Last week, I celebrated my first anniversary of blogging. In my blogiversary post, I listed some of the questions that I have been researching – questions that I asked a year ago in a post called “Questions“:
- What is the church (essence, nature, purpose, etc.)?
- When does a group of people become a church?
- Is one church dependent, independent, or interdependent on other groups?
- What is the purpose of the gathering of the church?
- How are the various spiritual gifts exercised in the meeting of the church?
- What is the nature of church leadership?
- How should church leaders interact with others in the church?
My friend Ed – also known as tenjuices, one of the many members of the blogless tribe, though we are trying to convert him – asked me (in the comments of the blogiversary post) if I had any answers to my questions. I promised that I would share the answers that I have discovered so far. These are not full answers, but summaries. My study is continuing. I would love to hear how others would answer these questions. One thing about these questions/answers. I do not study for the academic value. I study to know how to live in a way that pleases God. So, I have tried to implement many of these “answers” in the way that I live. These are my answers… so far:
1. What is the church (essence, nature, purpose, etc.)?
This is a huge question. In fact, I have tossed around the idea of making this the subject of my Ph.D. dissertation. I don’t think I’m going to, because the topic is probably even too big for that.
The church is the people of God. Period. God gathers his people regularly. This is important to me. The church is not the people who choose to gather together. The church will gather together, but the church cannot be defined by its meetings.
The church exists to bring glory to God and to demonstrate God’s glory. This happens in many ways. When the church is gathered, the church brings glory to God by building up one another toward maturity in Christ.
2. When does a group of people become a church?
Again, this is another tough question. I do not know exactly “when” a group becomes a church. I do not believe that a group of people can decide for themselves to be a church. Either God brings them together or He does not. I do believe that believers should treat one another (and non-believers) the same at all times.
3. Is one church dependent, independent, or interdependent on other groups?
I find very little indication in Scripture that churches are independent. Churches depend on God and, therefore, should depend on one another because God works through different parts of His church to strengthen the church. I prefer the term “interdependent” to describe how churches should relate to one another. Churches are interdependent because all believers are dependent on God and are part of the same family.
4. What is the purpose of the gathering of the church?
Okay. This is one question that I think I can answer – though some may disagree. The church gathers together in order to edify (build up) one another toward maturity in Christ.
5. How are the various spiritual gifts exercised in the meeting of the church?
This is also something that I have studied. I think 1 Corinthians 12-14 – taken together, not just a verse here or there – is important to answering this question. 1) Realize that all gifts are given by the Spirit for the mutual benefit of others. 2) Recognize that the church needs every gift that God has provided through every believer. 3) Act as if those believers and gifts who seem less necessary are actually more important. 4) Say and do everything motivated by love for God and love for one another. 5) When the church is gathered, believers should only exercise those gifts that build up the church. 6) Give preference in exercising gifts to another person. 7) Allow the entire church the opportunity to exercise their gifts.
6. What is the nature of church leadership?
According to Jesus, leaders are servants. Leaders should be known as servants of all, not decision makers or power brokers. Believers should follow those who are good examples of following Christ and who serve others.
7. How should church leaders interact with others in the church?
Leaders are believers. They are part of the church and should be treated like all other parts of the church. They are not more important nor less important. They have responsibilities like the other believers in the church have responsibilities.
I enjoy asking questions. Sometimes, just asking the question is an important first step. You may not agree with some of these answers. First, I would love to hear how you would answer the questions. In your answer, I hope that you will give a scriptural defense. I know that I have not quoted Scripture here, but that is only for brevity. I try to build all of my answers (and questions) from Scripture. Second, please be gentle and patient with me and with others as we seek to understand what God is teaching about the church.
Also, perhaps you have other questions about the church. I hope you will share those with us as well.