What Church Means

John 13:31-35
Acts 2:42-47

+ Jesus says, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another... +

Did you know that the dictionary definition for church doesn’t contain the word love. It goes as follows: “Church is a particular Christian organization, typically one with its own clergy, buildings, and distinctive doctrines.” (Apple dictionary)

 

I don’t like this definition. Not only does it exclude the love that Jesus says will define us, it includes three institutional words: clergy, buildings, and doctrines. The trouble is that this is exactly how most people in the world around us see the church. In fact, it may be the way most church people view the Church. It may also be the reason most people today say they can be religious perfectly fine without the Church, thank you. This past week, less than 18% of Americans went to church. 

 

Worse yet, I didn’t go to church this week (confession... my bad... very bad). There was a family gathering in Cleveland and the only time to see my daughter was Sunday. My reason for not going to church strikes at the heart of why the standard, default, definition of church is such a problem for the Church (with a capital ‘C’) that Jesus invented. People today want the Church to be a real blessing for their relationships. I want a church that encourages me to go to visit my daughter on Sabbath. I want to learn, not only in the sermon, but in the total experience of Church, how to love in practical ways.

 

Jesus defines his Church by how we love. Did I mention, that the one thing that separates the previous modern epoch from our current postmodern culture is this emphasis on relationships? For the last thousand years, we have been selling church as the place to go to hear a qualified (but often celibate) clergy-person preach, to be in a beautiful building (with an organ), and learn to the right doctrines (orthodox). What if we changed (The Church change?) And began speaking about entering into a discipleship formation process, which we call Church (with a capital ‘C’) and practice there in, love for each other and love for those who are hurting around us?

 

After taking seriously Jesus’ new command that we love, and reading the first manifestation of Church in Acts 2:42-47, I offer this alternative definition:

 

Church is a gathering of people for prayer, study, and worship,

 who relate to each other and to the world as Christ desires.

 

The only way to be Church is to live it and to be known for our love.

Surprise - Church doesn't mean what you think it does
Easter 5