Summary: “What is a church?” Now that seems like a easy question, the sort of question one might answer in an simple sentence or two. “A church is a building in which Christians meet for worship,” is one obvious answer. “ Why is this study called Who is Church?
Who is the Church?
“The Church confronts the world with a message the world craves for but resents because it comes through the Cross of Christ.” Oswald Chambers
Read Romans Chapter 12.
“What is a church?”
Now that seems like a easy question, the sort of question one might answer in an simple sentence or two. “A church is a building in which Christians meet for worship,” is one obvious answer. “
Why is this study called Who is Church? Rather than What is Church? “A church is a group of Christians who gather together to worship or fellowship together”
People have a wide range of ideas about what church should be. If you ask a dozen people you’d probably get a dozen different answers. Most people get their ideas about church from a wide variety of sources.
Before you came to church what shaped your expectation of church?
When you first came to church was it what you expected?
Where do most people get their ideas from about what church is?
Some people get their ideas of church from their past experience of church. Many people come to church with no religious background. They may have some prior history limited to weddings and funerals. People usually have both positive and negative past experiences from which to draw.
Some people get their ideas of church from the news. Much of the time, what people get from the news is not very positive. Church scandals make headlines. Churches that are faithfully living out the Christian life are ignored by the media.
Personal needs and preferences
Some people get their ideas of church from a projection of their personal needs and preferences. They may have a need and assume the church is the place that should meet that specific need. The church does meet many needs. Often people are drawn to church because of that are not the church’s main business. For example, someone might come to church hoping to make new friends.
Some people expect the church to be like some similar organisation or event. For example, some people expect a church to be like a concert. When you go to a concert, you file into an auditorium. You sit in rows and watch something happening on the stage up front. If the concert is any good, you feel lots of positive emotions. At times you might even get into the act, but just a bit. You leave feeling uplifted and satisfied by the performance. Church, for many people, is just like this, only better, because you don’t need a ticket, and don’t even have to pay anything if you don’t want to.
School or club
Some people think of church like a school. They come for religious education. For others, a church is like a club, perhaps a social club or a service club. Churches have regular meetings. We have members and a process for joining. Members can become leaders in the church. We do lots of different things together, including service projects and social gatherings. At church, as in a club, we make friends and find a centre for our socialising.
Some people today see the church as some kind of shop. Small churches are like neighbourhood markets; large churches are like department stores. Both churches and shops “sell” products. Both have professional staff. Both “market” their wares in the community, hoping to attract interested “consumers.” Larger churches, like larger shops, offer a wide array of “products.” Smaller churches, like small shops, offer more personal service but fewer “products.” If the church you attend provides what you want to consume, you continue to go there.
If that church stops meeting your needs, you think nothing of finding a better church, just as you might switch markets or clothing shops.
It’s also common for some people to see the church like a hospital. When you’re physically sick, you go to a hospital to get well. Similarly, churches promise to help you overcome your spiritual ailments. Both hospitals and churches have professional experts to help you heal (doctors, pastors).
Both hospitals and churches offer specialised treatments for particular ailments. People who care staff both hospitals and churches, or at least that’s the way it should be.
All of these analogous institutions – concerts, schools, clubs, stores, and hospitals – are like churches in many ways.
Thinking of a church in these categories may seem to make sense, to a point.
But if people see a church exclusively in light of these analogies, they will misunderstand essential aspects of church life. For example:
A church is like a concert, but it’s better to see a worship service as a concert in which God is the audience and the worshippers are they performers, turning the concert imagery upside down.