There are many definitions of “Church,” and I suspect this may be one of those words the interpretation of which has done much to divide Christendom over the millennia. In Evangelicalism, we are all too familiar with the idea that the church is not a building, but a community of God’s people. While this doesn’t really do much to define anything greater than a social club, it seems to suffice for many of us. And it worked for me until a short time ago when I came to the realisation that is is so much more–greater, deeper, and more transformational–than that.
Having been intensely (and critically, often cynically) looking into this idea of what Church is for the past 3-4 years, I came across this simple definition from Brian McLaren today in MINEmergent:
Church is a space in which the Spirit works to form Christlike people, and it is the space in which human beings, formed in Christlike love, cooperate with the Spirit and one another to express that love in word and deed, art and action.
Truth is, I’ve read that before, but never has it stuck with me as it has just now. A social club cannot meet this criteria. A sporting group can’t transform people in this way. This is the essence of what “Church” is all about. Anything beyond this is window-dressing, politics, tradition, or religiosity.