Does anything need to happen for ‘church’ to be valid?

Pom raised an interesting tangent on the recent thread “Why bother going to church at all…”. I thought the topic was worth exploring, so here it is:

Just a question. If we can gather together in any format (eg a picnic) and we worship God daily (eg through our decision making at work) and we can preach the Word through conversations. Do we need any type of structure? Can we still function correctly as a body?

Also, if we already gather together in certain structures (like in a business) can Christians simply gather and minister within that business and therefore function as a church there? What would need to happen for it to be valid? – Pom

The first response is from MN – I’m reposting it in the comments below.


18 thoughts on “Does anything need to happen for ‘church’ to be valid?

  1. MN commented:


    in response to your question I think you only have to look at the example of Jesus for direction, far less Paul.

    There’s getting out and ministering/living our lives as you’ve highlighted, and there is also getting away from the hubub and meeting together as family, and also for some alone time as well.

    In addition plenty of people meet at or in the workplace as Christians as well.

    It’s the age old not-so-literary question of form and content.

  2. I think from the earlier thread the point made was that there are many ways to meet with other Christians, worship, hear the Word etc

    Hence my comment about form and content.

    What I hear from these comments is probably a hard earned desire to run from some of the experiences we’ve all had.

    A common Aussie expression: don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater.

    I heard someone else recently talking about being at one the extreme end of a pendulum swing a couple of years ago, and then going to the other extreme in order to dissociate from that position.

    I think all I would encourage is for people to find some fellowship somewhere where worship is given to God, and His Word is taught as honestly as possible with some humility – having a sense that we don’t necessarily have it right, but this is the best we can do at this point in the time space continuum.

    For some – reference RP’s comments in the previous thread – it might just be that God has said ‘take time out so you can hear what I want you to learn’. We – her fellow believers – need to honour that.

    My middle son is doing jazz bass performance at the local conservatorium. He has been helping out with youth group on Friday nights, plus has a life group he meets with. I have been in his ear because he doesn’t have a regular income that he needs to get a job or get in a band and play some paying gigs because we can’t support him.

    He went to the youth leader and said look I think I need to pull out cause I’m really struggling for time – which he is.

    The message came back that it was suggested my son manage his time better. I can tell you I think he manages his time pretty well and I was unumpressed by that ill-informed advice. But I think it is fairly typical of many of us – as it has been of me – to overlay my own priorities over the top of someone else and expect them to lay down theirs for mine.

    The real question then that is inherent above is what does Scripture if we hold it to be God’s Word say about fellowship?

    Without being prescriptive I think the general tenor is to fellowship with SOMEONE so we can grow together and give due honour, praise and glory to the God we profess to believe – including when we don’t feel like it.

    Or a quote from Colossians 3 in the spirit of Pom’s entree:

    Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

  3. You’ve made a lot of good points, MN. And thanks for the support – its encouraging.

    I can relate to the overlay of priorities that you saw in their advice to your son. As you say, we all do this at times; I still find it difficult to watch it coming from a pastor. An example which influenced me – I became aware of someone working in a church office for free, who had no income, and was also going broke. They really needed to find work, but were going through a difficult time emotionally. I asked the pastor whether perhaps the most loving thing to do would be to support the person looking for a paid job elsewhere, rather than expect them to deliver on a commitment to unpaid work that seemed to delay this. The pastor responded that they were sure the person gained some benefit from it.

    I know that was one small issue, but it highlighted to me a lack of love in the leadership context, which to me is a vital part of the expression of church.

    To me, the vital part of something, that makes it church, is I think, that in it we express love for God, and love for one another – as a family. So to me, if that is happening in a non-traditional context, then we have church.

  4. (Reader, please note that for some reason this comment is being displayed out of order. This comment should be read after MN’s next comment and before my next comment. )

    “Sounds like you do have a church there Pom!” – MN

    Agreed but I see the issue another way. Our current definition of “church” is really a hangover from the days when a failing empire appropriated the church and its identity to help stave off collapse.

    For a thousand years “church” and “empire” were kind of synonymous. There was a head (emperor/pope) and government and hierarchies of control (clergy). There were programs, cash-flows, taxes and ex-communication.

    The empire has been broken up but these are themes that are strongly with us today. Now we have lots of little empires that we call “churches” or perhaps “church movements”. Pringle, Jensen and Houston are heads who have their realms where their words are not questioned (at least in PP’s case according to my old C3 pastor) and people vie to please them (just check out the comments on PP’s blog).

    I assume that not every church is like this but most of the ones I have experienced are.

    I don’t think this is the biblical definition of “church”. The word just meant “assembly”. It did not mean “empire” or “kingdom”.

    There is the church which is Christ’s body. We know this – the church is all of us, and we are warned that getting this understanding wrong has consequences including sickness and death (“sleep”).

    Then there is “the church that is in <some place>”, e.g. “the church that is in Galatia” or “the church that is in Pheobe’s house”.

    I think our modern eyes see these terms as kingdoms with cash-flows, heads, boundaries, identities etc, with the church that is in Galatia being a big one with a powerful guy at the top and the one that is in Pheobe’s house being a less powerful one.

    And they are static kingdoms too. You can’t be a member of the church that is in Gaius’ house and a member of the church that is in Eli’s house. They are different kingdoms and it seems wrong to be part of two different kingdoms.

    I don’t think the definition above is the biblical concept. I think the church in Galatia is the church and that the church which is in Pheobe’s house is also the church. They are not a separate thing, they don’t have a separate identity or a separate head.

