the weblog of Alan Knox

Defining Church

Posted by on Nov 18, 2009 in books, definition | 15 comments

Last night, I read Dave Black’s new booklet Christian Archy. (I would highly recommend it.) This is not a book review. Instead, I wanted to mention his “definition” of church:

The church is… a people in community whose mission is to spread the rule of Christ. (18)

He then adds this:

The purpose of the Body of Christ is to make Jesus visible in the world. (18)

And, what is our responsibility as the church toward one another? Why do we meet together?

As members of Christ’s missionary Body, our purpose is to build up the community of the saints in mission to the world. (20)

I like this definition. In fact, I’ve almost convinced myself to write a series of posts unpacking the definition and the implications.

What do you think of Black’s definition of the church?


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  1. 11-18-2009

    I like, as part of my winnings 8) I order the book and will review it! But more importantly hopefully it will impact my life much like the Paradigm is doing, I am working though the implications of that book now.

  2. 11-18-2009


    I received my copy of Dave’s little book yesterday, and also read it last night, and find myself completely at one with his understanding of the church.

  3. 11-18-2009

    I am also using my plunder from the essay contest on Christian Archy. I wonder if that defines the church or the local, visible manifestation of the church? There is a universality about the church that goes far beyond those we are in community with.

  4. 11-18-2009


    Which part of Dave Black’s definition causes you to squirm the most? Which part do you struggle with the most?


    I’m looking forward to your review. I haven’t decided if I’m going to write a review or not.

    Aussie John,

    I’ve talked with Dave Black and read some of his essays concerning “Christian Archy.” I think this booklet explains “Christian Archy” and its implications the best. What do you think?


    Actually, I think this definition is better than most at encompassing both the local or geographical church as well as the more general or universal church. In any of its aspects I believe the church is (should be?) “a people in community whose mission is to spread the rule of Christ.”


  5. 11-18-2009

    Alan, I agree. I would also say that you and are in “the church” with one another in spite of our geographic distance and that we might never be in visible community with one another. I may be reading too much into it.

  6. 11-18-2009

    Reminds me of Yoder’s quote: The church is the new world on the way.

  7. 11-18-2009

    I am looking forward to reading Dave Black’s new book. I really like his definition of the church, I also like the definition used by one of Dave’s former students, Neil Cole. Here is the definition used by Cole and CMA Resources:

    The Church is the presence of Jesus among His people, called out as a spiritual family to pursue His mission on this planet.

  8. 11-19-2009


    Yes. And, the closer our geographic association is, the closer our relational association should be. Of course, the internet and other forms of communication (even letters) changes this some, but probably not in general.


    Thanks for sharing the Yoder quote. He is on my short list of authors that I must read, but I haven’t read yet.

    Jonathan (jgrubbs),

    Is the church “the presence of Jesus among his people”, or “the people among whom Jesus is present”? Perhaps there’s no difference in the two statements?


  9. 11-19-2009

    Wait…didn’t church used to equal “body of Christ?” Meaning that it had global implications. Now it means a community with a mission? I appreciate the work this author put into his book, but he’s over-thinking it.

  10. 11-19-2009

    I really like his thinking here. Especially,

    The purpose of the Body of Christ is to make Jesus visible in the world. (18)

    This is very profound and has real implications for how we love each other, our neighbors, and our enemies. Feel free to unpack any of this you want to, I will look forward to that.

  11. 11-19-2009


    Like I said to Arthur, I think Dave Black’s definition includes both the global (general) and local (geographical) aspects of the church, much like we see the Greek term ekklesia (assembly) used in Scripture.


    I haven’t decided if I’m going to write that series or not. I’m still working through some of the implications of the definition.


  12. 11-19-2009


    It’s certainly the best that I’ve come across!

    Dave’s book lifts the veil on the traditional church scene which has been a part of most of my life, a scene in which, religious politics, and personal agendas were the guide to how the institutional “church” functioned then and now.

    I would rewrite the first sentence of his introduction as follows: “There is perhaps no clearer example of the church’s misguided appropriation of the world than the god of individualistic religion.”

    In this country, the corporate-ness of nationalism struggles, to even take a breath, where the tough individualistic “Crocodile Dundee” figure is revered as the model, especially amongst men.

    The three points of the Dave’s “Major Tenets of Christian Archy”, (I’m generalizing) don’t even get to first base:

    1.The Gospel is not concerned with the kingdom of God, but with backsides on seats, who equate to financial security, impressive buildings, and very importantly, the ambitions of the CEO.

    2. God simply cannot do it without our help. God needs the CEO’s seal of approval on anything anyone else is constrained to do.

    3. There is simply no recognition that worldly archys have no “actual power or ultimate significance”. Gender, class and social standing are still very important, the latter, especially if obviously a financial success. The Holy Spirit (would’t it be good if we left the definite article off His name?) is only obliquely in the picture if ever.

    That’s what I think. Hope that answers your question.

  13. 11-19-2009

    You ask, “Which part of Dave Black’s definition causes you to squirm the most? Which part do you struggle with the most?”

    For me, the first part: The church is… a people in community whose mission is to spread the rule of Christ.

    I really like how this sounds and certainly agree, but we know so little of what entails the “rule of Christ”. We think Christ rules because we call our Christians, or followers of Christ. Yet, in reality we are ruled by our finances, jobs, organizations we work for, denominations and churches that rule far more than Christ. There are so many competing kingdoms in our lives that make the rule of Christ almost meaningless rhetoric.

  14. 11-19-2009

    Aussie John,

    I think your anti-Christian Archy tenets are alive and well among Christians and churches in America as well.


    The idea of “rule of Christ” is the topic of Dave Black’s booklet Christian Archy. I think you would like it.


  15. 11-20-2009

    I would like to get hold of a copy “Rule of Christ”, where? Wolfgang Simson’s “Starfish Manifesto” is also heavy on this subject. I am slowly making my way through it now.


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