the weblog of Alan Knox

Re-defining the church

Posted by on May 16, 2008 in definition | 9 comments

This is not an article about the scriptural definition of the church. Instead, it is about how our terminology and use of words has worked in such a way as to re-define our understanding of church. I mean “re-define” in the sense of defining church in a manner that is not consistent with the description of the church that we see in Scripture.

What kinds of terms and words am I talking about? Well, there are many. And, I’ll list a few later. But for now, when you read about the church, when you watch television programs that discuss the church, when you see churches arguing and fighting to the point of splitting, when you see Christians talking about important aspects of the church, what terms and phrases are used? What concepts concerning “church” are important to believers today as demonstrated by their conversations and writings?

I would suggest that many times you will see believers talking about these things in relation to the church: church buildings, church covenants, church constitutions, Bible study programs, discipleship programs, children’s programs, youth programs, church budgets, leadership strategies, church vision, church mission statements, hiring and firing staff, music styles, use of instruments, use of technology, pews or chairs, expository vs. topical vs. thematic preaching, accountability groups, invitations, education, church membership, local church, senior pastors, associate pastors, …

The list could go on and on… These are the things that are important to many believers today when it comes to church. But, all of these items have one thing in common: Scripture does not mention these items in association with the church.

What we (in general) consider important to the church, Scripture does not indicate is important to the church. (At least, if it is important, we must ask why we do not find it in Scripture.)

Could it be that we are struggling to understand what it means to be the church because we are focusing on issues that are not important to being the church? Could it be that we are spending so much time searching Scripture for the implications of our priorities that we miss God’s priorities which are explicit in Scripture?


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

  1. 5-16-2008

    Ahh, so you’re against “biblical church membership”, too?

    Welcome to the club.

  2. 5-16-2008

    It seems like you and I are always a few days apart in our thoughts. It is interesting what could happen when we begin to focus on those things that God finds important. At least I think so…

  3. 5-16-2008

    Great post. You’re dead on….most are of time and energy is spent dealing with the non-biblical aspects of church. Which is probably why we struggle so much….

  4. 5-16-2008


    I wrote this post a little over a week ago. Originally, I had scheduled to publish it the day I published the “Cup o’ Joe” post, but decided to replace this post with the coffee one. Honestly, I forgot that “church membership” was in my list. I’m not against “members of the church”, but I am against the way “church membership” is usually used.


    Unfortunately, I’ve been very busy and haven’t been able to read your post. I’ll try to look it up tomorrow afternoon or evening. Thanks for the notice!

    Camel Rider,

    Thanks for the comment. Often we get distracted by things that seem important to us – even things that we think we can’t live without.


  5. 5-17-2008

    I’m not against “members of the church”, but I am against the way “church membership” is usually used.

    Exactly. I’m right there with you. At any rate, I was speaking tongue-in-cheek.

  6. 5-17-2008

    The good news is that God is awakening many to what being his bride and His kingdom is all about.

  7. 5-17-2008


    Yes, I know you were speaking tongue-in-cheek. But, given our recent discussion on another blog, I may have removed the “church membership” item from the list if I had remembered it was there. However, I’m glad I left it.


    I think you’re right.


  8. 5-19-2008

    Right on Alan!! In many ways the church has become something it was never intended to be. Alot of the props that have become what the church is in the minds of people have been created to control people, I believe. In many ways religion is not any different today than it was when Jesus was here fulfilling His 3 1/2 year ministry.

  9. 5-19-2008


    Thanks for the comment. One of the things that caused me to start studying ecclesiology is that I noticed that today’s church as a whole cannot be found in the New Testament. Instead, it has to be justified from a sentence here, or a clause there, or an implication elsewhere. Like you said, I think the church organizations of today are not what God intends the church to be.



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