What is church? by Neil Cole

Coffee MakerIn the Bible the church is not defined but instead is described with pictures: a flock, a field, a family, a body, a bride, a branch, a building made of living stones. Never is it described by the pictures we typically have today: a building, a business, a school or a hospital. We have replaced an organic and life producing view with an institutional one that does not produce life but at best simply tries to preserve it and contain it.

The predominate way of seeing the church today contains, conforms and controls the people. The biblical pictures of the NT are all about releasing and reproducing the life of the church, not managing and controlling financial interests.

Inorganic things can produce, but not reproduce. As Christian Schwartz points out so eloquently, “A coffee maker can make coffee (praise God), but it cannot make more coffee makers.” Jesus intends for his bride and body to be fertile and for his branches to bear fruit. Jesus didn’t use images of an institution, nor should we.

With much study, research, experience and time spent seeking wisdom from smarter men than us, we have come to understand church by this simple yet profound description: “The church is the presence of Jesus among His people, called out as a spiritual family, to pursue His mission on this planet.”

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