96—When is a group a church?
THIS IS NOT ON FIRST RECORDING
My name is Tom; this is Simple Church Minute
On these blips, I have discussed a number of practices in which the ways of the early church in the Bible differ from the ways of our traditional churches that are not a function of living in different times and cultures. This brings up a question: What about meetings of groups that do not consider themselves to be a church, but function more closely to the ways of the early church than traditional churches themselves. This includes the pattern of producing, both persons coming to initial faith in Jesus, and believers growing in faith. Are such groups actually churches?
In one sense, this is a difficult question. Can a chapter of a school parachurch organization that overtly states that they are not a church, actually be a church? Can a small group/cell group/care group that is affiliated with a traditional church actually be a church, and the traditional church not? Can such a group, if the believers in the group meet to worship Jesus, live their lives as worship, and meet to build up each other in faith, be the church even if they have been told by someone, and they being respectful to their leaders agree, that they are not? Conversely, can a traditional, institutional church which claims to be the church, even if they have believers as leaders, and even if believers meet to worship Jesus, BUT do not allow any significant amount of the believers building up each other due to their having more persons than can truly know each other, or having substituted one or a few persons attempting to build up everyone for every member ministry—is that actually a church?
Many traditional churches have rules on how much academic training one must have to be a church leader. A little notation is that many of these institutions have a lower standard for groups they support that are either outside of North America, or in the
North America inner cities. Gee, I believe God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and cares for all people the same, without regard to geographic location or economic status.