the weblog of Alan Knox

The who, what, and why

Posted by on Jul 25, 2009 in blog links | 5 comments

Joe (JR) (from “More than Cake“) and I have a lot in common. We’re both web developers. We’re both seminary students working on a doctorate. We’re both pastors/elders. We both care deeply about the church.

In his post, “A Positive Vision for Church,” Joe quotes Tim Chester, then makes the following statement himself:

The church must be flexible in how we participate in our communal worship, but where we must focus on our energy is on the mission of reaching the lost with the Good News of Jesus Christ. Let each church follow its own collective conscience on “how“, “when“, and “where” to worship and instead spend more time encouraging our communities to live out the “who“, “what“, and “why” of the Gospel.

I’m in complete agreement with Joe on this! As I commented on Joe’s post, this is the reason that my dissertation top is the purpose of the church gathering instead of where the church should gather.

Like Joe (and Laura who also commented on Joe’s post), I’m also very interested identity – who we are in Christ as the church. In fact, I think the ‘what’ and ‘why’ of the church and the church gathering flow from the ‘who’. Similarly, if the ‘who’, ‘what’, and ‘why’ are in place, then the ‘how’, ‘when’, and ‘where’ will be natural (or supernatural).

For example, the church that we meet with is currently looking for a new meeting place – a ‘where’. When the church met to talk about looking for a new space, we began by discussing ‘who’, ‘what’, and ‘why’. From there, it was easy to set parameters for the ‘where’ – wherever that may be. We have decided against several wonderful looking locations because the place would contradict or hinder the ‘who’, ‘what’, and ‘why’.

Do you think its important that the church understand the ‘who’, ‘what’, and ‘why’ of the church? Are these more important than ‘how’, ‘when’, and ‘where’?


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

  1. 7-25-2009

    I think it is vitally important that the church understand what it is and why it exists before they decide the other questions.

    From what I’ve seen the biggest cause for dysfunction in the church is that people don’t know Jesus and they have a very distorted idea of the gospel. Without Christ as that foundation people don’t have a lot to bring to particapatory gatherings.

    Here is a quick little progression. (I’m sure it could be better written)

    1) Christ loved us before the foundation of the world
    2) We know and embrace Christ and His love
    3) We are cleansed from sin and empowered by the Spirit
    4) We form live giving relationships bonded by sacrificial love as we gather in groups of all sizes (2’s, 3’s, small groups, big groups). In these groups we minister to one another and continue to grow in grace. Through this we come to understand the other 3 steps more and more.

    Without knowing and living steps 1, 2 and 3 step 4 is lifeless and dead regardless of the meeting. Having 1, 2, and 3 without 4 is liking driving with the parking brake on.

  2. 7-25-2009

    I think this is especially applicable when we look at the “sacraments”. I run into people on a regular basis who are a lot more concerned with how we observe the supper (the liturgy, the elements, fencing the table) than they are with why we observe the Supper.

  3. 7-26-2009


    It seems that when many churches get established in a building and start to grow, the ‘where’ and ‘when’ dominate. The ‘who’ and ‘what’ must then fit into these boundaries, with the ‘how’ as a consequence of circumstances. The ‘why’ won’t then matter as much. Many ‘whos’ then float around without being able to fit in anywhere to a ‘what.’

    Who’s on second? Who’s on first. I don’t know. Third base!

  4. 7-27-2009


    “I think it is vitally important that the church understand what it is and why it exists before they decide the other questions.” Exactly. And, like you said, we tend to spend more time on the auxiliary issues instead of the main issues.


    Yes, I think sacraments can be one of the issues where we skip the important questions.


    Yes, we get it backwards. We start with and fix the least important issues, and allow those to define the most important issues.


  5. 7-28-2009

    Having just finished three books on philosophy, the notions of essential and accidental properties come to mind: putting where, when, and how before who, what, and why is rather like deciding whether an item is an apple by determining whether or not it is red. It has things quite backwards.


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