The Functional Church Blog

koinonia * kerygma * diakonia * marturia

Archive for the ‘church’ Category

What is church for?

Posted by functionalchurch on 2012/12/04

Enjoyed this video from Seth Godin regarding school. Take a look.

I have a similar question: What is church for?

We debate about what church is? Some would say, “A church is a big building that sits on the corner of our street.” Others would counter by saying, “No. It’s not a building. A church a group of people who gather together to worship God.” Actually both are true, if you look at the dictionary definition of “church” so there is no need for us to argue over that one anymore 🙂

But have you ever thought about what church is for? Can an understanding of why we do church help us in defining it? Millard Erickson talks about two aspects of defining church in his Christian Theology (Chapter 49). One is the essence of the church or the church’s nature. We use biblical and philosophical ways to answer this. The other is empirical. This is the church as it is lived out in the world. I think that perhaps we have focussed too much on trying to find the church’s essence that we have neglected its functionality.

Godin’s argument is that once we understand what school is for, we will be able to adapt/change what we are doing now so that we can actually meet our goal. I would argue the same for church. If we don’t know why we do church on Sunday (or whatever other day you do it — the concept is the same, just a different schedule 🙂 then how will we know we are meeting our goal?

 

So, how would you answer the question, “What is church for?” Do you agree with your answers?

Posted in church, church impact, ecclesiology, legacy | 2 Comments »

Church is no longer an “everyday word.”

Posted by functionalchurch on 2012/12/04

The Greeks used an everyday word to describe when they gathered together as Christians. We use a religious word to describe the same thing. And that fact has a tremendous impact upon how each of us understands the concept.

The funny thing is is that it is the same word: “Church.”

I spend a lot of my time trying to define this word for leaders in the Christian movement. We look at how it is used in the Bible; we look at what it meant in the original Greek; we study how it has been used through the ages since the 1st century; and so on and so forth. And when we come to a conclusion we proclaim it from the hilltops: I know what “church” means! (Of course, there is the corollary that if I know what it means then you probably don’t. So you need me to tell you. Good on me!)

But what if we couldn’t use that word? What if it was not available in my heart language? What if my culture had no concept of that word? What would I do then? How could I describe the body of Christ without the word “church”?

Is it possible?

Want to take a shot?

How would you describe the concept of church without using the word “church”?

Would you be willing to give up the word in favour of your new one?

Posted in church, cross-cultural, ecclesiology | Leave a Comment »

Thoughts arising from Mike Breen’s “How do you make Missional Disciples?”

Posted by functionalchurch on 2011/10/11

I have been following with interest the current discussion led by Mike Breen regarding disciple making and the missional church. Since both missionality and disciple-making are personal interests of mine, I have enjoyed reading the blogs and reflecting on how they will reshape my understanding of church and mission.

Today, Roger Helland, posted on the BGC Alberta Facebook Page the following statement/question in response to Mike’s latest post:

As I reflect on Christian life and leadership, I am both convinced and convicted, that disciple-making is the goal, end result, and organizing practice to which I must commit. Disciple-making is the Jesus ordained mission of the church. But, it is built more in organic relationships and imitation. I need to take some time to explore Mike Breen’s questions, which are both convicting and compelling for me personally. If you want to read his blog, have a look, and offer your reflections about the need and nature of disciple-making. How would you see disciple-making flourish in your life and leadership, in your church, and in our district and denomination? Do you, does your church, have a plan for disciple-making? Is the plan working? What are the outcomes? How do you measure them beyond simply the number of baptisms?

Bums in pews is the traditional way that we have measured disciple making. If we have more attending church on Sunday morning then we are making disciples. Our goal: “Invite your friends to church.” Once you have done that, the discipling process goes through stages such as teaching them to tithe, getting them to teach Sunday School/lead a cell-group, getting them to join the choir or the board or the deaconesses, etc. By definition a church in this model means basically a Sunday-morning worship service. Thanks to Reg Bibby we realised that we were just circulating the saints and that more bums in my pews meant less bums in my brother’s pews. And of course we forgot the mission of the church and so we looked for another solution.

So then we thought, let’s look at baptisms as a guide. Our goal: “We are having a regularly scheduled baptism on _____. If you want to be baptised just let the pastor know and we will add you to the list.” This is considerably less “missional” than the previous “Invite your friends to church” (because it is primarily insiders who are asked to participate) but it does at least try to answer the “circulating saints” issue. But then, for example, I know of one specific church that has baptised literally hundreds of people. Unfortunately, you would be hard-pressed to find many of those baptised believers involved in a church today (much less involved in mission). And the church that was planted no longer exists.

