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3 Things the Church Is & 3 Things the Church Is Not

In this article, I’ll be answering the question: “What IS the church?”

I want to begin to talking about what the church is NOT. If we get our definition of church from the pattern of the New Testament, we quickly begin to realize that the church is NOT how we have primarily defined it in our culture.

The church is NOT primarily a Preaching Center. Sure, preaching has always been part of the church, but the New Testament church took place more in homes than in synagogues. The Bible was taught more in small circles than in large crowds. Churches in the New Testament were not defined by the personality of the preacher but by the character of the Christians who attended.

The church is not primarily a concert. It’s very possible that the early Christians often sang in small circles without instruments. Believe it or not, very few of their worship leaders were professional musicians. The people led each other in worshiping God through songs and prayers they would say together. The emphasis was never on a few people on a stage.

The church is NOT primarily an Activity Center with programs for all ages. The 21st century church is guilty of segregating ministry into age group appropriate programs. In the New Testament, families worshiped together. The church was not responsible for offering activities to keep all ages busy or active. The church was not even primarily responsible for discipling children and students. Parents were. That’s the way the New Testament church rolled.

The church is the Body of Christ. “And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself” Ephesians 1:23 (NLT). If we want to know what the church should be and do, we need look no further than Jesus. Jesus brought a new level of  compassion, forgiveness,  and healing into the world. What was His purpose? Helping as many people as possible belong in a healthy relationship with God. So what should the church be doing? Showing the world what Jesus looks like, and introducing people to God through Him.

The church is a House or Prayer. Don’t overcomplicated this one. Prayer is simply communication with God. You can’t have a healthy relationship with anyone if you never talk to them. One of the reasons so many of our worship songs are sung to God, is because they are intended to be voiced (prayed) to God as we sing! Did you realize that?! If we get this right, just in our musical part of the service, we will all be talking to God for at least twenty minutes at church every week! Our church usually has at least two spaces every weekend where we also invite everyone to pray together corporately in our services. Where does talking to God fit into your church services? Prayer is also a part of our church each week as HUNDREDS of people gather in homes, share their prayer concerns, and lift up each others’ burdens to the Lord.

The church is a family. From God’s perspective, the church is not a building, a Pastor, a nonprofit, an institution, business, or organization. The church is a family. We are spiritual brothers and sisters connected together by our Heavenly Father. We have a common heritage and a common goal: to allow Him to help us become each day more like Jesus. We are to love and serve each other deeply. We will spend eternity with this group of people. We should be getting to know each other as we prepare for that! We are to have a level of relationships that can’t be found anywhere else.

So what should YOUR church set itself up to be? NOT a preaching center, a concert, or a place with programs for all ages. God forbid! Focus, instead, on becoming His Body, worshiping and connecting vitally with Him; and becoming a place where people feel loved and cared for deeply. If you do, your church will represent Jesus well.

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Shawn is the Founder & CEO of CourageToLead.com. His heart beats for coaching leaders and helping them all conquer what keeps them up at night. Shawn previously served as Founding and Lead Pastor of Mountain Lake Church, and Directional Leader for churchplanters.com, and the annual Velocity Conference. Due to both demand and calling, Shawn has now devoted himself full-time to coaching leaders.