Everyday they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. Acts 2:46 - 47
Oddly enough, I had started to work on this post a week ago and now, my systematic theology course is in the midst of a heated debate (in the best way!) on our online platform of what church is. There are many different ways to see church. Some hold firmly to specific ideas of what church is and is not. As for me, well...I say things change. Our perspectives change. Where we experience Jesus and a community of faith shifts with life experience.
What I've been reminded of the past few weeks is that church takes a lot of forms. It's not like I didn't know this, but it's just been made so beautifully clear. Church looks and functions differently in different settings. The people we worship with or are reaching out to might change depending on where we are located, what we are studying or when we meet. But regardless, it is church.
As I think about church, I reflect on what a couple of my former seminary professors are working on - they are "re-imagining theological education." As I hear what they are up to, catch wind of their hopes and dreams, I can't help but think about what it would mean to re-imagine church. If we hold to the words of Acts 2:46 - 47, can't we re-imagine church in thousands of awesome ways?
If we press into scripture and hold to what it teaches us we will, I think, be reminded of some things. First and foremost: there's no proven formula, aside from what scripture lays out. Mega church, small church, high church, liturgical church, house church, country church, recovery church, camp-fire church.
So, what does scripture lay out?
- The purpose of church is simple: give glory to God. This means everything we do is focused on him first. Not motives, agenda, promotion, marketing. We have to keep our motives clear, always self-checking our humility. If it becomes about me or you, it ceases to be about Him. And so, first and foremost: glory to God.
- Church exists to worship the God who is, for who He is.
- Church is about raising each other up to take seriously the call to follow Christ. The way each person lives and follows Jesus affects everyone else in the community. "The demands of a life of discipleship in a fundamentally inhospitable environment" remind us of the importance of the body and community of Christ. Will we struggle, stumble and fall? Yup. But the true church holds accountable as they help one another walk the line back to Jesus, over and over again.
- Church is about outreach. It's about sharing the gospel and serving others in love. Changed people want to change people, through sharing the message of Christ. And frankly, changed people aren't content to sit in their buildings and listen. They want to move out to do, to go out and serve. They want to serve and witness not because there's a quota to meet, seats to fill, a church to grow, but instead a command to fulfill: make disciples, teaching them everything Jesus commanded.
If this is what the church is about, than does it matter what church is? Does it matter what it looks like? Does it matter how it functions? I don't know. I do know that a clean slate to "re-imagine" is an exciting thing. It allows us to throw off caution, let go of tradition if we need, hold on to tradition if we are led, ask questions, seek God's face and be reminded, yet again, of God's glory.