So now we are looking at disciple-making as a guide. If disciples are being made then the mission is successful.

It seems to me that we have a problem of definition. For some, a disciple is someone who attends church on Sunday and gets involved in some part of that operation. I suspect that if you asked someone on the street to define disciple of Christ they would include regular Sunday-morning church attendance as one of the key factors. Baptism would be much farther down the list – I suspect that tithing would be higher in the minds of many 😉

So in answer to your question, Roger, “Does you church have a plan for disciple-making?” My answer would be, “Yes, all churches do.” Next question: “Is the plan working?” My answer would be “Yes, insofar as they each fit our own definition of what a disciple is.”

Obviously there are problems. But perhaps because we are both too specific AND not specific enough in our definition of disciple. Disciple means “bums in pews;” disciple means “baptisms. But disciple means far more than that. Mike Breen talks about “Dinners. Parties. Work days. Grocery store trips. Mission. Worship services. Birthdays. Anniversaries. Funerals.” This I think is really at the crux of the matter. For me it’s not so much what are we doing wrong as it is how can we enhance the disciple-making that our churches are already doing to be more holistic, inclusive, universalistic, biblical, accessible, understandable?

So the question is how can I get this going in my life so I can contribute to the disciple-ness of someone else, even as they contribute to mine?

Posted in christian life, church, discipleship | 3 Comments »

Impact or Engagement: What does the Church do?

Posted by functionalchurch on 2011/03/12

Impact is a word that excites me particularly as I think about how the relates to society. I teach about the church having impact, about the church doing its role of influencing society to become more and more like the Kingdom of God each day. I have often thought of a nail as a good example of this:

If a nail wants to be used effectively – it if wants to fulfill it’s function – it needs to find a hammer to impact it and drive it into some wood. Impact is essential to the functionality of a nail.

But impact is also a one-way street. Getting back to the nail and the hammer, when the hammer impacts a nail, the nail’s only participation is to be hit repeatedly on the head. The nail really has no impact on the hammer (unless of course you believe the warning label that says the head may shatter – see the Mythbusters episode to see how this really works out).

Another word excites me too. It is “engagement.” Engagement is a better word because it is not a one-way street. It is two or more parties working together for a common goal. It is not simply dependent upon one party to do all the driving – both parties participate.

So when it comes to the church what is the best word to use? Do we say that the church needs to have impact and be the driving force behind any change or transformation in society or does the church engage society, working together toward a common goal?

Here are a couple of verses to help us in our thoughts:

Matthew 5:13-16 – “You are salt for the earth. But if salt loses its taste, how will it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled on by people. “You are light for the world. A city cannot be hidden when it is located on a hill. No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket. Instead, everyone who lights a lamp puts it on a lamp stand. Then its light shines on everyone in the house. In the same way let your light shine in front of people. Then they will see the good that you do and praise your Father in heaven.

Matthew 5:13-16 seems to imply that there is some part that we have – we are salt and light – in societal transformation.

Romans 8:19-22 – All creation is eagerly waiting for God to reveal who his children are. Creation was subjected to frustration but not by its own choice. The one who subjected it to frustration did so in the hope that it would also be set free from slavery to decay in order to share the glorious freedom that the children of God will have. We know that all creation has been groaning with the pains of childbirth up to the present time.

One the other hand, Romans 8:19-22 seems to imply that creation wants to participate in something – it is not just waiting to be used but wants to be part of the solution (but also knowing that it depends upon God to redeem it).

So what about you? Which concept is the best depiction of the church’s role in society? Impact or participation?

Posted in church, church impact, ecclesiology, transformation | Leave a Comment »

Anthony Bradley’s Functional church made practical –> On “loving the city” long-term

Posted by functionalchurch on 2011/02/23

Functional church anyone? This guy (Anthony Bradley) has got the idea right. But not just the idea, the practice that goes with it! He doesn’t care about forms and appearances but is solely concerned with church engaging society. I like it a lot (even if it is scary).

A functional church really has to get down to this level — the behind-the-scenes-not-pretty-but-really-where-the-problem-is kind of stuff.

It’s one thing to set up a place to get together and talk but it is quite another to take a stand and try to root out some really issues.

Here is the link to the article:

On “loving the city” long-term (in contrast to well-intentioned hipster, neo-paternalistic versions) – The Institute.

What things would you add to the list?

