Wednesday, February 07, 2007

What is (the) church?

The following excerpt was written by author Dan Kimball. It speaks of identifying what "Church" is and what it is not. I like the way he summarizes it. In reading this, I found that it struck close to home as I've been considering this very issue lately:

"...the primary way leaders view churches today is through the lens of the weekend worship service. It is ingrained in our thinking that the weekend worship service is the primary vehicle and focus for what "church" is. Therefore, as we think of doing something to engage the emerging culture
and generations, we immediately think of the worship service.

Most people in our churches likewise view the weekend worship service as their primary focal point. It is their experience of what "church" is. . . That is far from the scriptural reality of what church is. Church is the people of God on a mission (ICorinthians 12:27, Acts 1:8) - people who spend most of their time outside of the weekend worship gathering. So, I need to state up front that the weekend worship gathering is but one part of a holistic church experience.

The average person is awake 112 hours a week (assuming he or she sleeps eight hours a night). If a person goes to a weekend worship gathering that lasts two hours, then 98.2 percent of their week is not in a weekend worship gathering. To most people, "church" involves only 1.8 percent of their time. The rest is supposedly not "church." This is pretty crazy because in reality you and I and other Christians are the Church 100 percent of the time.

We cannot focus primarily on what to do stylistically, methodologically, or philosophically in the weekend worship gathering. We first need to ask what the "church" is. Then we need to ask how the weekend worship gathering fits within the church's ife and spiritual formation."

The Church Isn't:
~ A “place” or a building you go to.

~ The weekend meeting where a sermon is delivered and some songs are sung.
~ Christians who go to a weekend meeting to get their religious goods and services.
~ Christians who go to “church” on weekends to get their inspiration and feeding for the week.
~ Christians who ask, “What does this church have to offer me?”
~ A place where Christians go to have the pastors do“spiritual” things for them.
~ A place to bring your children and teenagers for their spiritual lessons while you receive your sermon and sing a few songs.

The Church Is:
~ Disciples of Jesus wherever they are.
~ Groups of disciples meeting in homes and other smaller settings throughout the week who may also gather in a larger meeting to worship together on Sunday.
~ The worshipers of a local body on a mission together.
~ The people of God who are passionately dependent upon God in worship and prayer all week long.
~ Disciples of Jesus who ask, “How can I contribute and serve this local body in its mission?”
~ A community where the pastors and leaders equip the people for the mission and to serve one another.
~ A community where leaders help train you to teach your children the ways of God and incorporate children and youth into the community so they aren’t isolated.

Do you see the difference?

"Jesus gave us a mission to be His church and that is what we should build on - the mission, not the worship service. I am fairly convinced that most churches build on the worship service, however, despite the fact that they have a mission statement. Let me explain graphically what I mean:

"I question this whole traditional line of thinking. This ultimately can produce a consumer form of Christianity and teaches people in our churches to focus their Christian experience around the weekend worship service. Have we taught people to think they haven't experienced "church" this week if they didn't go to the worship service? I believe we need to look at church more like this:

"This way of building starts with the mission Jesus gives us (Matthew 28:19, Acts 1:8). It all has to start with defining the mission. The mission is not to start a worship service. The mission is to make disciples.

"We can then develop staff and leadership communities who share the church's mission and help shape its values. Finally, we need to create smaller communities for people to really experience "church". These may be house churches, small groups, meetings in the workplace where Jesus is the focus, etc. Church happens anywhere people are gathered in His Name.

"We need to recognize this and understand this. It is not dependent on people coming to our building and sitting in our meeting. After we think through the other building blocks, we can begin to design a worship gathering. To do this backwards is dangerous and will ultimately produce consumer Christians who "go to church" (a worship service), are not engaged in the mission, and don't see themselves as the church.

"We must remember that the church is not about the worship service, preaching, or music. It also is not about any of the multisensory expressions of worship we create. The church is the people of God on a mission together wherever they are - not just when they are in the meetings we design.

"We have a holy responsibility to shape people's view of the Christian experience. If we shape it on a faulty foundation, then woe to us."

- author Dan Kimball


Thomas said...

FBC Wheaton has been discussing these ideas for about a year now and has started up some activities along these lines. For example the La Spiaza theological coffee house gatherings on Sunday nights.


Nancy said...

Hmmm...where did you get this information? Sounds interesting and "vaguely" familiar! I know of a great church that is leaning in this direction!