the weblog of Alan Knox

Minimalist Definition of the Church…

Posted by on Feb 25, 2007 in definition | 41 comments

As I have studied (and continue to study) ecclesiology (the study of the church), I’ve noticed that there are two ways to define the church. The first method of defining the church is one that I’ll call an “extensive” definition. This method develops a definition that describes what the church should be, how the church should act, and what differentiates one “church” from another “church”. Thus, in this type of definition, you will find items such as the proper understanding of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, various teachings concerning leadership within the church, and activities carried out by the church such as teaching and mission.

My primary concern with an “extensive” definition is that it goes beyond what a “definition” is. For example, let’s say that a definition of the church says something like this: The church is … operating through democratic process… Since “operating through democratic process” is part of the definition, then this definition suggests that any group that does not operate as a democracy is not a church. If, on the other hand, people agree that a church can operate as other than a democracy, the definition given does little to help us understand what actually defines a church.

As John Hammett suggests in Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches, this type of definition blurs “health” with “essence”. A “healthy” church may operate in a certain way, but this does not help us determine the “essence” of the church. I am putting “health” and “essence” in quotations, because, as far as I can tell, very few have tried to define what falls into “health” and what falls into “essence”. But, this is exactly my desire. I want to know what defines the “essence” of the church, such that if the “essence” is present, then a church is present. If the “essence” is not present, then the church is not present. Anything beyond this does not belong to a definition of the church, although other criteria could be used to define a “healthy” church, with at least as many definitions of “healthy” as there are demonations, etc.

The other type of definition, and the one that I prefer, is often called a “minimalist” definition. A “minimalist” definition only includes those attributes that are necessary for the existence of the church. Several “minimalist” definitions have been suggested throughout history. Here are a few “minimalist” definitions that I have been able to find:

  1. The church is any group indwelled by the Spirit of God.
  2. The church is any group that has been chanaged by the gospel.
  3. The church is any group that rightly proclaims the gospel and rightly administers the sacrements.
  4. The church is any group that has been gathered by the Spirit in the name of Jesus.

I like some of these definitions, especially the ones that remove the existence of the church from the activities of men.

What are the dangers of using an “extensive” definition of the church? What are the advantages?

What are the dangers of using a “minimalist” definition of the church? What are the advantages?


41 Comments

Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 2-25-2007

    Alan: Good post and interesting subject. I’m voting for a “minimalist” definition of the church. To use an “extensive” definition of the church it would seem to me that you have to add man invented criteria to what, in the biblical narrative, is a pretty simple term.

    I like “The church is any group indwelled by the Spirit of God,” yet I’m not sure it captures the full meaning of ekklesia.

  2. 2-26-2007

    The danger of an extensive definition: legalism. The advantage? I’m not sure.

    The danger of a minismalist definition? I’m not sure. The advantage? Protection from legalism.

    So, it looks like I like the minimalist definition as well. Can you tell I’m not a fan of legalism?

    And I like definition #1 too :-)

  3. 2-26-2007

    Rick and Heather,

    Thank you for your comments. I hope others will share their preferecnes for “extensive” or “minimalist” definitions as well.

    -Alan

  4. 2-26-2007

    Here here for a minimalist definition, and perhaps if others can get a vision for that we would begin to see more unity and less denominational distinction.

  5. 2-26-2007

    Why does minimalism resonate when it comes to church for me? Because the more I try to put my words to it the more it seems I insert humanistic thinking (as Heather notes: legalism, but that is only one way to make it more humanistic. We could also add individualism, idolatry, extrabiblical, empty (or Spirit-less) ritualism, etc.). The less we insert human definition the more we leave it up to Him to define and direct.

  6. 2-26-2007

    Bryan said, “Why does minimalism resonate when it comes to church for me? Because the more I try to put my words to it the more it seems I insert humanistic thinking (as Heather notes: legalism, but that is only one way to make it more humanistic. We could also add individualism, idolatry, extrabiblical, empty (or Spirit-less) ritualism, etc.). The less we insert human definition the more we leave it up to Him to define and direct.

