KNOWING CHURCH FROM NOT-CHURCH

I'm thinking about many things these days, ecclesiology being high on the list. As I pondered, I began to wonder about the criteria we use to determine whether a gathering is church or not-church. Calvin and others have defined church as where the gospel is preached and the sacraments are rightly administered. Honestly, I find this less than compelling (reasons for which I may expound later). As part of my ponderings, I float an experiment of sorts:


CHURCH vs. NOT-CHURCH

I contend that Biola is not a church. It is populated by persons who are members of the church, but this particular gathering is not church. Biola is an arm of the church. In fact, if a believer were to consider Biola to be his or her church, that believer would be incorrect.

Question: By what biblical/theological criteria am I able to make this claim?

Initial thoughts:
  • These criteria would seem to be the same by which one might distinguish a house church from a small group that meets in a house.
  • Biola and small groups have missions that are subordinate to the church's mission.
  • Know the Story-Be the People-Expand the Kingdom may provide insight.
  • The New Testament images of the church should provide insight.
  • Was Paul's traveling mission team a church? Why or why not? (see post on local church)


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1 comment:

  1. A contribution to your experiment. Some suggestions:

    Biola is an organization established and organized by people with goals, means and boundaries determined by people. As such it is not church.

    Torrance First Baptist is also an organization established and organized by people with goals, means and boundaries determined by people. As such it is not church.

    BUT within both of them believers may come together in all kinds of ways and circumstances such that they form an instantiation of (a part of) the Body of Christ. In that period, they are church.

    Church comes into existence when a number of believers come together under the headship of Jesus and offer themselves (living sacrifices) as living stones to be built into the Body of Christ. Critical success factors are:
    - the people are believers under the headship of Christ
    - they share their lives
    - Christ is Head of the gathering, so He does the building

    The coming together can be in many types of circumstances of which Sunday services in a building dedicated for the purpose is only one. And since that circumstance can be very formalised with lots of rules, conventions and traditions originated by people, its "effectiveness" may be lower than other types of circumstance.

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