Friday, January 25, 2008

What is church?

Having covered the fundamental question, What do you believe about the Bible, we decided to follow up that discussion with another equally important question, What is church? What does it look like? What is its purpose?

We began by having everyone share some of their life experiences concerning church. It was quite interesting to hear about the wide variety of church experiences that we've had collectively, and to see how that has brought us to where we are today. We then went through a list of distinctives that are found in scripture concerning the nature and function of the church. While we went through that list, we discussed whether we had seen these distinctives carried out, rightly or in error, or not at all.

Here are some of those distinctives that we discussed:
  • The early church included small house churches as well as large assemblies.

  • Jesus is the founder and head of the church.

  • Worship together in Spirit (anywhere) and in Truth (genuine).

  • Teaching of the Word, with primacy given to the Gospel.

  • Praying together (especially over the sick.)

  • Singing together. (Not just in a "church service", but anywhere.)

  • Giving of resources voluntarily, cheerfully, proportionally, and liberally even in poverty.

  • Care for widows and orphans (those without family), and the poor.

  • Has appointed elders who are qualified.

  • Helps those in the church who had financial troubles.

  • Disciplines those in the church who are openly sinning (with witnesses).

  • Carries out ordinances of baptism and communion.

  • Use of spiritual gifts:exhortation, giving, teaching, mercy, faith, evangelism, kindness, service, prophecy, healing, tongues, interpretation, discernment, pastor/shepherding, administration/leadership, wisdom.
We discussed how some of these elements seem to be purposefully left out by the emerging church movement (to their error), and we discussed how some of these elements have fallen by the wayside by the traditional churches. Surprisingly, our group is pretty orthodox in that we all believed that each of these distinctives were equally important in the nature and function of the church.
We spent a lot of time talking about money and caring for those in need. We agreed that "giving to a building fund" is uninspiring, even if necessary to carry out ministry. We also agreed that if churches were to give more emphasis to the humanitarian uses of monies, people might not have such a sour taste in their mouth when it comes to giving resources.

Our next gathering will take place on Friday, Feb. 1 at 7:30 pm. The question/topic will be: Masturbation and Porn. (Yea, chew on that.)


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