the weblog of Alan Knox

Is Our Understanding of "Church" Important?

Posted by on Oct 10, 2008 in definition | Comments Off

For the next few days, my son and I will be hiking and camping part of the Appalachian trail in Pennsylvania. While I’m away, I’m going to re-publish some of my older posts – posts that many of you have not read. As you can tell, I wrote some of these during my earliest examinations of the church in Scripture. Feel free to comment or discuss the posts among yourselves. I’ll try to reply to your comments when I return.

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Is Our Understanding of “Church” Important?

Many times I’m asked why it is important what we think about the church, as long as we trust Jesus. Well, I think it is important for many reasons. Hopefully, this story will demonstrate one reason.

Yesterday, I needed a haircut. I have a fail-safe way of knowing when it is time to get a haircut: my wife tells me. If it were not for her, I would probably look like one of those strange evil scientists, or like I had had a bad experience with an electrical outlet. After work, I went to a local shop to get a haircut, and I took my son with me, because his haircut alarm had sounded as well. We went to one of those “masculine” places that look like a locker room and have televisions showing ESPN.

Jeremy went first, then it was my turn. Jodi seemed to be a nice, capable hair stylist. We made small talk about our families and her school and stuff like that. Mainly, I tried not to fall asleep while she cut my hair. I don’t know what it is about getting my haircut, but it always makes me sleepy. So, about half-way through I was staring at the T.V., trying to ignore a movie ad while keeping my eye-lids open. I was about as lucid as a college student in an 8:00 Greek class, when Jodi began talking about the movie ad that I was trying so hard to ignore.

She said, (and this is paraphrase because I didn’t have a voice recorder) “I’m not really a religious person, but I don’t think I could go see something like that. Its just not right at Christmas.”

By the time she finished her thought, and my thoughts had caught up with her words, I realized that the T.V. was showing an ad for the horror flick “Black Christmas.”

I mumbled something like, “I’m surprised at how many non-religious people care about Christmas.” I half expected this to be the end of the conversation. But it wasn’t…

Jodi said, “Oh, I’m religious, I guess. I mean, I believe in God. I just don’t believe in church.” Now, I was wide awake and paying attention. She continued, “I used to go to church, but it all seemed to be about dressing up to fool people about what you did the rest of the week so someone could tell me how to be religious, as if I couldn’t understand it myself. I read the Bible and I can understand it.” (She wasn’t angry, just speaking matter-of-factly.)

I thought for a moment, and said, “You may not believe this, but actually, I agree with you about much of that.”

She began talking about reading the Bible and calling her dad when she had a question, and the conversation turned away from church. But that brief conversation made me remember something: the way we understand “church” and the way that we portray “church” affects us and other people. I’m certain that none of the churches that Jodi had attended would agree, in theory, with what she learned about church. But, she learned it from them.

She did not learn that church is a community of believers who desire to encourage one another in their life. She did not learn that church is a Spirit-empowered and Spirit-led group of people. She did not learn that any believer is just as important as any other believer.

What did she learn? She learned that church is a place to go. She learned that what happened outside of the building was of negligible value to God. She learned that only professionals are capable of understanding and communicating the Bible.

What are you communicating about the church?