    This is precisely my thinking. Legalism is the first thing that came to my mind this morning when reading this, but all these other results of humanistic thinking are disadvantages of extensive definitions of the church as well.

    Blessings!

  7. 2-26-2007

    Bryan and Heather,

    Thank you for continuing this discussion. I recognize that sometimes human ideas are added definitions of the church. I try not to make too many assumptions based on motives. I think that in many times, people are simply trying to describe what they have experienced as the church. These are often justified by Scripture, though Scripture may not have been intended with that justification in mind. I prefer to try (I’m always reminded of my own preconceptions) to determine how Scripture defines the church.

    -Alan

  8. 2-26-2007

    While I agree that a proper (minimal or extended) definition of the church may not include language like “democratic process” since no such command or intimation can be found in scripture, I would argue that a more full-fledged definition than “any group indwelt by the Spirit” can be had without adding to scripture. Do we not accept that elders are to be appointed in every church? What about the biblical office of deacon? Do we see the function of church discipline as essential to the church, I say this since there are regular assertions here that Matt 18 is speaking to the essence of the church—if so then the same scripture gives a minimum requirement of 5 “members” in order to enact discipline (I would argue for 7, since each step is an escalation)—so how can a biblical church contain less? What about the functions of the church in baptism and the Lord’s Supper? I don’t see any of these as peripheral or optional—these are not things that are tacked on to the idea of church, are they? Can an elder-less, ordinance-less, discipline-less body of Spirit-filled people gathered in Jesus’ name be called a church? Maybe, but what a poor church that would be. I would hope that it would not remain that way for long. Why this seeming attempt to blur “being the church” with “being a Christian”. Can’t my wife and I serve our neighbors and “be Christ” to them without “being the church” also? I get the sense that church = Christian community (the assembly of God), and the idea of community is not well represented by 2 or 3, or 5, or even 7, but by many. Maybe once the many become “too many” they need to focus on their “block” in the community without giving up their identity within the community. Isn’t that what we see in the earliest church(es) in Acts: hundreds (even thousands) assemble to hear the preaching of Peter in the streets or temple courts and then the neighbors get together in houses for the Lord’s Supper and prayer? Do you suppose each of those household gatherings are the types of “churches” that Timothy was to later appoint elders over or was it only the larger assembly?

    I will be gathering with a group of between 7 and 9 dear brothers tomorrow night. We will be gathering in Jesus’ name, to study His word and pray and to enjoy one-another’s company. Most all are Spirit-filled men, though we have been blessed to display our joy to a visitor. There will be two “local church bodies” represented, though we all understand that we are of “the church”. I have placed myself in submission to these brothers for discipline, if need be. There will likely be drink and bread (of some type) present, and a prayer of remembrance and gratitude will be made before we indulge. In an upcoming meeting we hope to have a Presbyterian minister join our discussion (adding much variety to our rather Baptistic discussions). What distinguishes our meeting from a church? Just that we don’t call ourselves a church? The fact that we don’t have an elder (discounting the Presbyterian minister)? Someone may read this description and decide that what’s described is a church, and that’s fine, except for the fact that it’s not true. We know we are not a church, we are members of the church, we are members of local churches, and we are Christians sharing and loving one-another as Christians and neighbors, but we are not a church. We know that some key ingredient is missing, an ingredient that was present when many of us met on Sunday morning. Unless your minimalist definition includes that key ingredient something will be missing in that minimalist church as well.

  9. 2-26-2007

    As long as we are in agreement about what a church “should be,” and we are in agreement we “should be” working towards that, I’m still trying to figure out what difference it makes how we define the church. I’m not saying I’m convinced it makes no difference. I just saying I’m wondering what difference it makes.

    Anyone have any suggestions of when it might make a practical difference?

    Also, while I appreciate all those who would want to avoid legalism in their definition of church, what Shan says sure seems to make a lot of sense to me.

