Sunday, April 25, 2010


What is church?

Neil Cole, a pastor and speaker, offers some thoughts on the subject in an article called "Organic Church." (This article was originally written from a missiological strategist viewpoint--e.g. separating church from the influence of culture--but in this blog entry I only intended to provide thoughts on church in a general manner) Following are some excerpts from his writings.

Neil says, "I went to my peers and leaders, asking them in all sincerity, 'What is church?...' Oh sure, we all know what our traditions are. We speak as though we obviously know the answer to this question. But in reality, we found that many of us hadn't taken a moment to ask the question. Rather than starting with the question of what church is, we had been asking how to make churches bigger or better or how to start more of them. The temptation is to define 'church' according to our own experience. We think we know something because of familiarity... It is much more vital to look at scripture with honesty and courage as we try to define 'church...'"

"...I have come to understand church as this: the presence of Jesus among His people called out as a spiritual family to pursue His mission on this planet. Granted, this is quite broad, but I like a broad definition of church. The Scriptures don't give a precise definition, so I'm not going to do what God has not done. I want something that captures what the Scriptures say about the Kingdom of God... His presence must be an important element of church... To a disobedient and unhealthy church, Jesus threatens to remove the lampstand (representing the church) from the presence of Jesus. The presence of Jesus is crucial to what church is. His presence is life; His absence is death. He is the most essential portion of who and what we are..."

"...We've come to refer to some of the ideals of church planting movements as an 'organic church.' By organic, I don't mean that it is pesticide free. It's a matter of churches being alive and vibrant as living organisms. [[The core reality is not how the followers are organized, discipled, or helped. The core reality is Jesus being followed, loved, and obeyed.]] (emphasis mine) Christ alive, forming spiritual families and working with them to fulfill His mission, is the living reality of the organic church. The church is really an embodiment of the risen Jesus..."

"...Our mission is to find and develop Christ followers rather than church members. There is a big difference in these two outcomes. The difference is seen in transformed lives that bring change to neighborhoods and nations. Simply gathering a group of people who subscribe to a common set of beliefs is not worthy of Jesus and the sacrifice He made for us.[[ We have planted religious organizations rather than planting the powerful presence of Christ...]]" (again, emphasis mine)

As usual, I would love to hear any of your comments. More thoughts on this topic are likely to be posted at a later date.


  1. I have been wondering about the types of churches we have in the United States. It seems that we have almost gone too far in creating bridges to the world with fancy sound systems, big gymnasiums, big screens, lots of lights and sound, and Christian people on stage that have life all together with perfectly scripted prayers and concert-type praise. Not to say all of those things are wrong, but I am wondering if we have taken them too far by taking up most of our resources and energy instead of relying on the Christ-centered power of the Holy Spirit. What if we had fewer lights and a mediocre sound system, but people gathered who are really worshipping God unashamedly without reserve or care about what other people think? Have we created churches with attractions as the number one draw instead of passionate believers filled with the Holy Spirit and daily desiring the Word of God?
    These are just some thoughts. It's new and challenging train of thought that I am exploring.

  2. They are definitely thoughts worth exploring more. Maybe we could talk about it sometime--I have a book called "Inside the Mind of Unchurched Harry and Mary" that really provided some new insights with regard to these questions :)