Posted in Anthony Bradley, church, church impact, discipleship, ecclesiology, ethics, good news, kingdom of god, legacy, marturia, missional, personal impact, service, transformation | Leave a Comment »

Here’s How 1 Church Defines Functionality

Posted by functionalchurch on 2011/02/22

Of course in a blog entitled “The Functional Church Blog” it might be a good idea to add real-life examples of churches that are acting in functional ways. One of those churches is locally known as Hope Christian Fellowship Transformational Ministries (HCFTM). Here’s how this church defines functionality. They think that it is so important that they decided to add these four points to their statement of faith.

1. Proclamation is HCFTM’s way of declaring the Good News of Jesus Christ to all people. We declare Jesus as Lord and Saviour of our community and we recognise His central role in transforming the world through intentional evangelism, communicated effectively in a culturally-relevant way by people who have themselves experienced the transforming power of God.

2. Service is HCFTM’s way of showing the love of God to people both inside and outside of our faith community though acts of mercy, relief rehab and development. We will be engaging in educational ministry services such as establishing schools of all levels. We will be delivering free medical-dental clinics. We will be conducting livelihood programs for the poor of our communities.

3. Truth-telling is HCFTM’s way of being God’s prophetic voice by engaging society with biblical truth through participation in public advocacy, social justice, value transformation, promotion of freedom, engagement in the public square, involvement in market places, and the transformation of public perception through education, evangelism, church planting, intercessory prayer, and discipleship.

4. Community-building is HCFTM’s way of revealing the joys of the kingdom of God to people outside of our faith community through active participation with like-minded faith communities, active cooperation with like-minded groups, and active accountability in both the religious and secular world. All this is typified with the Christian attitude of unity in matters essential, liberty in matters non-essential, and charity in all other matters.

Basically HCF is saying that without these 4 functions, a church is not doing what it is supposed to do. Do you agree? What would you add? What would you subtract?

 

Posted in church, church impact, ecclesiology, good news, kingdom of god, marturia, philippines, service, truth-telling | Leave a Comment »

Can a Church be Functional without a Building?

Posted by functionalchurch on 2011/01/08

It shouldn’t surprise you that I have a Google Alert set up for the term ‘Functional Church.’ I just like to see how the term is used in general on the web & try to gain some insights on how to improve on the concept.

All sorts of results come in. Some of them are expected and relate to the ministry & mission of the church. Others are less expected such as the job offers from Falls Church, VA that include the word ‘functional’ somewhere in the text. The most telling, however, was the one that referred to the smallest ”functional church’ in the world (which I have also written about here) somewhere in the American Midwest that has room for the preacher & 2 guests. For them functionality is defined by the usability of the structure for a typical Sunday-morning service.

It got me to thinking: Is it possible to be a functional church without a building to meet in or is the meeting place an essential part of a functional church?

I have been involved in all kinds of churches. The first church I pastored had no facility of our own. Rather we rented from a local school. We always perceived that something was missing because of that. We tried to develop programs to bring people into that facility each Sunday. The church I’m presently involved with is 2000m2 sitting on prime real estate on one of the most strategic corners in one of the largest cities in the world. We are presently trying to develop cell groups to bring the church into the community. It seems like we always want what we don’t have. Go figure.

My friend David Drake expressed this tension in his struggles on how to balance the two. I can’t find the exact quote now but in essence he said that while he loved small groups he found that people were more interested in the Sunday event. This he attributed to the fact that we are all anticipating the time when every nation under heaven will worship God together in heaven. What he is saying is that we naturally crave the corporate meeting & that’s a good thing.

So how do I wrap this all up. Part of me wants to say that the meeting place is secondary and that as long as we do ministry/mission right we are ok. But then Dave’s idea creeps in & says, ‘But we naturally crave the corporate thing. Go for it!’ Seems to me he has a point.

So now we come to you. What do you think? Please leave a comment below.

Posted in church, church impact, David Drake, ecclesiology, leadership | 1 Comment »

Questions Regarding Milk vs Meat

Posted by functionalchurch on 2010/09/24

Sometimes the Bible talks about spirituality in terms of food. The idea is this: new Christians, like babies, need milk. Eventually, however, as they mature, they need meat. Take, for example, the following verses:

  • I Corinthians 3:2: I gave you milk to drink. I didn’t give you solid food because you weren’t ready for it. Even now you aren’t ready for it
  • Hebrews 5:12-14 By now you should be teachers. Instead, you still need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word. You need milk, not solid food. All those who live on milk lack the experience to talk about what is right. They are still babies. However, solid food is for mature people, whose minds are trained by practice to know the difference between good and evil.
  • I Peter 2:2: Desire God’s pure word as newborn babies desire milk. Then you will grow in your salvation.

