What is Church?

My friends and I have been perpetually engaged in an ongoing discussion on this topic. We see examples all around us of places – institutions – claiming to be church; which is it?

There are two examples on my mind today. One claims to be evangelical; the other doesn’t.

The first is a part of a church that is entirely outward-focused. Their mantra is that the church isn’t the building. They don’t treat it that way. The church is the body and what the church does outside of their walls. In that sense the goal of this example person tends to be missional. This missional emphasis leads toward equipping members to deal with the world. Teaching involves a strong academic emphasis and devoted historical study of the scriptures.

On the other hand, the second person I have in mind is very focused on community. This person’s idea of a church is one where people are loved, nurtured, and taken care of. The church’s most important aspect is their small group program and their system for plugging volunteer’s into various aspects of the church. This community emphasis leads toward a very inward focus that prioritizes its own members well being over that of the rest of the world. The goal of the church is to bring them in – to evangelize, ironically enough (see two paragraphs up).

Neither of these options seems right to me. In fact they seem like opposite ends of a spectrum. And I’ve never been a fan of the left or the right. I like balance. Is there a way to balance these two alternatives? Is there some sort of equilibrium that a church should strive for? Or is it something else all together?

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