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What is Church?

What is Church?

It’s a question sent by Juanita González two weeks ago. It’s also a question that had me thinking about just want Church is today and why people still attend Divine Liturgy, Mass, or the Sunday Service at the Baptist church just around the corner.

So, I’m writing about Church today, what it is and why it’s important [Authors Note: In the article, I will focus on the former, the latter will be answered in the audio above].

In searching for answers, I reached out to several people, as well as posting the question on social media. I’ll be sharing some of those answers with you.

So, what is Church?            

“It’s a personality thing,” says Chevy Cortez. “You know it’s my, my father has believed in God as long as I’ve known him, and I’ve never seen him in a church ever. So, it’s really about personality and, and personal belief in, in what’s going on.”

‘You know,” said Rebecka in her email to me, “it’s like a club that people join just to have something to do on Sundays.” Rebecca feels that Church is just a sort of beneficial society not unlike the Masons, Kiwanis, or the Rotary Club.

“Church comes from the Greek Εκκλησία [Ekklisía], meaning ‘called out ones,’” says Evangelist Robert Juma of Kenya. “It means people who have obeyed the terms of the Gospel according to the New Testament. Church is important because it is through the Church that God’s kingdom is preached and thus expanded.”

From Chevy, Rebecka and Robert we have three divergent views of what Church might be to them, and their circle of friends. But I wanted to know just what it is and why we go.

Every Sunday millions of individuals from across the world wake up, don their Sunday best, and head for Church.  They may attend Sunday School, religious, educational classes, and the service. Maybe they are in Church for an hour, maybe three. Some, even longer.

I decided I wanted to talk to a Christian who works weekends and cannot attend Sunday services and Ken Peters came to mind.

Ken Peters works at KELP Christian Radio here in El Paso. He only works weekends, going home Sunday evening, or Monday morning if that Monday happens to be a holiday.

“Well, first off, anytime that I use any scripture, I invite people to check and make sure that I am not misquoting, or misusing it like they should do with anybody,” said Ken as he began to answer my questions.

“What is the church? The church, despite what some people believe is not a building, everybody says, ‘I’m going to church.’ Well, no, you’re not really going to church. You’re going to a building the Church meets in because the Church is the Body of Christ.”

Calling a building the Church is something I came across in a lot of my responses.

“Oh,” writes Edgar Burdon, “the Church is just around the corner from my house. My family and I are able to make the early Sunday Mass and be home about an hour later.”

“Church is not an institution, rather the building in which individuals gather for worship and praise,” wrote Gladys. “It’s simply the structure.”

“Even in Matthew, when he [Jesus Christ] first starts off talking about the church, he talks about, and he’s talking about Peter, ‘I also say to you that you are Peter and, on this rock, I will build my church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it,’” says Ken Peters.

“Right there, he doesn’t say, ‘Peter, I want you to build a building and bring people into the building. That’s going to be the church.’ He says, no, I’m going to build a church on you. Church is built on people. Everybody has a different function and different things, but the church is the body of believers.”

I also wanted to ask Father Hector Abouid of St George Antiochian Orthodox Church. In one of my prior conversations with Fr. Abouid, I asked him if he could ever envision the world without the Orthodox Church in it.

“The fact, first of all, what is the church and how does the church see itself?” asked Fr. Abouid. “Because what, it depends also who you ask. If you ask an Orthodox Christian, what is the church? His response will be the body of Christ.”

Father is right; it does depend upon who you ask. William, who also send me an email with his answer of what is the Church, gave me a very denominational answer.

“The church is only the Baptist Church,” is Williams answer. William is the pastor of a small Baptist Church in Arkansas. “The only Church is the Baptist Church.”

A similar answer was to be had from Raymond who lives in Portland, Oregon.

“Well, your question is easy to answer, at least from where I sit,” wrote Raymond. “The church is the one that will help you reach a ‘clear’ state, and that is the Church of Scientology.”

The answer from Fr. Abouid echoes what St Paul said in that we are the Body of Christ.

“Every single person, I don’t like the word individual,” says Fr. Abouid, “encompasses a portion or an organ of that body. If one member is ill, or sick, or suffer, or astray, then the entire body suffers.” Father does add that you must help to heal that one member, that one organ that is suffering for the whole body to be well, to be whole.

“Church, to me,” wrote Becky, “is a gathering of people who share the same belief system actively supporting one another and their community.”

The Church, then, is the people who make up the larger Body of Christ. It is not a building, or so much a sacred space as it is the people in that building or space. Yet, one person shared a slightly different view.

“I will give you want I found on Thinke blog,” wrote Sylvia Parkman. “Here it is: A popular Christian social media catch-phrase is, ‘You don’t go to church, you are the church’ While I get the sentiment in some ways, this is an unhealthy view, pitting ‘being the church’ and ‘going to church’ against each other. If we are truly ‘the Church,’ then we will surely get together with other believers regularly. We cannot "be" the church if we don’t ‘go’ to church. Not fully anyways.”

Sylvia, in her email, told me that you must have a Church, a building, in order to be a Church. “So,” she said near the end of her email, “the Church is the building. The building is part of the Body of Christ.”

Of all the responses I’ve had, only one was negative. Hector Zafra, from Brazil, sent me his thought’s via Facebook Messenger.

“It is one myth for making money,” said Hector. “Adults who believe children’s storys [sic] and pay that cash to be fooled!”

Church, to me, is not the building we enter in order to commune with God. It is, as Fr. Abouid said, and I paraphrase a bit from the audio, where God, the Father enters us mystically and then we mystically enter into Him. It’s us, the believers who profess Christ as our Savior. It is the community of believers, plan and simple.

What you’ve just read is only a taste of what is found in the audio attached to this article. I invite you to listen to the audio, to download it, and ask questions. Then, tell me what you feel Church is and why you do or don’t think it’s important.

The audio is from the Still Going Somewhere podcast. I’ve launched the podcast to collect and share stories that are both personal and religious in nature. I hope you’ll enjoy this, and future episodes.

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