  10. 2-26-2007

    Shannon,

    It looks as if you are getting to the heart of the discussion here. You said: “Can an elder-less, ordinance-less, discipline-less body of Spirit-filled people gathered in Jesus’ name be called a church? Maybe, but what a poor church that would be.” I would agree with you completely. Thus, the things that you mention are not necessary for a group to be a church, otherwise there would be no church before Paul appoints elders in Acts 14:23. But there does seem to be a church, and it also seems good for that church to have elders. These are not incompatible ideas. The “essence” of a church does not include elders, but its health may include elders.

    Similarly, concerning your group of Thirsty Theologicans, you ask: “What distinguishes our meeting from a church? Just that we don’t call ourselves a church?” And once again we get to the heart of the issue. Is a group a church because they call themselves a church? Is a group not a church because they do not see themselves as a church? Do we decide who is and who is not a church?

    You said: “We know that some key ingredient is missing, an ingredient that was present when many of us met on Sunday morning. Unless your minimalist definition includes that key ingredient something will be missing in that minimalist church as well.” One of the goals of my study and this blog is to determine those “key ingredients”. What are they?

    David,

    You asked: “Anyone have any suggestions of when it might make a practical difference?” I do. Scripture give us several specific commands regarding how we act when we are gathered with the church. (Unfortunately, none of those include singing or preaching, but that’s for another post.) One example is 1 Corinthians 14:26. This command is given within the context of the church gathering together. So, how do we know when we are gathered with the church? When is it necessary to make sure that everything we do be for the edification of the church?

    -Alan

  11. 2-26-2007

    Are you suggesting that since there was a type of church prior to the installment of elders, that elders are unnecessary today? If that’s the case, Jesus was talking to a “church” of Spirit-less men in Matt 18 when He described the church’s discipline. So the church is made up of either Spirit-filled or Spirit-less people? I know this is not your assertion, but I just want to make the point that the church at the end of Acts is not the same as the church at Pentecost. In my mind we need a minimal definition of what the church is today. Perhaps we could work our way toward a definition of what is normative (or even ideal) in the church at the same time as we define it minimally.

    The point you made to David is exactly why I decided to throw my hat into this conversation, if we are a church whenever we gather in Jesus’ name what responsibilities befall us that would not be required if we were just a group of Christian men? For instance, at our Thirsty Thelogians meetings there is a lot of disorder in our “judgment of prophecy” and this is not seen as an abberation, just good clean fun. If the same happened in a church service, however, I would be offended and concerned. Is there any such thing as an Anonymous Church (ala Rahner’s Anonymous Christian)?

  12. 2-26-2007

    It is interesting that 1 Corinthians 14 talks about “everyone” having various gifts to share and that all are needed for the strengthening of the church… yet… where is that church gathering?

    Also, I don’t think anyone who has written here is saying that biblical accounts of what a church is goes too far. The danger is when we put extrabiblical definitions on what a church is or should be. What makes the Word difficult is where there may be a description of something that an early church did, but as you have noted that doesn’t necessarily mean that it is prescriptive for all church gatherings.

  13. 2-26-2007

    Shannon,

    Yes, elders are unnecessary for a group to be a church. That happens all the time. Are elders important? Yes, but not necessary.

    I am trying to answer this question: When does God consider a group to be a church? What if God does consider your Thirsty Theologians to be a church, even if you do not consider it to be a church? Who decides? Do we decide when a group is a church? If God decides if a group is a church or not, then how can we know?

    Can we say: This group has elders, so it is a church. This group does not have elders so it is not a church. This group practices discipline, so it is a church. This group does not practice discipline so it is not a church.

    Notice, elders and disciple and the Lord’s Supper and baptism are important for a church. Are they necessary? If we think they are necessary, then we need to be consistent in what we call a church. If not, then what is necessary?

