the weblog of Alan Knox

City Church – A Chain Blog

Posted by on May 26, 2008 in chain blog, definition | 31 comments

This is the first post of a “chain blog” concerning the topic of “city church”.

When we read Acts and the Epistles, we can’t help but notice that the church is usually designated by a location. Specifically, the church is primarily identified with a city: the church in Jerusalem, the church in Antioch, the church in Ephesus, the church in Colossae, the church in Philippi. In fact, “city churches” are identified in more than ten different cities in the New Testament.

However, we rarely hear of a “city church” today. You do not hear about the church in Raleigh (the nearest large city to me), or the church in Chicago, or the church in London, etc. (Yes, I know there are exceptions, and if you are familiar with those exceptions, I would encourage you to share that with us.)

For me, this raises the question: Is it valid for us to discount the “city church” in the New Testament and assume that it has no validity for us today? If the concept of a “city church” is valid today, then what would that look like? I’ve listed several categories below. What does the idea of “city church” look like in each category?

Would a “city church” meet together? What would be the purpose of such a meeting? Who would organize the meeting? What activities should be part of a “city church” meeting?

Would a “city church” have leaders? Would leaders within individual churches comprise the leadership of a “city church”? What would be the responsibilities of leaders toward a “city church”?

Besides meetings, what other types of activities would a “city church” be involved in? How would the activities of a “city church” differ from the activities of individual believers?

How would a “city church” interact with and cooperate with individual churches and individual believers?

Is it possible to have a “city church” with little to no defined structure? Does a “city church” require more strict or less strict structure and organization than individual churches?

A Start
When we read Scripture and we see the authors discuss the church in a particular city, these references to “city churches” seem strange. In our culture – even in our church culture – there is very little emphasis or discussion of “city church”. Instead, this important designation in Scripture is usually relegated to an embryonic church or a different culture. However, I think there is more to learn from Scripture concerning the “city church”. In particular, I believe that as we learn more about how the authors of Scripture refer to the church in a particular city, we may learn more about how we should relate and interact with many (or perhaps all) believers in our area. At this point, at least, it appears that early believers knew more about the other believers in their cities than many of us know today. In fact, these early believers seemingly spent time with and interacted with a larger section of the church than we tend to relate to today. Perhaps, by studying these city churches in Scripture, we can at least recognize the necessity of our own interdependence between different groups of believers.

If you have some ideas related to “city church”, then please share them with us. Perhaps you can think of other questions related to “city church”. Share those as well. I look forward to learning alot about “city church” through this chain blog, and I may even decide to write another link in the chain later.


Chain blog rules:
1) If you would like to write the next blog post (link) in this chain, leave a comment stating that you would like to do so. If someone else has already requested to write the next link, then please wait for that blog post and leave a comment there requesting to write the following link.
2) Feel free to leave comments here and discuss items in this blog post without taking part in the actual “chain”. Your comments and discussion are very important in this chain blog.
3) When you write a link in this chain, please reply in the comments of the previous link to let everyone know that your link is ready. Also, please try to keep an updated list of links in the chain at the bottom of your post, and please include these rules at the bottom of your post.


“City Church” Chain
Link 1: “City Church – A Chain Blog” by Alan Knox
Link 2: “City Church: Meeting” by Charlie Wallace
Link 3: “Roadblocks on the Path to City Church” by David Rogers
Link 4: “The Major Roadblock to a City Church” by Steve Sensenig
Link 5: “The Resurrection of the City Church: Who Will Move the Stone?” by Paul Grabill
Link 6: “A City Church Thought Experiment” by Jon Amos
Link 7: “The Restoration of the City or Locality Church and Apostolic Leadership” by James Goetz
Link 8: “Unity and the Church in a City” by Alan Knox
Link 9: ?


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

  1. 5-26-2008

    Hey Alan,

    I haven’t really studied too much about the city church, apart from the fact that each church is usually identified with a city. I do not think it is valid for us to discount the city church in the New Testament.

    I think the city church would look similar to what we see today, a number of groups meeting in various locations… with one caveat – these groups would not be separate from one another. What I mean is, there would be no reason for one person to consider themselves a member of one group – but not the other groups. I think the city church would look like a giant web, some areas are tightly woven, but there are strings of relationships between each main web.

