Wednesday, February 11, 2009

On the nature of church

I had a great morning with a friend of mine today. Jeff Noble, pastor of Journey Church here in Monticello, and I are working on some ideas that our churches can work together to reach our community. We get along quite well, although we don't exactly agree on everything. And, to tell the truth, our churches look and behave quite differently. Here at Calvary, we are a very traditional Southern Baptist church. We have most of the typical activities of a Southern Baptist church, and think very much like a small town group of folks. Journey, on the other hand, while being Southern Baptist church, is about as untraditional as you'll find, especially in small town Arkansas. They have church Sunday morning, but no Sunday School, Sunday night church is small group meetings in homes, they don't even own an organ!

So, naturally, the two pastors have some different viewpoints on churches and ministry. That doesn't mean we can't find ways for our churches to work together.

However, some of our discussion has me pondering: What constitutes a church? For example, we Southern Baptists together support Baptist Collegiate Ministries on college campuses. One of them, at the University of Arkansas-Monticello, is right here in town. (follow bcmguy on twitter)
At the BCM, they seek to disciple Christians, evangelize the lost, fellowship, worship, and pray together. BCMs generally don't do the Lord's Supper or Baptism, which we Baptists hold as the 2 ordinances of the church, but they don't do that because the churches that financially support BCMs tell them not to.

So is a BCM a church? I'm inclined that they aren't, because a church shouldn't have any qualifications for membership beyond Scripture, and typically, you're not in a BCM if you're not connected to the college campus. But, it's often the point of first contact, and sometimes, since our churches aren't really very geared towards that age bracket, the only place college students are comfortable with spiritual issues, the BCM does most of the church functions. So maybe they are.

And on that note, what should churches focus on? One aspect of the BCM is they are very geared towards drawing in unchurched people, folks with no religious connection at all. Most people like that aren't coming to church, but we expect Christians to come to church. And there are things we expect of Christians that unchurched/lost people will have no understanding of. A classic example is tithing. As a pastor, I have a responsibility to teach the Believers in this church that God requires of them to give the first 10% of their income in obedience and faith. But to preach this in a room of unchurched folks leads to "the church just wants our money." So do I skip it, so that unchurched will come and hear the Gospel, and become believers? Or do I preach it, so that Believers get the challenge to obey?

This connects to other issues, and one of the Scriptural issues comes back to the principles of Romans 14, how those who are more mature and have better understanding should do what's necessary to help the less mature to grow (I keep thinking there's better Scripture on that, can't remember, can't find it). However, how do you determine how that applies in church? Does this mean that we cast aside traditions for the sake of drawing new believers? Or do we hold certain things as a standard, realizing that church isn't about your preferences, but about a corporate experience?

Just some wonderings. And please, throw in some comments.


  1. I really enjoyed our time together this a.m. as well and look forward to many more. Thank you for all that you're doing to extend Christ's kingdom and lead and mature followers of Christ.

    Let us both continue praying that God will send out more workers into His harvest field. I am deeply grateful for a denomination that recognizes strategic fields like college campuses.

  2. This is one of the conversations that needs to happen in churches. Too many churches like mine are much more focused in one direction than another.

    So, the question becomes: How do we do church from a Biblical perspective to accomplish all of the purposes?

    The answer, I think, is partly found in the different churches we have today, and partly found in those churches learning to accomplish some things together.

  3. Super good post on the nature of church as we live it these days here in the south. As the AD out at the BCM it is something that crosses my mind quite often when I think on things we should be teaching our students.

    Great thoughts!!


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