By necessity, I will be very methodical about this topic of "Church." I hope you forgive my need to throw in humor, it is not out of disrespect. It is because sometimes when something is so weighty, we need to be able to put the weights down for just a second, before we pick them back up again. I know that many of you who have tried to even ask certain questions about this have been assailed. As I said, it's the mother pearl.
We'll start off gently. Here is something I think we all agree on. It's one of the few things that happens in what western culture calls a 'church' that can be actually profitable:
*being with other believers*
It's funny, that's the first thing 'church' people whip out to admonish me with when they hear I am not at a 'church.' [Sorry, the only way I have to annotate 'church' as most people think of it, and The Church, is with the quotation marks and the capitals. It is not meant to be insulting to 'church' people by its repetitiveness].
They say, "Don't forsake the gathering together of believers as some are in the habit of doing," quoting Paul from the New Testament, of course.
I'm not. I'm just not doing it at a 'church.'
When people who are The Church show up at common times to be with each other and engage in common activities at a 'church,' surprise! Church Happens. Administering their gifts to each other takes place, and God shows up too. It doesn't matter how many people are there, 2 or 2,000. It doesn't matter where it happens and there are no personnel requirements. God is actually quite capable of giving people the gifts they need when they need them to minister to other people.
Understand that, in the bible, the church is not described as a series of microcosms spread across the land, each called The Local Church. That would be saying there are many little duplicate copy brides of the one BIG bride running around. [Please read that last sentence and this next one again really slowly]. What he does say is that her (the bride, called The Church) body has many parts, and each of us comprises a piece of it. The fact that we are spread across the land is of no hinderance to God.
So all the believers together comprise The Church, NOT all the little churches together comprising a big church.
SO, SO subtle. Oh so very subtle, are deceptions. Read this:
the Church (in Corinth)
"The Church of Corinth" (read as similar to First Baptist Church of Corinth)
Do you see that? In case you are wondering, the first is correct. The second is not.
.......back to the earlier point about meeting together............
'Church' leaders like to step into these meetings or facilitate them and then point to what is taking place as validation.. for the institution that owns the building or that set up the meeting, and even for their role. I have been present at exchanges like this in a garage. That doesn't make the mechanic my priest and the auto shop my church. More important to note: It didn't matter if they were even there. Lest ye believe that a 'church's' existence can be validated because it facilitates these gatherings; understand that, on the premise of that function alone, I would agree that it was a good organization. But is a 'church' necessary to facilitate gatherings of The Church? The answer is NO.
Immediately, I know, that all of the other very important functions the 'church' facilitates and assures you are critical in your Christian walk pop into your minds like clock work. I don't disagree that praise, worship, or bible study are essential to The Church. I just don't believe a 'church' is essential for The Church to do those things.
Ask me how I know this.
We are still doing those too.
Again, is the 'church' necessary? NO.
Can an organization facilitate these things without causing harm to, stealing from, worshiping, impeding, or impersonating The Church? I'd say yes. It can be done. In theory.
I want you to know before we go any further, it is not my intention to draw anyone away from my wonderful God, or away from His precious bride, The Church. Quite the contrary. So, I'll keep going.