Where is the Church's soul?

diagram of how the world, church, and God's kingdom intersect

In Reality Check 101, I make a point of stating that churches have souls. By this I mean that each congregation has an intrinsic worth. There is a value to the local church that far exceeds its statistical strength or the value it may have for the denomination that holds the title to its building. Pastors come and go, but a church’s soul remains constant. Like the soul of a human being, the congregation’s soul represents more than the current state of the body.

 

Where is this soul located? Philosophers speak about the human soul being located at the intersection of the will of the mind and the reality of the flesh. The Bible says that when God breathed the inspiring breath of life into Adam, he became a living soul (Genesis 2:7 KJV). This implies that the soul is a crossroad, where physical context (the mud of the ground) limited by time and mortality intersects spiritual vocation and God’s promise of a continuing existence.

 

Your church’s soul is located at a similar intersection. It lies where the world of human affairs and aspirations (red circle) intersects with your congregation’s daily life (blue circle). These both intersect with the kingdom of God (green circle). A small triangle represents the common ground of God, Church, and Human Society. No congregation is entirely at one with God’s Kingdom -- I think we do well to overlap the will of God by 30%. The world is never so secular to be without an overlap with God and the church. Where we take the Kingdom of God into the world, there is our soul. Three often used words overlap into this one concept; witness, mission, and vocation.

 

If a church moves down and away from God, its spiritual passion becomes weakened and its soul impoverished. It is impossible to increase our overlap with God’s kingdom without pushing further out into the world’s territory. Jesus calls us to be in the world, but not of it (John 17). Soul is not in the safe part of the circle with the majority of the church’s programs and concerns. It is out in the dangerous intersection of our holy God and the chaotic world.