10 Things The Church Isn’t (and 10 Things It Is)

My parents began dragging me to church ever since I was a baby.  One of my earliest memories is vomiting down the back of my dad’s suit during our first visit at some new church when I was a toddler.
Back then, church seemed inaccessible and unapproachable.  It was uncomfortable and I felt out of place.  But through the years, our local church became the center of my life and has been ever since.  I have no idea what we’d do without our church community today.
Unfortunately, this isn’t a very common sentiment among most believers.  The church is increasingly seen as hopelessly flawed and optional to Christian growth.  This stems from both our bad experiences and the fact we don’t truly understand God’s intent for his people.  With that, here are 10 things the church isn’t, and 10 things it is.  Feel free to add your own thoughts too!

The Church isn’t…

1. Perfect
In other words, everything else I write from here on out is about the way things should be. If it doesn’t square with your experience, this is why.

2. Monolithic
The Church doesn’t look the same from neighborhood to neighborhood, much less from continent to continent. How you experienced it growing up isn’t the only true and right expression of the Church in the world.

3. Optional
Contrary to popular thought, the Church is not some optional addition to Christian living. It is critical to a balanced spiritual life in Christ. Even in the most cursory reading of the Bible, you’ll find that God uses individuals to influence people and he uses people to accomplish his mission. He and his Bride are, in many ways, a packaged deal.

4. One-Size-Fits-All
As mentioned already, there is more than one right way to do church. Some meet in big buildings, others in homes, and many of them underground. The traditions, liturgy, type of service, and size all vary.

5. Organized Religion
The Church isn’t just some institution that can be rejected. It can’t be dismissed as some spiritual Death Star.

6. A Service to You
If you shop for a local church like you shop for a car, stop. It doesn’t exist to make you feel good inside, entertained, or enlightened.

7. A School
It isn’t a place to come hear a sermon, study the Bible, and move on. This idea of the Church is killing us.

8. An Event
It’s not a Sunday morning service. It’s impossible to “go to church” in that sense.

9. A Building
It’s not a brick-and-morter location sitting on a street corner. In fact, in areas where its growing fastest, it’s meeting in homes, community centers, or some other neutral location.

10. Secluded
It doesn’t exist to provide some refuge from society. It’s not meant to be separated from the world around it. It’s designed to infiltrate and influence culture.

The Church is…

1. Organic
It’s a living, breathing movement of God’s people applying the gospel to their lives in community with one another.

2. Community
You can attend services all you want and still miss the point if you’re not living in true community with other Christians. It’s about God’s people doing life together, encouraging each other, holding each other accountable, and living on mission as one body.

3. Universal
Your local church is the visible expression of the global body of believers that constitute the “Big C” Church. Through your involvement, you are joining Christians around the world celebrating the victory we have in Jesus.

4. Critical
One of my professors once told me, “Your walk with God may be personal, but that doesn’t mean it’s private.” We need each other to draw closer to Christ and accomplish his mission.

5. Missional
It’s not a country club that exists for those already inside the fold. My local church often asks itself a litmus-test question, “If we closed shop tomorrow, would our city notice?” A local church that isn’t missional isn’t healthy.

6. Christ-Centric
The Church isn’t centrally about community service, arts, politics, or anything else. It’s about the truth of Jesus crucified and risen.

7. Multi-Ethnic
There’s nothing more powerful than traveling to another part of the world and seeing other cultures worship Jesus in their own tongues and lips. It shows just how big the gospel truly is.

8. Culturally Adaptive
It looks different from place to place. The culture it seeks to transform will also influence the way it expresses the hope we have in Christ. This isn’t a bad thing either. The image of God inside of us is displayed fully in the diversity of our worship, influenced by the cultures we come from.

9. The Bride of Christ
If there’s any doubt that the Church matters to Jesus, don’t forget that he refers to it as his bride. Married men, how would you respond to someone dragging your bride’s reputation through the mud?

10. The Gospel in Action
The way we love each other, reach out to those around us, and worship Jesus together shows the world a living, breathing demonstration of who he is and what he has done in our lives.

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