Question 6: What is church?
There are only two questions left in my “What is…” series: sin & salvation. Thanks to all those who have participated in these conversations – I hope they’ve been fruitful, or at least thought-provoking for everyone.
It’s been awhile since I have had a chance to reflect a bit on church. What is church? Many who left comments asked if I meant “church” or “the church”? Of course, it was open to interpretation. But if someone were to ask me “What is church?” – I think I would say “church” could be many things. Church can be First Presbyterian Church of Somewhere, USA worshiping at 11am on a Sunday morning. However, church can also be a group of twenty and thirty-somethings sitting around in a bar drinking beer and discussing theology (hence the ever-popular “Theology on Tap” meetings within emerging churches). Church can be a group of friends getting together for a cup of coffee, or an individual hiking Half-Dome in Yosemite.
Too often we’ve equated “church” with bricks and mortar (as is easily seen by this Google Images search for the word “church”), while that can often be the death of “church” or community. The church is about community, about the kingdom of God – and that is often happening more today outside the walls of the ‘traditional’ churches than inside them.
Clearly this isn’t a slam on the institutional church – I am, myself, in the process of getting ordained in the Presbyterian Church (USA). But we have to have a more open approach to understanding “church.”
So, what is church? Church is when both individuals and communities of people seek out to do the things that draw themselves to God and to each other. The church is the community of people, past and present, who have sought out, and will continue to seek out creative, true, deep, alternative and faithful ways of living a life toward God.