what makes it church?

Are there certain features or practices that make church ‘church’?

Recently I’ve heard people say things like ‘That’s church for them’ and ‘They don’t do the sacraments so they’re not a proper church’.

So, what makes a church a church?  And I don’t mean the building…

7 thoughts on “what makes it church?”

  1. Somewhat predictably I suppose, I must answer ‘Yes’ to the first question.
    Even more predictably I’d also say that the features and practices are summed up by the creedal marks and I’d also lump in the Reformation ones as well.
    But… there’s plenty of scope within those to ‘express’ church in many, many ways. Jonathan’s comments touch on something important as well. Church is not a static institution, but a dynamic community.
    I also think it’s important to make the distinction between what ‘church’ is and where God is working. If I might borrow Jonathan’s comment – there are many secular organisations which change and transform lives. They are not church, so we cannot define church around those sorts of definitions. Is God at work in them? Without a doubt! But nevertheless, they are not church. I would argue that they are God’s ‘mission field’ (and that’s nothing to do with evangelism) and Christians are expected to participate fully in that work. But God’s presence and work is not what makes something ‘church’. But I would also have to add that church cannot be church without God’s presence.

  2. Nice ideas from the guys already.

    There’s something about the Church being the Kingdom of God living and breathing on the earth. Learning together to mature into the children of God that Paul talks about creation “groaning and waiting for”.

    I think that’s different from the church which is as much about organisation (not that it’s a bad thing).

  3. The Church Without Walls National Gathering had the title, “All that you can’t leave behind”. The subtext being what are the essential elements that as your church perhaps transitions to new expressions/models/frontiers*, what do you need to take with you, and what can you leave behind?

    It suggested five simple words: WORD / WATER / CROSS / BREAD / WINE

    Probably a good starting point.

    [*Insert appropriate buzz-word here]

  4. What makes church ? Picking up on Neil’s 5 things that can’t be left behind… One of our older members lost his wife a few years ago and he has discovered bread making. Every so often he phones the manse and arranges for bread to be delivered to us and at special times of the year he adds a bottle of wine. That expression of his faith I think is church.

  5. An observation – from literally right down the hall…

    I’m in my office in a church. Said church had its heating condemmed recently and for the time being Sunday worship is being conducted in one of the halls. As The Guy Who Does The New Stuff, I thought that this could be a bit of an opportunity…until I arrived today. They have:

    1)Set up a trestle table at the front, with a fancy table cover (John, what’s it called, pulpit fall, maybe?’
    2)Positioned 2 flower stands at the front flanking said table above
    3)Brought in a portable lectern
    4) set up all the chairs they could find in neatly uniform rows

    Effectively they have transplanted the sanctury into the hall.

    While the other posters have highlighted some good points about what makes it church, I fear that for some people it will always be the form of the thing that counts and the ‘other stuff’ (Sacraments, God etc) will play second fiddle to that. That said, I’m hopeful that this mindset can be challenged, and people can see another form that 9is still church, and could be church for them.

    Maybe I’ll set up the hall next week…

  6. I feel for you Allan. Getting to the hall first is just the initial stage (as I’m sure you’re aware). Sounds like a major education opportunity…. probably not so good to do a shock and awe approach though. There is a residual conservatism in the church. The aye been thing. But you might find that because they’ve never had a different experience, they might open up to the ‘new thing’ you’re hoping to lead them towards.

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