What Counts as a Church?

I just came across an interesting article by Sarah Pulliam Bailey (online editor of Christianity Today) from the December 9 Wall Street Journal: “When the Zoning Board Closes Your Church.” The article brings up several fascinating and important legal questions regarding small groups that meet in homes, but that’s not what intrigued me most.

Bailey began her article with a vital question: “What counts as a church?” How would you respond to that question? While I don’t expect the zoning board to get it, I do wonder if religious institutions (that is, “churches”) have a solid Biblical understanding. I also wonder if it hasn’t been the “church” who is mostly to blame for this unfortunate and damaging misrepresentation of the real church.

Regardless of what zoning boards decide, it’s up to us, the church, to revitalize the true meaning of the church. We are the body of Christ in action, not buildings or institutions. Bailey ends her article with a quote from Dan Dalton, chair of the American Bar Association’s Religious Land Use section, who said “Church, is more than about Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights.” Yes, much more!

What do you think? What counts as church? How can we get back to a more Biblical definition?
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Michael C. Mack founded SmallGroups.com in 1995 and served as a small-groups minister for more than 20 years in several churches. He is a writer, editor, trainer, and consultant in the areas of small groups, leadership, and discipleship. He is the author of more than 25 books and small group studies, including his latest, World's Greatest Small Group (pub. January, 2017). He regularly blogs on his ministry website at SmallGroupLeadership.com. His family is a small group that includes his wife Heidi, their four children, and their dog, Lainey. Mike is also an avid mountain biker.