Just read a great post on the meaning of the word “church” over on koinoniablog.net. You can read the whole post here.
I almost wholeheartedly agree with Bill here, so I thought I would highlight some things I especially appreciated and also take him to task on a couple others.
Bill replies to the typical Historical Protestant response to the definition of church, “where the gospel is taught rightly, the sacraments served properly, and church discipline exercised.”
“Of course, this definition has virtually nothing to do with the biblical text and more to do with the reformers attempt to distinguish themselves from the Roman Catholic church.”
I find this to be a very good point. First of all, this is clearly separatist language. Second, while it does address a historical issue, it clearly avoids a more biblically based definition. Such a definition may correctly reflect a certain theological persuasion, but lacks scriptural merit.
So, he goes on to define the church/ekklesia as:
“…the community of believers who have been “called out” of the world to belong to King Jesus. It is never identified with a building but always with the people. The church may meet in a building, but it is not the building, the home; the church is the people (e.g., Phlm 2; Col 4:15). The true church is the visible expression of the expanding Kingdom of God.”
And then further states:
“There is only one church, the church universal, and there are local expressions of the church in various places at various times. The church is never to be equated with buildings or institutions or denominations.”
But this really gets to the essence of the church:
“The church is the community of believers who meet together, regularly and irregularly, to love one another, care for one another, carry one another’s burdens, stir up one another to love and good works, confess their sins to one another. “
And the pièce de résistance is his commentary on the above:
“When was the last time any of this happened in a large room with well-dressed people and the organ or drums blaring? If an institution is not carrying out the requirements Scripture places on the church, is it the church?”
Now, why is this so important?
Because so many Christians have been culturally conditioned to think of church as either a place to go on Sunday or worse “God’s house/temple” where they can meet him during a worship service.
If there is one thing that I believe we need to get straight it is this – the church is a community.
So much of what Christians do in the name of “church” these days is nothing but the dead weight of about 1,800 years of failing to grasp the truth and simplicity of what God intended and replacing it with unnecessary tradition and obligation. But more on this in a later post…
So the only place I disagreed with Bill is when he wrote:
“The church is the community of the king that gathers together on a regular basis to preach the gospel and fulfill the one anothers in Scripture.”
I still see a little bit of that Reformation answer in saying that the church gathers on a regular basis “to preach the gospel.” But without further clarification, I can’t say that I wholeheartedly disagree with him.
In other words, I don’t believe that every time the church gets together that the gospel must be preached in the form of a sermon. That said, I do believe that the gospel message is more of a natural byproduct or fruit of the church since the basis of their meeting is in Christ and in the life that he provides. This message, then can be shared in many different ways.
So, I was quite happy to see that Bill Mounce took this approach, though I am not at all surprised that he did since his specialty is the Greek New Testament. But one does not need to read Greek to pick up the New Testament and see that the church looks quite different there than it does on most Sunday mornings these days.