the weblog of Alan Knox

Answers to Questions…

Posted by on Mar 28, 2007 in definition, edification, elders, gathering, office, spiritual gifts | 27 comments

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“:

  1. What is the church (essence, nature, purpose, etc.)?
  2. When does a group of people become a church?
  3. Is one church dependent, independent, or interdependent on other groups?
  4. What is the purpose of the gathering of the church?
  5. How are the various spiritual gifts exercised in the meeting of the church?
  6. What is the nature of church leadership?
  7. 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.

Summary
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.


27 Comments

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

  1. 3-28-2007

    The first Christians have much to teach us, but we must put first things first. There is no higher priority for churches that have lost their way. Thank you, Alan, for “telling us the good news, in season and out” (2 Tim. 4:2). We’re cheering for you as you continue your labors!

  2. 3-28-2007

    Alan-
    I don’t have time to consider each question in depth right now because I need to pack up some rooms before painting, but want to encourage you to keep asking them. It’s so refreshing to interact with someone who wants to “be” Church, instead of “playing” Church.
    Kat

  3. 3-28-2007

    Alan-
    I don’t have time to consider each question in depth right now because I need to pack up some rooms before painting, but want to encourage you to keep asking them. It’s so refreshing to interact with someone who wants to “be” Church, instead of “playing” Church.
    Kat

  4. 3-28-2007

    Alan-
    I don’t have time to consider each question in depth right now because I need to pack up some rooms before painting, but want to encourage you to keep asking them. It’s so refreshing to interact with someone who wants to “be” Church, instead of “playing” Church.
    Kat

  5. 3-28-2007

    Alan-
    I don’t have time to consider each question in depth right now because I need to pack up some rooms before painting, but want to encourage you to keep asking them. It’s so refreshing to interact with someone who wants to “be” Church, instead of “playing” Church.
    Kat

  6. 3-28-2007

    Alan-
    I don’t have time to consider each question in depth right now because I need to pack up some rooms before painting, but want to encourage you to keep asking them. It’s so refreshing to interact with someone who wants to “be” Church, instead of “playing” Church.
    Kat

  7. 3-28-2007

    Alan-
    I don’t have time to consider each question in depth right now because I need to pack up some rooms before painting, but want to encourage you to keep asking them. It’s so refreshing to interact with someone who wants to “be” Church, instead of “playing” Church.
    Kat

  8. 3-28-2007

    Alan-
    I don’t have time to consider each question in depth right now because I need to pack up some rooms before painting, but want to encourage you to keep asking them. It’s so refreshing to interact with someone who wants to “be” Church, instead of “playing” Church.
    Kat

  9. 3-28-2007

    Alan-
    I don’t have time to consider each question in depth right now because I need to pack up some rooms before painting, but want to encourage you to keep asking them. It’s so refreshing to interact with someone who wants to “be” Church, instead of “playing” Church.
    Kat

  10. 3-28-2007

    Alan-
    I don’t have time to consider each question in depth right now because I need to pack up some rooms before painting, but want to encourage you to keep asking them. It’s so refreshing to interact with someone who wants to “be” Church, instead of “playing” Church.
    Kat

  11. 3-28-2007

    Kat,

    I appreciate what you said. I also hope that many more believers will ask questions, then seek answers in the Scriptures.

    -Alan

  12. 3-28-2007

    Alllen,
    Thanks for posting the Q&A. Would you consider running thru these at church? How about distributing them on a pamphlet for sunday nite discussion? I never gave serious consideration to the questions and answers you have posed. For me, I became a Christian and just went along with things, never giving serious thought to ecclesiology as a study or that it was theology. Thank you for your encouragement.

  13. 3-28-2007

    Ed,

    Thanks for the comment, and for recommending that I post some answers to these questions. I would be happy to discuss these questions and answers with anyone. In fact, I have discussed these questions with several people in the church.

    -Alan

  14. 3-28-2007

    2. When does a group of people become a church?

    After thinking about it for a while, could a church be when a group of Christians decide to meet as a church?

    God teaches us according to how we choose. Ps 25:12 (Those that fear Him) So if we choose to worship and serve God together then a church is created.

    Any Christian activity should have the leading of the Holy Spirit. Jesus only did what He saw the Father doing. Jn 8:38 So as followers of Jesus we should walk the same way as Jesus 1 Jn. 2:6 and only act as we understand God leading us.

    When 2 or 3 people gather together in My name, there am I in the midst of them. Matt. 18:20

    This is just a thought.

  15. 3-28-2007

    Scott,

    It is possible that groups of people choose for themselves to become a church. I think there are many “churches” that have come into existence in just that way. Does that mean that group is a church?

    Could it be that when Jesus said, “I will build my church”, that He actually intended do the building? I’m not asking this flippantly or sarcastically. I’m honestly not sure.

    If people do not choose for themselves to be a church, then how does a group of people know? Thus, my study continues…

    -Alan

  16. 3-28-2007

    I have not studied this at all. I am just writing as I think and pray.

    People make a decision to start a church. But is it God breathed? If they are being led by the Holy Spirit I would say yes.

