defining church

I just got home after a really interesting Bible in Ministry class. I realized, while walking to class, that we were meant to come up with a definition of church to share with the class. This is what I came up with, to be unpacked at a later date and qualified by the content of today’s lecture.

Let me just say up front that the the challenge of trying to pull out some sort of ecclesiology from scripture is that we come at it from the point of view of our formed interpretations or preferences of certain passages, and our past experience and pre-conceived notions of what church is meant to look like. Having said that, this definition is an attempt to be as broadly minimalistic as possible.

The church exists wherever two or more are gathered in the name of Jesus Christ in order to hear, interpret, practice and participate in the story of God’s redemptive action in, to, and for the world.

I have to sit on that a bit myself to see how I feel about it. In the meantime, any thoughts?

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    • JT
    • March 18th, 2009

    I like. Sounds as if you’re learning loads of good stuff over there! Any idea how you want to implement those sorts of things when you wrap up your time in Scotland?

    • Tom
    • March 18th, 2009

    Hey Ian,

    So I’ll give you one thought that I have for what it’s worth…

    I see where you’re going with your minimalist approach, but I think it may perhaps miss something.

    2 people may in one sense be the church, however, they are far from being the Church.

    While the Spirit may be present wherever 2 or 3 are gathered those 2 need the wider body to help discern what it is that the Spirit is saying to the Church (i.e. Christians in the global North need to keep Christians in the global South in check and be kept in check by them as well, Salvationists need to hear from Anabaptists, etc.).

    Does that make sense? Thoughts?

  1. Tom – On one hand, I am wrestling with the question of what is the minimum essential criteria for church, hence the more local approach. I do see what you are saying in terms of the more global Church, the wider body. At the same time, is it not possible for the Spirit to be speaking and moving in different ways in different locations and among different church bodies? Could or should the church look much different in North American than it does in South America? If you break it down to a local community level, you begin to see what God intends for the church in our neighborhoods, which could take on a much different shape than in other areas. That’s what I was trying to pin down. But yeah, what about the ‘big C’ Church? I need to chew on that.

    JT – Great question, man. I’ve got some ideas bouncing around, a couple burgers on the grill if you will. We’ll see.

    • Tom
    • March 26th, 2009

    Yo Ian…yeah I certainly agree that the church will look different in different places. However, I think that the church vitally needs to hear from others in diverse contexts in order to help see where our cultural glasses are blinding us. North American christians for example can easily think that our affluence is not exceptional and see texts that speak to the rich as refering to Bill Gates and not ourselves.

    I don’t think you’d disagree with that though.

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