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?