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What is Church?

This year has been the one of deconstructing my idea of church. What is church? What is its purpose?

Having lived most of my life in Texas, when meeting someone new, I'm used to hearing (or asking) this question: Where do you go to church? With church buildings abundantly sprinkled across the land, it's a widespread cultural assumption that most people attend somewhere.

So, is church a building where people gather to perform weekly rituals?

The word translated as "church" in the Bible is ekklesia in its original Greek and means "a gathering of citizens called out from their homes into some public place, an assembly." An assembly of people.

The ekklesia has nothing to do with a building. Or a structured organization. Or a list of rituals to perform.

And, in its original context, the assembly of people come together to discuss and deliberate ideas. They come to learn from and challenge one another.

It sounds very much like the early "church" - a community where everyone brought something to the table to share.

"All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord's Supper), and to prayer. A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord's Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity - all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved." Acts 2:42-47

It was about people gathering daily to worship God, learn, pray, radically encourage and support one another, and connect. They met in the Temple and in homes. It wasn't about where they met - it was about why. 

Buildings can be tools, but they should never become the reason, much less the definition of this assembly. 

What matters is that we do gather together - it doesn't matter where.

What have you understood "church" to mean? How does this idea of stripping away the building and the business from the meaning of church challenge that understanding?


The book Pagan Christianity by Frank Viola and George Barna has been immensely helpful and challenging in reframing my understanding of God's intention for church and areas where we have gone astray.

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