1. Church is a movement not an organization.
2. Expressions of church are far more diverse than we can imagine.
We have been working at eliminating preconceptions around old definitions of “church.” Our cultural idea of “what church is” can keep us from seeing what church really is!!!
We have already suggested this definition of church:
A loose-knit network of Jesus followers who gather together to encourage each other in their spiritual life and who go out, moved by the Holy Spirit, sharing and demonstrating the Gospel.
Taking this further, if we really get into a New Testament perspective, we see that the church was a “movement.” The church was not a box for this movement to fit in, nor a structure to contain it. The church, the collective group of people following the Spirit of God, was simply that group of people who were being moved by the Spirit. However and wherever the Spirit took His people, gathered His people, or sent His people, church was happening!
Church was fluid, going everywhere, gathering everywhere, ministering everywhere, being the Body of Christ everywhere. All of this was and is “church.”
Once we grasp this, we can go on to the issues of: “How is church expressed? What does it look like when the church gathers?”
Robert Fitts suggests that we begin with the simplest possible expression of church: two or three gathered in Christ’s name (Matthew 18:20):
What Is A Church? If we take away all the non-essentials, we would have Jesus and at least two people who have come together in His name. Two people, who have been born again, meeting together anywhere, at anytime, with Jesus in the midst, is church at its most basic, most informal level. (The Church in the House).
This is a good starting point for looking at how church is expressed. It’s simple. It can be two or three. When a husband and wife gather at home (two or more), it is church.
Going beyond that, we find in Scripture many diverse expressions of church. When people gathered for prayer, they were the church. When Christians gathered around the supper table, it was church. When a group gathered to share songs and interact with the Word, it was church. Period. Not second rate church. Just church. The Presence-of-Jesus-in-the-midst church. Every gathering of Christians=church. Every instance of Christians “going” into the world—church.
Expressions of church, since it is the expression of people gathering and going under the movement of the Spirit, can be as varied and diverse as people themselves.
Two missionaries sharing the Good News in an igloo in Greenland—church. Christian friends enjoying fellowship around a barbie—church. Real church. Full-on church. No more and no less “real church” than any organized church meeting.
Here’s what Dan at Signposts has to say about one particular “church” gathering:
Last night at Haven we had a kingdom feast… A celebration of our community and the presence of Jesus. We fired up the barbie and I cooked up a storm of meat, someone brought a salad and someone else some wine. Gee it was good. The conversation was rich - covering all sorts of issues from the redfern riots, the Iraq war and why the child was running around the table continually. Fair dinkum, this is Church! Just as singing songs and hearing a sermon can be Church this can be too. It was a joy and it was a deep meaningful experience. We must do more of them!
Does this shake up our view of church? Is this a real expression of church? Have we even begun to grasp how diverse church can really be?
Does any of this really matter?
Perhaps. Many seem to feel that the box we now call “church” isn’t working! It has robbed the Holy Spirit movement of its life and power.
Check out these statements:
Alan Creech says that we need to understand and do church differently because there is a “deep lack of real transformation going on in the Body of Christ.”
Reggie McNeal says: "A growing number of people are leaving the institutional church for a new reason. They are not leaving because they have lost faith. They are leaving the church to preserve their faith."
My own quote: “Today, we usually see structure define what the church is. In this context, there is no room for the full and rich diversity of the movement of the Spirit through God's people… Could this be the reason that we are not seeing the glory of the Lord cover our neighborhoods and nations?
And: “Church-as-we-know-it has become a box to live within, not a movement to participate in.”