Here is my question: When do we start feeding ourselves?

When a baby grows old enough to start eating meat, they put it into their mouths themselves. Is it the same with disciples? Do we eventually start feeding ourselves?

A few more questions: Is is proper to say “I’m not being fed by Sunday-morning sermons”? Is that what sermons are for? Erwin McManus made the statement: “My job isn’t to feed the Christians, so they can feed the sheep. My job is to make them hungry so they can feed themselves.” Does McManus accurately reflect the truths of milk vs meat?

So what if I am not being fed? Does that mean I need to feed myself — that I have graduated to the next level of maturity where I find my own food and feed others?

Does anyone have any answers for me?

Posted in christian life, christianity, church, church impact, discipleship, Erwin McManus, personal impact | Leave a Comment »

Building the Kingdom: Essentials vs Non-Essentials (Part 2)

Posted by functionalchurch on 2010/07/24

A few months ago I wrote about the concept of Essentials vs Non-Essentials. At the end I expressed frustration about not having enough time in class for closure on the issues raised. Yesterday we had that closure in class.

The issues related to Essentials and Non-Essentials are quite often fought out in the issues on the periphery of our belief. That is, the battles waged in this area in our churches are primarily fought over non-essential practices as opposed to essential beliefs. The class did  an assignment  that called on them to list their core beliefs as disciples of Christ — that is the things that are absolutely essential to their life as Christians, the kinds of things that if they were not there would cause them to walk away from the group. I was mildly amused to see that the issues they considered to be core were almost exclusively theological in nature: Who is Jesus? What is the Church? Ordinances. etc. There was very little practice listed.

Which led us to the discussion of core beliefs and core practices. Of course, we all need to have core beliefs. But I just can’t survive on core beliefs. At some point those core beliefs need to come out — I need to show them in my actions.

For example, I remember watching a show called Venture on Canadian TV about 20 years ago. One episode hightlighted a new company that had developed a machine for turning garbage into potable water. The scene has stuck in my mind forever of the inventor of the machine holding a glass of water that had come from his machine. He proudly declared the water to be safe to drink. However, when asked by those present to prove his beliefs with action — in other words to drink the water — he refused saying, “I prefer wine.” Guess what? I have never heard of that machine again. Why? Because even though the inventor’s core belief was that the water was pure, his core practices did not include actually drinking the water himself!

Of course, I am not saying that everybody’s practices needs to be the same but that we find unity in the beliefs we share together. One issue that has come up in our faith community lately is how the practices that older Christians have relate to the practices that young Christians have. If we focus on the practices themselves, we will be divided. But if we focus on the core beliefs we can be unified and support a variety of legitimate core practices.

As a Theology teacher this truth strikes home for me. I must reexamine not my beliefs, but my practices so that my beliefs will be proved true in the things that I do.

How about you? Do your practices align with your beliefs?

Posted in christian life, christianity, church, church impact, conflict resolution, cross-cultural, ecclesiology, leadership, leadership training, transformation | Leave a Comment »

The Smallest Functional Church in the World

Posted by functionalchurch on 2010/07/08

Interesting link came up in my Google Alerts today. I have a standing search going for articles including the words “functional church.” It is an effort to see how churches view the concept of being functional. It is also a search to see if the word “functional” adequately describes the church as God’s mission to the world.

This article describes the “smallest functional church in the world.” It consists of a structure built in an American cemetery that has room for one pastor and two congregants. It is in the typical white-picket-fence-with-a-cross-on-the-peak style. Interestingly enough, the “church” under discussion does not appear to have even the marks of the church, much less act in a functional way – at least function as this blog defines it.

The article does not say, however, if there are actually people who are involved in this church. I guess the questions that remain to be answered are: Is God’s kingdom truly represented here? Is the church a part of God’s mission to the world? Is the Good News of Jesus proclaimed? Have people there truly experienced God? Is the community served?

It appears that “functional church” for the builder means that you can get a couple of people inside and feel good because it looks like a church. Unfortunately, that is how a lot of us think of church. As long as there are people in the pews and it looks like a church everything is ok. What is missing, however, is the whole idea of making disciples of all nations. The story would be better perhaps if the hook was, Hey-look-at-this-tiny-church-building-that-houses-a-true-community-of-faith-that-is-able-to-engage-society-in-a-meaningful-way, or something like that.

What do you think? Does this article describe a church that is truly functional?

Posted in christian life, christianity, church | 1 Comment »