Awhile back, a person who has been regularly attending the church where I am pastor, and is also taking some seminary classes, shared with me one of her assignments. Provide your definition of the church in fifty words or less. She asked me if I would be willing to share my definition with her.
As someone who has done doctoral work in religion, my gut-level initial response to the question would be to do some research before offering a response. There would be value in that, but I have thought enough about this and try to work out of some understanding of the church every day. Instead of doing any research, I thought for a while and typed. Here is the definition I came up with, and when I had finished it and checked for the number of words, it was exactly fifty.
The church is a community of people who have been touched by God’s grace and love in Jesus Christ and who are seeking to live in such a way, individually and together, that they grow in love of God and others, and witness to the grace of God in Jesus.
So as someone who has a Ph.D. in religious studies, though ecclesiology was not my emphasis, I recognize that there are some things that could be added to this definition, some questions that are not answered in it. At the same time, both theologically and pastorally, I think this definition has a lot to offer. The church is about being touched and transformed by God as we know God in Jesus the Christ. It is about living together in such a way that we grow in love and thereby witness, in word and deed, to the transforming power of God’s love in Jesus.
There are more well-rounded and beautiful statements about the church. I am glad to be working to help the church be more like the simple definition I offered.
With Faith and With Feathers,