Defining Church

When does a gathering of people become more than a gathering?  More specifically, when does a gathered group become a church?  And who gets to define what a church should look like?  How critical are committees and ordained staff in defining church?

According to scripture, when two or three are gathered Jesus is there.  Not one word about a building committee, ordained bishops or youth ministry.

Have we made church too complicated?

At a practical level it makes sense to conduct ourselves decently and in order.  It is empowering to have a set of rules.   It also helps us to define who can be in and who is out.

The downside to tightly defined rules for what makes a church a church is that it leads to legalism.  Jesus, the head of the church, was not known for being a legalist.

When we put the power to decide what makes a church a church in the hands of a committee, it is at best disempowering and at worst discouraging to new creative expressions of church.

Is there a downside to shifting the responsibility of defining church from conference (leadership) to the group requesting membership?  I suspect this kind of shift would be empowering and freeing for everyone involved.  Instead of having to insure that a procedure was followed, time would be spent listening to stories and figuring out how both sides can come together.  Relationship would take precedence over procedure.

Having a more open approach to defining church has the potential to radically reshape denominations.  This may make some people uncomfortable.  That said I believe the benefits far outweigh the costs.

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Filed under church, church rules, denominations

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