What is the Church?

Recently, I entered into an internet conversation on the purpose of the church.  Dangerous territory, I know, but fools run in where angels fear to tread. The conversation started by the posting of an article about a “church”  known as “The Crossing” that some people were beginning to fear was taking on a cult-like appearance.  This church is known for its seeker-sensitive methodology, seeking to draw in the unconverted to, allegedly, preach the gospel to them.  Of the comments that followed, inevitably, one was from a participant of said church, defending its actions.

Initially, I refrained from comment and observed the conversation unfold.  The defender of The Crossing repeatedly defended her church’s effort to reach the lost by offering a non-judgmental environment to those who would not enter a traditional church.  She also repeatedly demanded people show her where in the Bible is was prohibited to invite people to church.  Ultimately, her challenge was that if her church was doing the work of God, no one had the right to say anything negative.  In fact to do so was to speak against God (interesting that she couldn’t see why anyone was making a connection with the cults).

What ultimately got me into this conversation was that she was making the same fatal mistake that many so called churches are making today.  That is, she wrongly answered the question, “What exactly is the church?”  According to seeker sensitive theology, the church is a building where you make the unregenerate person as comfortable as possible while you slide snippets of the Bible in between moralistic teachings on how to improve your life.  The justification for this is that the hard doctrines of the Bible would push away the nonbeliever, thus preventing him or her from being willing to “accept” Jesus.  The church therefore, is the recruitment center where hopeful Christians are wooed into “believing”.

However, what is the biblical definition of the church?  The Bible refers to church as the “bride of Christ.”  It is the universal body of believers who have been converted by the power of the Holy Spirit by leading them to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.  It is universal because it is not confined to the four walls of the local church building.  It includes men, women and children of various nationalities, locations and even eras of time.  It is confined only to those who have been born again by the shed blood of Jesus Christ.  The local gathering, the church we attend down the street, is where believers in the same geographic location meet to pray, worship and study God’s word.  It is where believers grow in faith and learn about the spiritual gifts given to them for use in God’s service.  In essence, it is a boot camp, not a recruitment center.  Believers meet to be trained up in the word of God and then go out into the world to wage spiritual warfare.  The believers are equipped for the work of ministry and go out and proclaim the gospel.  Then God does the work of conversion in the heart of the unbelievers.  Then those who become born again join the universal church and become plugged into a local congregation.

When the local church is treated as a recruitment center rather than a boot camp, spiritual soldiers are deprived of vital training and are rendered incapable of fighting in the war.  Hopeful recruits are plugged into ministries despite their lack of conversion, thus rendering the work done ineffective because it is not led by the Holy Spirit.

My response to the “church” defender came down to this.  Is it acceptable to invite a neighbor or friend to church where they hear the gospel proclaimed, and in turn, become born again?  Absolutely!  But should a church be modeled in such a way that the local congregation is where we try to woo unbelievers into “accepting” Jesus?  Absolutely not!  To do so is unbiblical and a direct contradiction of scripture.  Any church that adopts such a practice is not a church. Let us not fear exposing such false practices because we will called unloving or intolerant.  Let us stand for the biblical calling of the church and never waver in our dedication to the body of Christ

20 thoughts on “What is the Church?

  1. I faced many of these same arguments with the self-titled “pastors” of my previous church. They were drunk on Rick Warren kool-aid and thought the church ought to be “people-driven”, using all sorts of soft language in lieu of biblical terms for things that were sin, preaching decisional regeneration. Had my fill of trying to make them understand the Scriptures; found a biblical church that exalts Christ, is led by men who stand firm on the Word of God, and fear not man.

  2. “When the local church is treated as a recruitment center rather than a boot camp, spiritual soldiers are deprived of vital training and are rendered incapable of fighting in the war. Hopeful recruits are plugged into ministries despite their lack of conversion, thus rendering the work done ineffective because it is not led by the Holy Spirit.”

    Excellent post brother.

  3. ali says:

    As weeks turn into months – months into years, should the LORD tarry, we can expect more of the same.

    The Emergent Movement is slowly creeping into the church – binding those who sit in their pews of complacency and tolerance ever tighter and tighter.

    My His TRUE bride stand in strength and speak up in the days ahead, for many harlots are come with a message to share.

  4. #1 on their “Values”–that the church is the only hope. Close, but not quite. Sounds a bit like the Roman Catholics saying that outside the RCC there is no salvation, or the Mormon saying that apart from the “restored” gospel of Joseph Smith there is no salvation. It’s not the church that saves, it’s Christ. Which brings us to…

    #2 on their “Values” list–that they are (AND I QUOTE)

    “united under THE visionary. The Crossing is built on THE VISION God gave Pastor Eric

    (all emphases mine)

    Ummmmm……again, close but not quite. Matthew 16:18–”On this rock I will build My church” And what is that rock? That rock is Christ. Not some “visionary” human, but Christ Himself.

    If you read #4 through #6, and then read #7, you can see just how schizophrenic (for lack of a better word) a “church” gets when they use the Purpose-Driven approach. First, in 4-6 they say how everything they do is geared toward the seeker and their “needs”–but then #7 says (AND I QUOTE) “We will not cater to personal preferences in our mission to reach the city.” HUH? But that’s exactly what they have been saying they do in trying to “reach” people.

    To conclude, what is the church? What is it built on? The apostle Paul summarized both of those answers in Ephesians 2:20-22, when he said that the church is “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.” The church is not simply and external thing, built with brick and mortar. It is more an internal structure, built within each true believer through faith in Christ and repentance from sin.

  5. GoForthAndPreach says:

    I believe the people they will not “cater” to are those of us who actually expect the church feed the sheep instead of fattening up the goats. The person I spoke with repeatedly tried to claim this was nothing more than a difference of opinion. Therefore, those that have “personal preferences” which expect the church to act like a church will kindly be shown their fully working back door!

  6. McReligion Church: “I’m lovin’ it!”
    Home Depot Church: “You can do it, we can help!”
    Burger King Church: “Have it your way!”
    Others?

    In Him,
    CD

  7. DavidW says:

    C.D:

    Alka Seltzer church: “Try it, you’ll like it”
    Barnum and Bailey church:”The greatest show on earth”
    Ford Motor church: “Everything we do is driven by you”

  8. L’Oreal church: “Because I’m worth it!”
    Microsoft church: “Where do YOU want to go today? (Because it is, after all, all about YOU)”
    CNN church: “Give us 30 minutes, we’ll give you the world (but not much Scripture)”

  9. jude newman says:

    Ha, love the quotes. This article reminds me of Steven Furtick’s comment if you know Jesus this church is not for you.

  10. Lil ole me says:

    Good article. The comments with quotes are sadly true. If it smells like a wolf and looks like a wolf, it’s probably a wolf. Thanks for contending for the faith.

  11. nathan says:

    Could you perhaps provide a link to the conversation mentioned above. I often find myself discussing this issue with pastors and elders in my area. Thank you.

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