    Also, regarding scripture, I find 1 Cornithians to be an interesting letter. I think it sheds some credence to my believe because it is written to the Church in Corinth (Colossians 1:1). However in Colossians 4:15-16 it seems like Paul greets the church that is in Laodicea as well as the group that is in Nympha’s house.

    I suppose it is possible that Nympha’s house is in a region outside any city limits… in which case my theory would be essentially wrong.

    I’ll definitely have to study up more on all this before coming to a solid conclusion.


    God’s Glory,
    Lew A

    The Pursuit Online Store

  2. 5-26-2008

    This was a very good post and has me chewing on the city church.

    I obviously believe that we should not ‘discount’ the city church as told in the Scripture. I think that we can larn a lot from them.

    However, I am very sceptical that we as individuals can gleem enough information to ‘implement’ the city church.

    We are too individuaistic and have our own agenda to truly think about the kingdom of God and what it could mean for our towns and cities if we implemented the city church.

    If we had enough guts and faith, I think that if we stepped out and attemptedit and ‘pulled’ it off; it would be a tremendous witness to those outside of Christ.

    I think that by doing so, we would be living the most powerful apologetics the world has ever seen.

    We have 2,000 years of trash and garbage that we need to move to pull it off.


  3. 5-26-2008


    Good topic. Not only does Acts show specific churches as having the name of the city, Paul also pleads that the church (Corinth especially) be unified, or one. I wonder what Paul would think about our present day church situation.

    This plea for unity is one of the arguments that the Catholic church makes against Protestants.

    On a related not, the ICC (International Church of Christ – which is a cult, by the way) establishes one congregation per city like the Acts model.

  4. 5-26-2008


    I think you’ve brought up an interesting point. From Scripture, can we make a valid argument that someone can be a member of one church within a city, but not a member of another church within the same city? I understand the practical arguments, but can we make that argument from Scripture? It seems that “membership” in Scripture was more related to regeneration (by the Spirit) and relationship than to organization.

    I did not understand your comment about Corinth and Colossians… did you mean that you found Colossians to be an interesting letter… written to the Church in Colossae?


    It seems that you are thinking in the same general direction that I’m thinking in regards to the “city church”. If we try to create something, it will end up reflecting our own agendas and motivations and priorities. Perhaps, like you said, the city church is more something that we recognize and learn from. And, like you said, there is “2000 years of trash and garbage” that we have to wade through and look beyond before we can start recognizing our interdependence upon one another and begin learning from one another.


    Good point. Recognizing one church in each city is not the “be all end all”. There are other very important aspects of following Christ. You asked what Paul would think about our situation today… I often wonder how Paul would send a letter to the church today.


    These are excellent comments to start this discussion. I hope that each of you will consider writing the next link in this chain blog. You don’t have to answer all of the questions about “city church”. Instead, you could even take your comment and expand on it some.

    Who is willing to write the next link post in the chain in the next few days?


  5. 5-26-2008


    If the Body of Christ is made up of those who have been saved by grace “through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast”, the “church” already exists, whether in a village, a town,a city, a region, or a country.

    I think we may be tightening our definitions much more than the Scriptures do when we want to identify “a city church”, and as a result restarting the process which led to our present egotistically individualistic situation.

    Surely, as letters were written, the main intent of the writer, in using a city name, was to simply identify to whom it was originally written, not to define a church in a geographical place.

    If a Christian, or a group of Christians, were actually making disciples,loving one another as Christ loved us,continually devoting ourselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer,denying ungodliness and worldly desires and living sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, then, as Jesus said, “..all men will know that you are my disciples”.

    There is the definition, which cannot be found in an appellation which has a geographical location.

    Certainly unbelievers will recognize such believers in a location, giving them a name and acting according to their nature.

    Or! Am I being carried away by idealism?

  6. 5-26-2008

    Yeah, I changed books mid-comment… I meant to say:

    Also, regarding scripture, I find Colossians to be an interesting letter. I think it sheds some credence to my believe because it is written to the Church in Colossia(Colossians 1:1). However in Colossians 4:15-16 it seems like Paul greets the church that is in Laodicea as well as the group that is in Nympha’s house.

  7. 5-26-2008

    Aussie John,

    I think you may be on to something. I don’t think you’re being ideal… I think you’re being scriptural.


    Yes, that makes more sense. Thanks for the clarification.


  8. 5-27-2008


    I’ll continue the chain blog if that option is still open.

