what does church look like?

August 25, 2004 | 6 Comments

I’ve been in the process for several months of thinking through what it would like it to look like if I were participate in a church plant. I like some of the thinking that is happening among those align with the emergent church, and yet I’m not quite as eager, as some seem to be, to completely abandon everything that happens in most evangelical churches. (Thanks to Jordon Cooper and Maggi Dawn for some of their recent thoughts on this.) This is a some of my thinking as I try to figure it out…

I recently received an email some friends who have been looking for a church. In their email, they ask these questions:

Why do I feel like church should be small and intimate?
Why do I feel drawn to less structure within church?

These questions were likely rhetorical, so I figured I’d just answer them for myself — and anyone else who may be reading this, of course. Though those questions seem to go together, I’m not sure they need to. Small and intimate and structure are not necssarily mutually exclusive. Let’s look at the questions one at a time:

Why do I feel like church should be small and intimate?
John Eldredge in Waking the Dead speaks to this far better than I can:

Going to church with hundreds of other people to sit and hear a sermon doesn’t ask much of you. It certainly will never expose you. That’s why most folks prefer it. Because community will. It will reveal where you have yet to become holy, right at the very moment you are so keenly aware of how they have yet to become holy. It will bring you close and you will be seen and you will be known, and therein lies the power, and therein lies the danger.

I think there is a hunger in all of us for what he describes. There is a safety in the pews, but it there is also a dissatisfaction as well. There is a sensed need for something beyond that. I know my friends have a sense of community like this with a few others. Perhaps that is why they are so dissatisfied as they drop in to church services where they know no one and interact on only the most superficial of levels. They know those services can’t better bring something to them that they have already found.

If that is true, do my friends even need to be a part of a ‘church service’? Obviously, many have said no, at least to the common worship service as most Christians know it. Is there a need for someone to experience the body of Christ beyond these small intimate communties. This brings us to their next question, but I already know that will be a longer entry, so I will tackle it in a future entry…

  • Good thoughts about community. You reminded me about the type of community that Church of the Savior encouraged.
    Granted, my thoughts probably veered off of the direction you’re going with this, but it did get me thinking.

    I posted more about it on my blog.

    BTW… when writing a comment on our blog, I noticed that the text goes off the page where I can’t see it anymore. It’s not wrapping the text at quite the right place. You might try a test post or two to see what I’m talking about.

  • Thanks for the heads up on the comment area. I believe I have corrected the problem — I guess CSS is great technology for those who know how to use it…I don’t!

  • Good thoughts. I guess the ideal would be to have both, although that’s hard to achieve.

  • ‘They know those services can’t better bring something to them that they have already found.’

    Yes indeed. I dont attend meetings because I’ve already found community, (I live in one)why would I want to go along to a service once a week where community doesnt exist.

    I’m afraid churches dont generally know what it’s like to be community even though they call themselves community, daily sharing of lives, interactions, intimacy.

    When I was in a ‘church’ and I didnt go for a few months, I never even received a call to see how i was. lol if im not around here for a few hours then someone comes to find out why:)


  • jamie

    we have a small community in our house and yet we still visit churches, trying to find a home “church”…I think we try each week because we are looking for communion, musical worship, and something magical. Everything’s authentic, but maybe I am missing.

  • Jamie you can offer each other communion in your homes. It’s not necessary to have an ordained minister do it. We’re able to have communion together over a meal.