    I think God takes our stumbling attempts and works where we let Him. I think God will jump at the chance to work with people that have Christian love for each other. This love allows us to see the will of God. 1 John 2:9-11

    Can God work with the building blocks of Christian love, faith in His direction, and a desire to serve Him in a church?

    I hope my comments help.

  17. 3-29-2007

    Scott,

    Comments always help. I enjoy reading how other people are working through these questions.

    -Alan

  18. 3-29-2007

    Alan,

    Hi! I’m a friend of Heather’s, and have just recently started reading your blog. I have a question regarding church leaders…..Heather and I were discussing it the other day and she said you would be a good person to ask.

    Hebrews 13:17 says, “Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.” What does that verse mean? I have not done an extensive study, but every thing I read regarding this verse makes the assumption Paul is referring to “church leaders”. Are we to “obey” church leaders, and if so, in doing that, doesn’t that place them at some level of “higher” importance? I like what you said in your answer to #7…”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.”….yet so many leaders are placed on a pedestal…..

    Paige

  19. 3-29-2007

    ETA….oops! I made the mistake again of assuming Paul was the author of Hebrews…doh!

    Paige

  20. 3-29-2007

    Paige,

    Welcome to my blog. You ask an excellent question. I think part of the problem lies in the translation. Just like English words, Greek words have a range of meanings. Compare these two different translations of Heb 13:17:

    “Obey those who rule over you…”

    “Follow/trust those who lead you…”

    Either translation is a valid translation of Heb 13:17. One is at the extreme end of the meaning of each word. One thing that helps is to see how the author of Hebrews (Paul!) used the words in Hebrews. For example, the word translated either “obey” or “follow/trust” is used in the very next verse – Heb 13:18. Either Paul used the same word with a drastically different meaning in the following sentence, or he did not mean “obey” in Heb 13:17.

    -Alan

  21. 3-29-2007

    So it is Paul! :)

    Thanks, Alan. “follow/trust” sounds much better.

    I look forward to reading more of your blog, and really digging into the Word…..I’ve only begun to scratch the surface.

    Blessings!
    Paige

  22. 3-29-2007

    Just saying HI to Paige … my dear, dear friend who is walking this journey with me :) and trying to figure it all out too.

    You really need to register ;) so it stops saying “anonymous”!

    :)

  23. 3-29-2007

    Paige,

    Well, some people would not agree with me about the author of Hebrews or about the translation of Heb 13:17. However, my translation certainly seems to fit better with Jesus’ statement to serve instead of “rule over” and Peter’s statement that elders shouldn’t “lord over” people.

    Heather,

    It’s always good to have friends to share this journey with.

    -Alan

  24. 3-29-2007

    Agreeing with so much of what you say here, and what you have to say generally, I feel kind of bad honing in one phrase I am not sure I completely follow you on here. But, for the sake of discussion…

    I am not sure that being a “decision maker” is necessarily at odds with being a “servant.” Neither am I sure that taking the lead in “decision-making” is the same thing as “lording it over” someone.

    My natural tendency is to avoid the limelight, and let others make decisions. But, as I have matured as a person, and as a disciple, I believe God has shown me that if I am to be faithful to use the gifts God has given me in order to edify the Body, I must be willing at times to speak up, and use whatever wisdom God has given me, in order to help in situations where the flock is perhaps wandering aimlessly, or a “wolf” is leading the “sheep” astray. For me, being bold enough to do this, and go against my natural tendency to just be quiet, can be a real act of “service.” Of course, power and also influence can corrupt, and it can be easy to drift into being too comfortable with leading out in decision-making.

    Also, if there is no difference between those who are leaders in the church and those who are not, why do we even talk about leaders at all? There has got to be some difference. Do you see the difference as being strictly in character and testimony, and not at all in function? Or am I reading too much into what you are saying here?

  25. 3-29-2007

    David,

    I agree with everything you said up to the sentence, “Of course, power and also influence can corrupt…” What you talked about can be used in an authoritative manner, but that is not necessary. To me, the key to being a servant (that is, serving our Master by serving others), is to speak as He directs (or at least, as we think He is directing), without attempting to exercise authority. The authority is in God. If the persons chooses to follow what we say, they should recognize that they are following God, not us.

    You said: “Also, if there is no difference between those who are leaders in the church and those who are not, why do we even talk about leaders at all?” I did not say there is no difference. There is a difference, but it is not in essence or nature. This was the point of my “answer” in this post. Leaders must be obedient to God and live according to the responsibilities that God has given them. But, so must all other believers. In this sense, there is no difference between leaders and other believers. In responsibilities and functions there may be differences.

    -Alan

  26. 3-29-2007

    Alan,

    You say: “In responsibilities and functions there may be differences.”

    I think that perhaps if you were to spell out a bit more what some of these differences might be, it would help me to understand better just what you are saying.

  27. 3-29-2007

    David,

    I’ve started “to spell out a bit more” in several posts lately. The latest one is “What does a bishop oversee?” I know that you already know about that post. But, I am trying to step through this very carefully.

    -Alan

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