Some wandering thoughts for today. I’m not concerned with the answers, but rather the questions and what other questions may come from these questions.
What is the church? Who is the church? It’s a question going through my mind lately. It’s a question, in many ways, that I have been thinking about for a couple of years now.
There are many ways to answer those questions. Part of the challenge of this is that there are multiple answers – each can be legitimately argued for. Another challenge is this – how do we define church? Are we talking about Christianity as a whole? A particular denomination? A church in one country? One region? One town? On particular church? I could see each of these having different answers, yet they are all part of the church – the larger body.
Is the church a building? An organization? A community? A set of beliefs? A way of living? Yes. It is all of these. No, it is not any of these apart from the others. Each of these contribute to the definition of what church is – be that good or bad. You can’t isolate one characteristic apart from the other, point to it and say – “aha, here is the church.” Nothing is that nice and neat.
Churches run into challenges when they can not clearly state who they are or why they exist. We see this in plenty of places.
But having a clear statement of why the church exists is not the cure-all either. Church goes beyond tangible things like nice clear statements because church is full of and made of people. So many people are not clear about why they exist for themselves, how can we expect churches to be clear about this, especially when churches are made up of people?
Besides, sometimes having a clear definition can be act of power. When we control the definition, often we think we control what we are defining. Yet the church is not about us controlling things, is it? Part of the church is about letting go of control, or at least acknowledging that we are not the ones in control.
When we define church, is it a definition of actions, characteristics, locations, people, results, methods, doctrines, beliefs, emotions? Is it a combination of these?
Where does God fit into all of this? Supposedly God is the foundation for church? Are we allowing room for God, mystery, being radically out of control, but not chaotic?
These are some questions to ponder.