    -Alan

  14. 2-26-2007

    Bryan,

    It is very difficult to decide what is descriptive of the early church and what is prescriptive for the church for all times. Many people disagree about this. I’m glad that we are able to discuss these things here in spite of differences of interpretation.

    I agree completely that everyone sharing the gifts of the Spirit are important for the strengthening of the church. You did not state this, but I wonder, do you think “everyone sharing the gifts” is necessary for a group to be a church?

    -Alan

  15. 2-26-2007

    I am not sure that it is necessary for the group to be a church, but the verse there states that it is necessary for the strengthening of the church. Given the fact that his language appears to assume that the gathering of the believers already is a church, whether they all use their gifts or not, it would suggest that it is not necessary to define a church, but to strengthen it???

  16. 2-26-2007

    Bryan,

    I agree completely. Every believer sharing their gifts in order to build up other believers strengthens the church, and it is very important, but it is not necessary for a group to be a church. So, it should not be part of a definition of the church, as much as I would like to make it part of a definition.

    -Alan

  17. 2-26-2007

    This is a fascinating discussion. I’ve not been sure how eager I was to jump into this topic, but I have some questions after reading some of the responses here.

    There seems to be something of a dichotomy (I won’t rush to label it “false”) in the thinking that certain activities define a “church”. At first Alan suggested “Spirit-filled”, which is not an activity, but a state of being. I lean toward this side.

    However, as the discussion goes on, things such as appointing elders, administering the sacraments, having “order”, etc. get introduced that all seem, in my opinion, to lean toward the side of particular activities.

    I’ve had similar discussions over the last couple of years on different blogs, and there always seems to be a “checklist” approach to this. I think the “what does a church do” question starts at the wrong end of the equation.

    One of the conversations I was in a long time ago was with someone who reacted strongly against the idea that “love” defines a church. My counter is that you can “do” all the things that are on any checklist, but if you don’t have love, the actions are completely worthless in the eyes of God (cf. 1 Cor 13 and numerous passages in the books of the OT prophets).

    Whatever “actions” are necessary, or even just whatever actions are good for a church will come forth when the heart is right and the Spirit is allowed to lead.

    So, I would modify Alan’s original sentence and say that we are talking about people led by the Spirit of God, not merely indwelled.

  18. 2-26-2007

    Shan, I have a specific question for you. I want to be careful asking it because I’ve never interacted with you before, and I don’t know anything about you. But something you said sounded like the kind of “separation” that we often like to put on church vs. non-church or sacred vs. secular — dichotomies that I’m increasingly uncomfortable with.

    You said that there is a “disorder” (not exactly sure what you meant by that) in your men’s group that would make you uncomfortable or even offend you if it happened “in a church service”.

    I’m curious what could be offensive inside a church service that would not be offensive outside. Should our actions or words or attitudes or anything about us be any different when we are not inside a particular building during a particular period of time on a Sunday following a particular structure of behavior in the name of a “worship service”?

    I don’t mean that to be judgmental at all in its tone, but I’m very confused by what you said there.

  19. 2-26-2007

    And Steve, how does your question overlay with the discussion over at Marty Duren’s blog (SBC Outpost) regarding church sponsored activities such as Red Hot Bashes and the serving of champagne at midnight? Does it?

  20. 2-26-2007

    Steve,

    As I said earlier, I also lean toward defining the church by its state than by its activities. As you said, activities can be faked or even carried out by those who are not believers.

    While I understand your desire to change “Spirit indwelled” to “Spirit led”, I have one question regarding this. What is the difference between “Spirit indwelled” and “Spirit led”? If the difference is simply our response to the Spirit, then how is this different from defining the church based on activities?
    If, however, you mean something more like “submitted to the Spirit”, then I would agree.

    -Alan

  21. 2-26-2007

    Bryan,

    I haven’t been following the discussion at Marty Duren’s blog, nor have I heard about Red Hot Bashes. They sound interesting. How does it relate to defining the church?

