Last year about this time, I was speaking with another preacher whom I have not had the interest to get to know. In every career and calling, there are numerous men and women who love their job. But even more than their love for the job, when you get around them, you begin to have the same passion and love for the tasks of the career as Tiger Woods swinging his first practice swing at Augusta. Then there are those in your career who you honestly wish had a different calling so that your name and theirs would never be associated. It really makes me feel sympathetic for salesmen who actually are honest and those lawyers who actually do their job because they really do want to help people. I sometimes feel like the world could look at preachers and think some of the same thoughts as they do with salesmen and lawyers. In fact, now that I think of it, all three careers do have men with slicked back hair and Rolexes on their wrists. The question is what do they have to do today to get you in their church.
This preacher said something to me that day which I have not been able to get out of my mind since he said it. We were talking about churches (as if you could not guess that part) and one particular church came into the discussion. The first and only thing he said about the church was “oh, that’s not a real church!” That has been the thought I have been wrestling with in my mind all year long. I have thought about speaking to this preacher to discover what he really meant by his statement, but he was more than willing to let that one statement capture his opinion on the church. I wanted to ask him to explain his definition of a “real” church. I felt like the Enigo Montoya in The Princess Bride leaning over to his bald headed friend, Vizzini, saying, “You keep using that word – I do not think it means what you think it means.”
After all, what is a “real” church? I think my definition and his definition were not the same. But more importantly, what is the Bible’s definition of the church because it doesn’t matter what I think or what he thinks, it does matter how God defines it. Paul never says “the church is…” Peter never writes, “this is how you do church.” I know the Bible is clear on the fact that there is a group of people who are “the called out ones.” The Bible is just as clear when it identifies the rest of mankind. There is a Church expressed in several smaller bodies of believers and then there is a non-church. No doubt, there are probably some of the non-church mixed in with the church, but only by their claims. There are the saved and there are the lost. This, no one can deny that God has revealed in His word. But what criteria does one use when they look at one group of people and says “that is not a real church?” What does it mean to be the church? Are Sundays the only days you see the church? Is what we do today what Jesus had in mind when he spoke with Peter and said “on this rock, I will build my church?” If one wanted to plant a church, when would they be able to turn around and say “I planted a church.”? I need to think more about this and look more at what Scripture says, but right now I got to go watch The Princess Bride again. Have I mentioned I also need to reorganize my priorities?