“Tell me about your church…”
“…It’s big. And friendly. And we have cool worship music. It’s kinda….”
In talking with a number of friends recently, I’ve noticed 4 main ways that we seem to articulate our encounter whatever church we’re a part of. I began with an conversation-starter: “Tell me about your church.” Here’s what came of some incredible discussions:
1. Church in terms of physical space: meaning the church building or geographic location. Often, this comes out with a simple adjective (“big, small“), but also extends to include location (“we meet in a warehouse in Woodlawn“). Also, particularly in the urban context, people identify their church with a particular community (“we’re a part of the North Shore neighborhood“).
2. Church in terms of relationships: typically meaning pastor, leadership, or established friendships. Like those above, those who encounter church through this path will likely use a simple adjective: Friendly. Young (or old). Interestingly, if someone has been introduced to church through a relationship, the relational dynamic usually sticks. It’s usually how they see things from then on.
3. Church in terms of doctrine or philosophy: what a church believes. Those who encounter the church through the door of doctrine will articulate that encounter through a stated set of beliefs. They might bring up or a denominational affiliation (although less likely). Preaching style seems to show up here as well. Typically, those who place a large importance on preaching style take it as a sign of what a church believes.
4. Church in terms of practice: or what a church actually does. If you encounter the church through its mission, you’re likely to evaluate a local body on what’s actually seen – the life of the church outside of Sunday morning. Incidentally, the “worship style” discussion probably finds its home here. The terms “traditional,” “contemporary,” or “missional” will likely be applied based on the church’s practice or worship style.
A few thoughts:
- It’s important to realize that each aspect of “church” is incomplete without the others. They complement each other.
- Often (usually without thinking), we feel at home in a church that meets our natural sensibilities.
- The trouble usually comes when we put undo emphasis on a single aspect to the exclusion of others.
- There doesn’t seem to be a “better” method to encounter church. Wise people come at this church thing in a variety of ways. The interesting thing is what they do when they get there.
How would you describe your church?