    -Alan

  22. 2-27-2007

    I was asking if it did relate… but apparently Mars Hill in Seattle had such a function and it is causing some great consternation because they are taking great issue with a “church” promoting such a “bash.” I suppose I was wondering if the fact that it is a church made it different from other organizations, at least where it involves things that are not biblically prohibited (but where some may have personal convictions against certain activities and others not). Steve’s comments on checklists and what a church does (or doesn’t do) is what got my mind thinking about it.

  23. 2-27-2007

    Steve,

    All I really meant to say is that us guys joke around a lot, are quick to point out weaknesses in on another’s arguments (sometimes stepping on each other’s rebuttals to do so!), and generally act like guys in a way that we probably wouldn’t if our wives were present and certainly not in a way we would in a worship service (whether in a church building, or not). Now you can call that a sacred-secular dichotomy if you want but I think it is just natural that guys edify one another differently when among just other guys than what they do in a mixed meeting, especially one where the focus is corporate worship. As Alan pointed out, there are certain commands that come into play when the gathering is a church meeting, that are not in play when it’s just a group of friends. As I write this I wonder if Eph 5:4 shouldn’t come into play more in these meetings, at least in my speech, but even if we do occasionally fail in the area of coarse jesting I always come away tremendously encouraged by our times of jousting, as do the other men, I believe. Iron sharpens iron as the two are ground together! BTW – I’ve painted a much more raucous picture of these meetings than we actually have. Just so we’re square, I took no offense at your line of questioning. I hope that my comments don’t come across terse, I just try to write concisely ;-)

  24. 2-27-2007

    Bryan,

    I read some of the info on Marty’s blog. I understand what you are asking now.

    -Alan

  25. 2-27-2007

    Shannon,

    Perhaps the difference is in knowing the people that you are with. So, you act a certain way because you know how to build up the men present.

    What makes a “worship service” different? Know the people you are with, and do everything in order to build up those you are with.

    -Alan

  26. 2-27-2007

    Alan, what if what you have defined as where you go to church as the 1000, 3000, 5000, or 10000 people you know (a mega-church)? Can you know them? Is such a gathering a church? Sure, we see NT preaching to huge crowds, but does preaching make a church?

  27. 2-27-2007

    Bryan,

    I missed this last comment this morning. I do not see an upper limit placed on the size of the church in the NT. To me, the question is not how many people can a church contain, but at what point do the people feel they can no longer change the way they relate to one another because of their size. Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church has decided that they have reached a point (number wise) where 1 Cor 14 no longer applies to them. Is this a decision that we make? Can we decide that Scripture no longer applies? That is very dangerous to me.

    -Alan

  28. 2-27-2007

    To All,

    This post has generated more comments that I ever expected. I know that there have been many tangents explored, and that is okay. I wanted to thank everyone for the gentleness and humility that has been expressed.

    If you desire to continue this discussion, please do so. I have been encouraged and challenged by the dialog so far.

    -Alan

  29. 2-27-2007

    This is a good discussion I am glad I wandered over here. Shane brings up a good point separating between the Church and a church.

    I don’t think you can have any but a minimilist definition for ‘The Church’ although for clarity’s sake I would change it to “all who are indwelt by the Spirit of Christ” rather then saying indwelt by the Spirit of God. There are a lot of non-Christains that claim to have the spirit of God. I would recognize this group by their committment to becoming a living imitation of Christ rather than by any specific set of beliefs or practices.

    As far as ‘a church’ goes- Maybe what we are looking at in the extensive definition here is simply an institutional framework within which The Church grows. If this framework is filled with The Church what do we have? If not what do we have? What do we have when a group of The Church is getting the essential ingredients of that institutional framework
    (baptism, accountablility, teaching etc.) from several different institutions?

    Maybe we can say ‘a church’ is any institution that is recognized as having authority by members of The Church for administering the sacriments, settling disputes, etc.