    They are not separate kingdoms in any way at all (for the purpose of discussion lets assume that Phoebe did not live in Galatia i.e. that the church in her house is not contained by the church that is in Galatia – I can’t remember off hand where Phoebe lived, actually I seem to recall she moved around).

    The assembly in Phoebe’s house is just that part of the Church that happens to be in Phoebe’s house at that time and the assembly that is in Galatia is just the church that happens to be in Galatia at that time.

    Its a dynamic thing. Can I be the church at Gauis’ place and the church at Eli’s place. Of course I can. I am just being the church where I am. I am not crossing kingdom boundaries and switching from Gauis’ authority to Eli’s. I am just assembling with the body in one place, and then later another.

    So is the church that happens to be in Pom’s business a church. Of course. It is the church. It just happens to have assembled in that place. Five day’s a week.

    Perhaps I see it as “seems like you have the church there Pom”. 🙂

  5. “To me, the vital part of something, that makes it church, is I think, that in it we express love for God, and love for one another – as a family” RP

    I couldn’t agree more. With this in mind it is easy to see all of us as leaders within the church. So we can choose to have a positive influence on the church rather than being limited by a reduced understanding of her within a “church program” context.

    I was saved and had my formative Christian experiences outside of the traditional church. Over the course of 20 years or so, I have been involved in, and on staff of various churches and Christian ministries. I’m not currently involved in that context, not because of any bad experiences but purely because of the leading of God.

    I have been in and out of church during that time, which in England was less of an issue. Currently I part own a small business and we are trying to see how closely we can fulfill all aspects of a church community in that setting. This continues to bring up more questions than answers, so I’m enjoying reading people’s thoughts on this blog. Meantime, the Christian life continues to be an extremely exciting exploration of the larger picture of His Kingdom.

    I hope this makes sense, I have a child talking to me at the same time!!!

  6. Sounds like you do have a church there Pom!

    ‘As a family’ – RP…..

    Always God’s intention I think, and to that end – so that also should be the end of all doctrine, teaching, worship – help and instruction on how to have the best relationship with our Creator God and our extended family. Scary.

    Family is not something I do well….

  7. Somehow the order got scrambled – no wonder I was confused.

    Identity is good and right as long as it doesn’t get turned into the end by stealth, and become exclusive in the sense that Pom’s Phoebe’s and the Galation church are not recognised and acknowledged as part of ‘the Church’. Or a vehicle for the accumulation of status and power.

    Back to Word and Spirit for me – with assembly.

    To wit as I think the point was made in another thread by I can’t remember who – this also is assembly.

    Praise God!!

  8. I think there are some anti-‘Church’ verses in the Bible. ‘Church’ in the sense of a temple-like building and associated organisation. I think I commented on this about a year ago.

    In Mark 9: 5-7 at the Transfiguration :

    Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.)

    Then a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”

    I think this might be referring to the human tendency to get frightened when God shows himself in a new way, and in order to cope with that to build temples and boxes in order to contain God so that we can worship him safely.

    We’d much rather worship Him than listen to Him.

  9. “this also is assembly” – MN

    Perfectly true. We are the body of Christ that is assembled at 🙂

    I must admit that I was not initially positive when Bull talked about being an online church. But according to my own argument we already are.

    Read you in church 🙂

  10. Great post. I preached about this recently.
    We by ourselves are the ‘House of God’ and globally we are the ‘House of God’.

    Now I’ve playing with this concept for a while but even individually, we are the church. Why? Because if we are by ourselves, we still have three persons with us.

    Jesus was not afraid to say that He had two witnesses prove He was the Messiah. But these were not men but the Father and the Holy Spirit.

    Christ was led by the person Holy Spirit and in His Father’s presence, the Father revealed to Him his destiny through the crucifixion.

    Individually we are the church. Ever had your spouse wake you up in the middle of the night because ‘someone might be downstairs’ or one ‘is not feeling well’? It’s the equivalent of God waking you up and asking you to pray for someone who needs prayer right away.

    By ourselves there’s four! Where there’s four there’s church! The Spirit ministers to us, bringing us to the Son. The Son ministers to us, while be both come before the Father. Before the Father & Son we talk to them who in turn sees us ministering to them which both the Father and Son delight in.

    So all are functioning as ministers. A fantastic four combo that demonstrates how an individual is a church with the greater church.

    We bring the church wherever we go. Online or offline. In a building or outside a building.

  11. Here’s a question for the church historians and people with a od imagination among you. What was it really like being a part of the early church?

    We know that a letter was sent to say the Ephesians, but that it wasn’t one group of people who met every Sunday in one massive building. That most agree. Whether they had instruments accompanying their singing is perhaps up to debate, but everything I have read suggests they didn’t.

    So let’s say I go to the church that meets in the house of Mark down the road. If I started to think the meeting on the Lord’s day dragged on, could I walk a bit further, or stay over the night so I could go to the group that met in the house next to the temple 2 miles away? What relation did the leader of the house church in one place have with the one down by the river?
    And if the house I went to had not many cute singles, could I get permission to go to another, or could I just turn up.
    On the other hand, could I just decide to not go to any of them and meet for tea with a few Christian friends after work, so that I could spend Sunday watching the boats…

    Crazy questions I know and maybe there is no answer. But if there are no answers, then maybe that shows we really don’t know as much about the early church, or God’s design for church than we think we do.

  12. Some Christian Jews used to go to synagogues and hear Jews preach. In Acts 3 we know that Christians went to the Jewish temple to pray and worship.

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