As many of you know, I have 3 children; each different in their own way, yet all helping to fulfill God’s great plan of making me a more kind and patient man.
Jessica and I are currently in the throes of teaching our oldest daughter, Gracie, to ride her bike. She initiated this endeavor when she demanded I remove her training wheels about 6 weeks ago with not much in the way of practice rides prior to this. She is incredibly passionate and stubborn (just like her daddy.)
Last Saturday we loaded all 3 kids up, bikes strollers and everything and trucked over to the biggest emptiest parking lot we could find so Gracie could practice turning, weaving concentric circles, figure 8’s and the like on her purple Huffy—with handle bar streamers waving in the wind. Upon our arrival it began to sprinkle a bit followed by an out-and-out downpour, yet Gracie continued to ride, unaided and unhindered by the drops accumulating on her and the bike or on her mother and I! At first we huddled from the aquatic onslaught but then we all burst forth and ran together, with the drops from the sky creating a beautiful double rainbow. We laughed, we got wet, we made memories. This was a great day to make memories, yet some of my favorite memories of our three kids and of Jessica surround the time when Jessica ushered them into this world, screaming, angry and covered in alien goo. (Now lets be honest, they don’t look that great upon first arrival).
I always envied midwives, those tasked with the responsibility of helping usher this new life into the open air. In many ways, that is like one of my great joys as a Church Planter Catalyst, to serve as kind of a Kingdom midwife during the birth of new churches. To be able to walk beside, coach, hold hands, laugh, cry, get water, sleep in a bad chair, talk, provide support, find resources, and encourage is a blessing that is at times difficult to describe. Yet, one thing that I constantly wrestle with in this work is the question of “When is a church a church?”
Unlike our understanding of what constitutes life for a child, our understanding of what constitutes life as a church is a bit more murky, and can be the source of just as much contention as our ongoing struggle for the sanctity of life.
Is a church a church when buildings are bought, budgets are briefed, and butts are assembled? Can a church continue to be called as such if there are no baptisms to report, no outside giving to show, and no identifiable community presence?
In SBC life, and in my work as a CPC specifically, a church is considered an SBC church when we request and are issued an SBC ID number. Regardless of attendance numbers, time spent gathered, giving, etc., this is the defined moment when a church comes into existence! While this may work for our denominational bean counters, (blessed and needed, all of them), this alone leaves us wanting. With that in mind, I propose the following definition of church, with a brief bit of elaboration to follow
The Church is the blood-bought people/family of God, who in its gathered and scattered states, serves as a Sign, Instrument, and Foretaste of the Kingdom of God.
This Kingdom has been inaugurated through the death, burial and resurrection of King Jesus. The Church, in this way, functionally serves to alert others to the presence of this Kingdom through the proclamation and demonstration of the Gospel.
In it’s local and universal context, the Church is constructed from people of every tribe, tongue, and nation who proclaim allegiance to King Jesus in this life by placing saving faith in the sacrifice of Christ for their sin and who commit to aligning their life under the Lordship of King Jesus. In short, they proclaim allegiance to King Jesus and commit to life in His Kingdom, under His righteous reign and rule.
In coming posts, my hope is to build on this definition of church by expanding the conversation as to what constitutes Sign, Instrument and Foretaste.
In the meantime, what say you? Is this a good definition of church? What would you change and why?