  30. 2-27-2007

    C Grace,

    Welcome to my blog, and thank you for the comment. I understand your desire to have distinct definitions for “The Church” and “a church”. The only question that I have is this: Is this a scriptural distinction or a man-made distinction? It seems that the biblical authors blur the distinctions that we make between “The Church” and “a church”. I am still open to scriptural distinctions, but so far, I haven’t found any. I prefer to try to live within the blurred distinctions that we find in Scripture. (For example, see this post called “Blurring the distinctions“.)

  31. 2-28-2007

    Alan,

    Since I haven’t commented here before I will give you a brief overview of where I am coming from and then I have a return question.

    I view things primarily in terms of The Church, probably much more so then the majority of people out there. I love Church history and I recognize the claims of the Orthodox and Catholic churches to be legitimate institutional structures supporting The Church, as well as most of the Protestant denominations. In my view someone who is a member of any one of these institutions ought to be recognized by the others. Somewhat like a citizen of PA has certain rights in NJ by virtue of the fact that he is a citizen of the US. But because he is not a citizen of NJ there are some things he cannot do there.

    “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Eph. 4:15-16 ESV)”

    You had this verse in your other post. I do not see that this necessarily has to refer to a local body. “each part” could refer to individuals within a local body or it could refer to differing local bodies working together making The Church grow don’t you think?

    It seems to me that not only are individuals gifted for differing areas of ministry but that different congregations, even different denominations are appointed by God with their own unique gifts and calling.

  32. 2-28-2007

    C Grace,

    Welcome back. Thank you for sharing more about yourself. I agree with much of what you said, especially when it comes to individual churches vs. the church.

    You said: “I recognize the claims of the Orthodox and Catholic churches to be legitimate institutional structures supporting The Church, as well as most of the Protestant denominations.” I’m not sure what you mean by “legitimate institutional structures supporting The Church.” Can you explain that? Thanks!

    -Alan

  33. 3-1-2007

    Let me give an example from the nation of Israel. During the time of the kings the nation of Israel was Israel but also the people that lived in that nation were Israel. When the nation was destroyed by Babylon, although the Nation Israel ceased to exist, the people Israel did not cease to exist. After the Babylon captivity the Nation Israel came into existence again but the institutional structure was different. Priests rather then kings ruled. Later after the Maccabeas the Sanhedrin was set up to govern. Today Israel is a democracy. Each of these institutional structures called Israel has housed the people Israel. The institutional structure gets its authority, recognition and its legitimacy from the fact that the people Israel live in it and acknowledge it.

    In Christian history The Church (the people of God, the Body of Christ) has had to adapt to changing cultural conditions in order to stay healthy. The resultant institutional structures (such as the Catholic Church) gain their legitimacy from the fact that they house The Church helping to protect and nurture it. These institutional structures are also called churches. There is not a perfect overlap. Some people within any given institutional structure are not part of The Church. Some of The Church may for a time live outside of any church. The Catholic Church developed its centralized govt. in response to threats from gnosticism and later the collapse of the Roman Empire. The Protestant movement developed in response to the Enlightenment. The Catholic system has been pretty poor at keeping The Church within it healthy over the last 500 years, because it did not adapt to the change. I do not therefore think that God has entirely abandoned it. The Emerging Church is again questioning what is needed to keep The Church healthy in a postmodern world because there is a recognition that the current system is not doing a good job at it.

    I would love to see a post on exactly what the essential elements are for a healthy Body. If we could separate the essence of what is needed for health out from the systems and methods used over the years to promote that health it would be really beneficial.

    (for instance it seems to me that one on one discipleship and small group discipleship are accomplishing the same purpose using different systems. The Orthodox system of councils, the Catholic Teaching Magisterium, and the Protestant insistence on right doctrine are geared toward protecting essential truths of the gospel whose loss would mean the death of The Church)

  34. 3-1-2007

    C Grace,

    This is a very interesting discussion. Thank you for exaplaining what you meant by “legitimate institutional structures supporting The Church”.

