On my last few posts, I have attempted to define “the church”. After completing the last post, our library finally received a copy of Jim Petersen’s book Church Without Walls. I have not had a chance to read it yet (I am still waiting patiently… well, almost patiently), but I did peruse a few pages while a friend was holding it. Here are some excerpts concerning his definition of the church (all from page 13 – all emphases are his):
This book is about the church. I have discovered that one of the challenges in writing a book on this subject is to achieve precision in the use of the word church. The common usage of church refers to Christians who are organized and share a common structure… While I cannot agree that this is an adequate definition of the church, the usage has become so commonplace that it would be virtually impossible to use the word in any other way.
That means that I must not only articulate a new definition, but find a word that expresses its essential meaning. I believe that the ecclesia of the New Testament describes God’s people, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, who are being transformed and gifted for service among their brothers and sisters and the unbelieving world.
The popular definition of church puts too many essential functions of the body outside the definition, and therefore outside the church. For example, if we were referring to the presence of Chrisitans in the day-to-day activities of a neighborhood, it would be obvious that the church could not be there.
I am looking forward to reading the remainder of this book… patiently waiting… well, almost patiently.