What Church really means

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I was in “church” recently, and a question was asked by the teacher that what happens to a church that fails to preach the Gospel? Someone answered by saying that such a church will not experience progress, I guess numerically, while the teacher further stated that such a church would even experience backwardness.

There was I thinking and pondering in my heart from what specific sensation is the teacher using the word church and the person that answered because depending on the mindset behind such a word, the answer may be right or wrong.

Let’s look at the three most common sensations.

  1. The church as a congregation of God’s people.
  2. The church as a Denomination.
  3. The church as a place where Christians go to worship.

1. The church as a Congregation of God’s People. If the word church is used based on this sensation, I don’t know why I should worry about whether we grow in number or not. I am the church or part of the church. The church in this sensation is a family formed on the foundation of Jesus Christ. We have Christ in us, and then we come together for fellowship.

The bible says where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am (Matt. 18:20). If we fail to preach the gospel unto others, we would continually enjoy our relationship with ourselves as well as with God. It’s easier to love and get along with few people than it is to get along with a vast multitude. There would be less headache, and everyone knows what’s going on in the lives of everyone. The more people join us, the more we’ve got to stretch ourselves emotionally and accommodate a lot more differences. The more the numbers, the lesser the bond. The more people come together, the easier we change our definition of what it means to be a church to a denomination. The more the numbers, the more significant the differences to be accommodated, and as a “church” or a member thereof, I’ll instead prefer to limit my headaches. I’ll rather be among a few people where I’m free to love and loved equally instead of a large church where I’ve got to thread more carefully.

  1. The church as a Denomination: A denomination is an autonomous branch of the Christian church, and denominations thrive through numbers. Hence, it’s imperative for denominations to preach the gospel so that their numbers increase. There is strength in numbers. The more the members of such a denomination, the higher their influence, financial strength, and impact in the society either as a force of good or bad. So, denominations need a lot of members, and members are tasked with doing their part. Two or three people can form a church, but it takes a multitude to create a denomination.
  2. The Church as a Place where Christians go to Worship: I would instead call this a chapel. Based on this definition likewise, there’s a need to go out there and preach the gospel so that more people can come to the chapel. How we preach differs, but the goal is that people fellowship with the congregation in the chapel. Two or three people can form a church, but it takes a lot more to build a chapel. While it usually takes more than a Chapel to create a denomination with few exceptions. All the points raised for the denomination is also valid for the chapel, but I’ll add a few more points to buttress this point.

Chapels are places where you find people from all walks of life. Church in this regard thrives on members too, and not just members but having the most influential people from all walks of life. These chapels can operate as a formal place of worship, or as a family depending on the numbers, the vision, and the leadership of the denomination they belong to. The more the numbers, the less likely they would form a good relationship with each other. 

Deep loving relationships are difficult in such a gathering. The strength of your relationship to others is usually based on what you’ve got to offer the body as a whole. Furthermore, the influence of the chapel is directly proportional to the influence of its constituent members.

What is it we really want from our church? What sensation do we really desire when we use the word “church”? Let’s get back to the foundations of our faith and abandon this obsession with growth. While progress and growth often go together, numeric growth in a congregation is not always desirable as it comes at a cost. Large congregations have more disagreements and less closeness between the members. If a congregation grows in size but diminishes in cohesiveness, is that really progress?