    I tend to view things differently. I do recognize that the church (the people of God) is found in many different organizations and institutions. However, I do not think we should call those organizations and institutions “church”. Why? Because Scripture does not call organizations and institutions “church”. Instead, Scripture always uses the term “church” (or, more precisely, ekklesia) to refer to a group of people. Thus the characteristics, requirements, commands, promises, etc. are given to people not to organizations and institutions. I believe that when we start calling these organizations and institutions “church”, we begin to transfer the characteristics, requirements, commands, promises, etc. to the organizations and institutions.

    Now, this is not to say that all organizations and institutions are bad. They are not. And, yes, Christians can operate within those organizations and institutions. But it is the people themselves, not the organizations and institutions, that make up the church.

    I agree that we need to understand what it takes to be a healthy church. Perhaps that will be a future post. I am concerned about discussing health before I understand “essence”, or as Shannon called it earlier, the “key ingredients”. I think that once we know what makes a group a church (in essence), we can begin to understand more about what makes a “healthy” church.

    -Alan

  35. 12-7-2012

    My minimalist definition of the church (at the moment anyway) would be as follows:

    The church is the community established by Christ Jesus and composed of his followers.

  36. 12-7-2012

    I haven’t read everything above so I’ll just spout my opinion. :)

    I’m minimalist and I find myself becoming more minimalist and believing that the extensive definition is anti-biblical and a hindrance to the Kingdom. The word “church” doesn’t appear in the Bible. I prefer body or gathering. It’s relational, not organizational. The gathering is made up of friends united to love another in Christ and committed to advancing and forecasting the coming Kingdom of God in word and deed. I’m not even sure I agree that the “spirit-filled” definition covers it since it’s possible for unbelievers and seekers in a pre-conversion status to join in the gatherings and even in the work Kingdom advancement.

  37. 12-7-2012

    Chuck,

    I like your definition.

    Dan,

    I like the terms body and gathering also, although ekklesia and body are not synonymous. Also, while you’re correct that “church” does not appear in the Bible, neither does “body” or “gathering” since they’re all English terms. In fact, it’s quite probable that Jesus never said the word “ekklesia” even, since he probably spoke Aramaic.

    -Alan

  38. 12-8-2012

    Well, all we have are the languages the inspired Scripture was written in so ekklesia and soma it is, and which, when translated into English mean gathering or body, so my choice of those words. My point about the word “church” is that it has institutional implications in our culture so I wish the translators wouldn’t use that word. Not sure if you were exercising your penchant for sarcasm there or not. Anyway, gathering or body, in whatever language, carry a relational quality that our modern “church” does not. imho

  39. 12-8-2012

    Dan,

    A little sarcasm, and a little serious. To me, it’s much better to define “church” in a way that matches “ekklesia” since people will read the word “church” when they read Scripture. People are accustom to words having different definitions in different contexts and at different times. By the way, I also think that “gathering” and “assembly” are good translations of “ekklesia.” Unfortunately, we rarely see those in English translations of Scripture.

    -Alan

  40. 11-9-2013

    Did a Google search concerning “Minimalist Churches” to see who else out there was touched by the same New Testament concept and operation as we have been.

    “A “minimalist” definition only includes those attributes that are necessary for the existence of the church.”

    I like how this is worded, I would also like to add along with the existence- the “operation” of the the church and the right purpose.

    Is our purpose to build elaborate physical mini-kingdoms in defense of our doctrinal stances or are we to build His Kingdom for the glory of His Name and Word?

    I have found that His Kingdom is much simpler to pursue, because all it takes is a willing and humble heart. Whereas the latter is a much more complicated struggle for resources to become king of the hill.

    All I know is that my KING owns the hill, and I have no business attempting to stand upon it.

    Lightfighters!

  41. 11-9-2013

    Andy,

    I think it is very important that we talk about what the church does as the church… i.e., “the ‘operation’ of the church and the right purpose.” In fact, most of my blog posts focus on this aspect of the people of God. Our function/operation, however, does not identify us as the church. Instead, our identity as the church determines our function/operation.

    -Alan