  9. 5-27-2008


    Yes, that option is still available! Thank you for volunteering to write the next post. I was afraid this discussion was going to die with this first post.

    Please post a comment here with a link to your new post when its ready.


  10. 5-27-2008

    Yea for Charlie !

    I was hoping someone else would jump on it. I have been throwing thoughts around but not in a manner that I thought was a follow-up worthy post.


    I wish that there would be a way for a loose network (representative-maybe from each church) where everyone could funnel info on the church and celebrate what is happening or share (mourn) struggle and then the info can be passed out (this is what is occurring in our city).

    Not really sure. We need some type of connection.

  11. 5-27-2008


    I’ll have it up either tomorrow or Thursday and will post the link on this comment thread.

  12. 5-27-2008


    I like your idea of a loose network. My only concern about the “representative” approach is that the representatives usually tend to be pastors. Meanwhile, I’ve rarely heard pastors encourage others to form relationships with those who are part of other churches within their city. I think I would like this better if this network was relationship-based instead of representative-based. But, perhaps that’s what you had in mind.

    You should think about fleshing this idea out in a future link in this chain blog. I’d love to think through it more.


    I’m looking forward to your post!


  13. 5-27-2008


    As I mentioned when you first posted about this idea, I will probably contribute as well. But, in the meantime, I am glad Charlie “stepped up to the plate” and “bought me some more time” to “get my act together.” Hopefully I’ll be able to come up with something halfway coherent to add before the chain dies off.

  14. 5-27-2008


    I’m looking forward to what you contribute to this chain blog. I’ve already enjoyed talking with you about this topic, and look forward to even more.


  15. 5-27-2008


    The second post to “city church” will be up on my website at 6 am tomorrow morning (Wednesday)

  16. 5-28-2008


    Thanks for writing the next link in this chain discussion.


    Charlie’s post can be found here: “City Church: Meeting


  17. 5-28-2008
  18. 5-28-2008


    Thanks for the post. This is turning into a good discussion. I have some ideas for a follow-up post, but I’m hoping one or two others jump in first.


  19. 5-29-2008

    Alan, I’ll take the next link, if that’s ok. I didn’t see your comment about a follow-up post until after I left a comment at David’s, but if I read your comment correctly, you weren’t actually taking the next link, right?

  20. 5-30-2008

    Alan, I’d be happy to jump in and take a number.

    Thanks for starting this chain on such an important topic.

    Paul Grabill
    The Church of State College, PA

  21. 5-30-2008


    I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. I’ve enjoyed reading many of your posts and comments through David Rogers’ blog. Perhaps you can post something after Steve posts his link. Just comment on Steve’s post when he publishes it and let him know that you’d like to post the next link in the chain.


  22. 6-10-2008

    Hi Allen, I put together my two cents. Would you like to link my article “The Restoration of the City or Locality Church and Apostolic Leadership”?

    If yes, then I’ll add an introduction that explains your “Chain Blog”.

  23. 6-10-2008

    Alan, sorry I misspelled “Alan”.:)

  24. 6-10-2008


    I’ve added a link to your blog post. Thanks for taking part. I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but I will soon.


  25. 6-10-2008

    Thank you, Alan.

    I’m trying to figure out how to work the “link to this site” with no luck yet.

  26. 6-11-2008

    And Alan, I would appreciate any critique from an adjunct professor of Greek who likes to focus on ecclesiology.:)

  27. 6-11-2008


    Thanks for the blog post and the links. I’ve read your post and left a comment to continue the discussion. Thanks again!


  28. 6-12-2008

    Alan, I have a logistical suggestion for any future chain blog that you or anybody else might want to do. Perhaps your rules could say that all new links should reply to all previous links instead of merely the last link. This could be the only realistic way that all of the earlier links will know that the chain is continuing. Here’s a small modification of rule 3.

    “3) When you write a link in this chain, please reply in the comments of all previous links to let everyone know that your link is ready. Also, please try to keep an updated list of links in the chain at the bottom of your post, and please include these rules at the bottom of your post.”

  29. 6-13-2008


    Great idea! I’m going to include your modification in my next post.


  30. 6-16-2008

    I’ve posted link #8 in this chain blog in a post called “Unity and the Church in a City“.


  31. 11-16-2009

    It’s more than a year past this discussion, but, being motivated by the topic, I have begun to engage the chain:


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