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What is Church?


I recently had a conversation with my parents about the church they are attending because they were contemplating leaving this congregation and visiting somewhere else. I was a little surprised because they have been attending there for several years, and I have even had opportunities to go with them when I have visited. Their church is somewhat unique in the South-remember we are known as the Bible Belt. There are literally churches on every street corner in the South. What makes this church unusual is that it is an offshoot of a large Baptist congregation in Virginia, and they meet in an elementary school gymnasium. There’s no permanent building for this body of believers. My parents have a little bit of an issue with this setup because we have always “gone to church.” A building…my parents believe that having a structure is one of the main identity markers of the “Church.”


Church in Central Asia

According to Noah Webster’s 1828 dictionary, church is defined as “the collective body of Christians or of those who profess to believe in Christ, and acknowledge Him to be the Savior of mankind. Notice the definition doesn’t mention having to have a formal meeting place. I respectfully challenged my folks' mindset just a little bit by asking them, “So, is this a deal breaker for you? To not have a church building?” To which they replied, “No because we love the people.” This is the Church! A community of believers meeting together, centered around the Gospel, doing life together, baptizing, taking the Lord’s Supper, and making more disciples of Christ.


House Church
House Church

I couldn’t help but think about the way the Church looks all across the world. Being a part of Crossover Global has opened my eyes to how the local context for church is different everywhere you go, but the markers are the same. A community of believers committed to spreading the Gospel and growing in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Does meeting in a yurt, a semi-permanent tent structure, in Central Asia still church? Is it considered Church to have an open-air service in Africa? The Chinese Church has to meet at a clandestine location, each member coming at staggered times so as not to draw attention-is this Church? How about having to whisper while worshiping so as not to alert your neighbors who are hostile to Christians? Of course, this is the Church! The cultural context of each meeting is precious in God’s eyes. Let’s practice with every opportunity given to be the Church, the Bride of Christ, shining our light into very dark places and remembering that in heaven, we will be worshipping Jesus in our own languages and within our own cultural context. What a sight that will be!


Yurt in Central Asia where the church gathers

Baptism in the river

This post was shared by Shannon Gann, Event Coordinator, USA Regional Base.

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