participated (1 Corinthians 14:26). They functioned as spiritual families that cared deeply for one another (Romans 12:10). Yet the focus of the church (God’s people) was a lifestyle of Jesus following, rather than organizing events, attending programs, building buildings, or joining organizations.
Perhaps the best way to describe the church of the New Testament is as small, vibrant, caring families of believers who are loving others and reproducing themselves into every corner of the world.
Sadly, as the church has adopted more and more traditions and become more and more institutionalized, it has become largely ineffective in its impact on earth. In the western world, where we have created the best organizational church systems that exist, Christianity is declining. In contrast, in parts of India, South America and China where the expression of church is largely organic, simple, and fluid, the church is flourishing.
I believe the North American institutional church is broken.
I do not believe the church accurately reflects Jesus as it should. I believe a reformation [think shakeup] is coming to the church the likes of which we have not seen since Martin Luther. Past moves of God in the past century focused on Holy Spirit [Azusa St] and Father heart of God [Toronto]. This one will focus on Jesus - bringing the church back to Jesus and to our call to be Christ Followers. It will be mind-blowing.
If Jesus were still walking the earth today and his mission was still to seek out and save the lost what might he do? Would he build a building, set up a sound system, develop a music team, drama team, and then do local mailbox drops advising people that they could come and be part of his church on Sunday?
Was it ever Jesus’ intention that non-Christians should seek us and desire to attend our worship events? Or didn’t he say quite clearly that it was His calling, and now ours to seek out and save the lost; to go to their world and share the gospel there. Little Bo Peep evangelism (leave ‘em alone and they’ll come home) is fast running out of steam…
Why This Is So
In the first century in Palestine, Christianity was a community of believers. Then Christianity moved to Greece and became a philosophy. Then it moved to Rome and became an institution. Then it moved to Europe and became a culture. And then it moved to North America and became a business. We need to get back to being a healthy, vibrant community of true followers of Jesus. We need to get back to our future.
Molong Nacua, wrote an excellent article entitled “Being Church” that reminds us of the true meaning of church:
‘Church is where Christ lives, not the place where we meet. It is Christ-empowered people, a kingdom of priests for establishing God's Kingdom (1 Cor. 3:17; Matt. 18:19; Ex. 19:6)… Christianity is not about doing church, but being church. Church is not some place to go to participate in, but it is about being who you are in Christ and thus experiencing His real life in you. Your Christianity was never defined by attending a church. It is defined by Christ in you. In other words, you are a Christian 24/7, not because you participate in a two-hour worship service, but because Christ lives in you every minute of every day. Jesus didn’t leave us with a system and a building; He left us with his Spirit.’
Amen to that!
So... if I'm getting my hair cut and my barber and I discuss Jesus, we are having church? YES!
So... someone responds to a blog post asking a question and I respond, is that church? YES!
So... wherever I am, if Christ is in my heart, I'm in church? YES!
So... if that's true, I don't have to accept all the church-ism stuff, I just need to accept Jesus? YES! YES! YES!