the weblog of Alan Knox

Another question about defining the church

Posted by on Apr 29, 2010 in definition | 6 comments

so, this afternoon, inspired by our earlier conversation, I started talking with a couple of brothers about another question related to defining the church – or answering the question “what is a church”.

If five people are regularly in the same place at the same time once per week, but those five people never see one another, much less speak to or interact with one another, are those five people church together? What would your answer be if the place was a restaurant? What would your answer be if the place was a building set aside for church meetings? Would your answer be different in those two situations? Why or why not?


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  1. 4-29-2010

    I can answer until you tell me if they five people are pre-, post- or a- millennial.

  2. 4-30-2010

    You rascal! This really does surface the gut-definition we grew up with for the church, centered around the building/Sunday meeting.

    As much as I know better, as long as I’ve known better, as often as I’ve experienced differently, my instincts still tug at me to see the group meeting at a “church” building every Sunday at 11 AM (and yes, you didn’t specify day or time but “I know” what these should be and fill them in inside my head anyway) are a legit church (and yes, without any need at all to see or talk to each other at all during the week). The sign in front can even be a hand painted piece of plywood propped on a stick. That right there is a church, brother!

    (And, truly, they are, whether well or not.)

    If these are believers (OK, if even two of them are), they ARE “the” church. I don’t think the question can or should be if they are “A” church. I don’t think we read of “a church (independent, autonomous, self-supporting yada yada) that meets in your house,” but, “the (part of the local) church that meets in your house.”

    I don’t think we are defining the church (or *groan* “A” church) as much as we should be defining why and what a church should be fulfilling when it is functioning as He designed and provided for it (and not focusing narrowly on describing what “this particular group” looks like at this time in this place among this people). The first is God as artist; the second is man doing paint-by-numbers.

    When believers get together, we and the world can say, “Look, the church.” It becomes more visible to us. But they were and are the church gathered or not. Functioning appropriately or not.

    We can be idiots as the church or we can look like I Thess as the church, but we ARE the church all the time, anywhere.

    To function well as the church together, to experience that together–well, this is what He desires, and it all centers around Him and what He has done and proclaiming/evidencing this in the world. All of His provision for us is toward that being realized in this present evil world, including what was recorded in scripture for us, His gifts, His positioning us in Himself, etc.

  3. 4-30-2010

    By the way, in the same way we could say Israel was “doing God proud” at times and acting like idiots at other times, but they were still Israel. They were even still Israel when divided, conquered, and scattered (just like us now), even though they were designed to be the greatest, healthiest, most powerful, most filled with goodness and kindness nation on the earth. But, oh, oops, we stink at doing God’s will on earth. Both we and Israel stink (stunk).

    But we still His little chil’un, and He adores us, protects us, teaches us, guides us and prunes us. You share God’s heart, you loves His people, period. And, you want everyone to know Abba, too–who He is and what He has done. In between stinking at it all.

  4. 4-30-2010

    thats what i do at the lake. we just gather.
    a funny story, we gather sat morns and a lady saw me setting up… being sat she asked if we were seventh day Adventists.. i was put off, but quickly answered, no we are every day Adventists… be blessed folks

  5. 4-30-2010

    They are the church, they’re just not acting like it.

  6. 5-1-2010

    In regard to this question I have found the FAQs on the ‘Church Today’ on the following site very helpful and maybe you will too.