Monday, February 16, 2009


One reason the church doesn't grow very well (anywhere in the world) is because we often misunderstand what the church is.

Now, I am not one to blame those who come to church for having wrong ideas about the church. I don't think it is effective. I don't think we make much of a difference when we build big beautiful church buildings, encourage people to give special offerings to build it, have dedication services and prayers, refer to the auditorium as a "sanctuary," pretty much only use it for Sunday worship services, adorn it with crosses and other lavish decorations and then tell people, "Now remember... this is not a temple. Your body is a temple of the Lord." Even if we repeated that every Sunday (which we wouldn't do because that would get too repetitive) people still wouldn't get it. They would still have notions of the building being some sort of sacred place. They would still call it a "church."

I agree we need to teach people what the truth is, but I also think it is up to those who are in charge of things to be responsible for not reinforcing misunderstandings by how we set things up or do them. One good way of not allowing people to think of the church building as a sacred place (a temple) is not to have one. One good way of not allowing people to think that the preacher is clergy is not to have one preacher, but to regularly have people with full-time money-making jobs do the preaching and share responsibility for it. One good way of not allowing people to think that church is a service on Sunday morning (a mass) is not to offer regular public services, but have meetings with people in the community many times a week and new people who come are those who are invited by those who are already a part.

In any case, one of the main misunderstandings about the church is that it is a place to get some spiritual goods. Now, if we view it as buying these goods (because we give an offering) then the church is a Spiritual Goods Vendor. If we view it as receiving it for free, then the church is a Spiritual Goods Dispenser. Either way we have some big misunderstandings. Read what Aaron Saufley writes in his blog The Road Less Traveled:

“If you see the church as a provider of spiritual goods and services for you, you’re not seeking the good of the church… you’re a parasite. But if you see the church as the forgiven community of God (it’s a beautiful mess, really) who is on mission with Jesus to take back people and places for the kingdom, then you seek the church’s good.”

Aaron gets it. I hope that we can see the church as God's community on mission with Jesus. Very good.


  1. Thanks for the love, Koffijah.

    This is a continual struggle. The church I am leading is currently struggling with similar issues--not buildings and Sunday services, but what the church is to be. We're starting to have some very intense and honest discussions about it, and people are forced to confront their personal preferences and their own wants compared to what the church is supposed to be.

    Love your posts--keep on writing!

  2. I often tell people that it's easier to "be the church" when there don't "be no building". We currently meet in my home, but because of space issues, we are in the process of securing some space at a local middle school. (One of our core group members is the principal there.) But you're right, it is so easy to move from "Go (out) and make disciples" into "Build it and they will come". And like Aaron, said it is a continual struggle.