Who Is Church?

What is “Church”? Who is Church for? The lost? The disciple? What are Sundays for?

Many pastors jump right to the Great Commission and define “Church” through the lens of a “heaven and hell” crisis. The church invariably gets defined by what it does or what it ought to be doing. But with God, identity precedes activity. Adam and Eve were made in God’s image before they were given a vocation. So, we need to ask what Church is … or more precisely, who Church is.

Before we can begin to properly wrestle with this question, we need to zoom all the way out and ask who Jesus is. How we think about Jesus and the salvation He brings affects the way we think of Church and our mission.

To say it in theological language:

Our Christology shapes our Soteriology;

Our Soteriology shapes our Ecclesiology;

Our Ecclesiology shapes our Missiology.

Or, in a series of questions:

    Who is JESUS? (Christology)

    What is SALVATION? (Soteriology)

    Who is CHURCH? (Ecclesiology)

    What is MISSION? (Missiology)



    Jesus = my personal Lord and Savior

    Salvation = forgiveness of sins and a ticket to heaven

    Church = a collection of saved individuals who pass time in the meantime

    Mission = optional extra credit


    Jesus = my personal Lord and Savior

    Salvation = an escape from Hell

    Church = a lifeboat (functionally: God’s sales and marketing team)

    Mission = a mandate to rescue lost souls

What results is an often frenetic pace of ministry, where the whole focus is on getting people to come to church or get saved. Songs and sermons are aimed at going “wide” on Sundays, while other “environments” are created for going “deep.”

But imagine if you ran your home this way: What if you were constantly telling your kids to keep the house clean because guests were coming over? What if you told them to eat on their own time or in the back room? Eventully, the house would cease to be a home; it would be a showroom. The children would stop being family and would become housemaids. This is, in fact, how so many staff members at many churches feel. Everything is geared for the “outsider.”

[The rebuttal is often, "But we do a mid-week service for believers … Sundays are for the unsaved or unchurched.” I hope to address this in the next post … but my short answer is, our practices are formative. What you do when you gather becomes what you are. This is perhaps most true of our most prominent gatherings: the weekend service. One might say, "What you do with the most people becomes who you most are.”]

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Glenn Packiam
Glenn Packiam is an Executive Pastor at New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where he oversees Spiritual Formation and serves as the teaching pastor for NewLifeSundayNight. He is one of the founding leaders and songwriters for the Desperation Band and the writer of the well-loved worship songs, “Your Name,” “Everyone (Praises)” and “My Savior Lives.” Glenn is also the author of Butterfly in Brazil: How Your Life Can Make a World of Difference and most recently, Secondhand Jesus: Trading Rumors of God for a Firsthand Faith. He recently released his first solo album, Rumors and Revelations. Visit Glenn at GlennPackiam.com.

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