Posted in church

What Does it Mean to Be Church?

Today’s blog explores the question of “church.”  What is “church” and how do we understand, live that out or reject it all together in the post-modern age?

Big C little c What begins with “C”?

If you are anything like me, the word, “church” elicits a deeply visceral and emotional response.  This is about as loaded a word as any word can be.  For some church has been and continues to be a refuge, a sanctuary, a place to find nourishment, support, inspiration and empowerment in the spiritual journey.  For others, church is something that has been a profound source of pain, alienation, fear and abuse.  My sense is that for most, church is a mixed bag.  I know for myself, church was once a source of comfort, nourishment, respite and empowerment, then it was a source of pain, and now I find myself again in a space where I have found a community with whom I can worship and again find nourishment and support (ironically, all of this happened within the boundaries of one denomination – Roman Catholicism).

Big C Church

Because the word church is such a mixed bag, I think it is important to distinguish between the Big C church and the little c church.  The Big C church is the institutional church…..anything that has been put in place around a particular set of beliefs and involves a hierarchical, and mostly patriarchal structure.  Big C church is the Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist, UCC, Anglican, Evangelical, Pentecostal, etc. church.  Big C involved a building, doctrine, laws and is centered primarily around worship and indoctrination of the participants in the teachings of that particular BIG C church.  Big C church has its place in our society, and it has certainly had its role in the history of Western civilization (both for the good and for the bad).  The problem with Big C church, however, is that it IS an institution…and with that comes all the problems of an institution – infighting, competition with other Big C churches, attachment to power and control, a need to manipulate its members, a need for group think and obedience to the appointed authority, etc.  Big C church will always struggle to find the balance between the message of Jesus (at least within the context of Christian churches) and the need for power and control.  The good news is that while the BIG C church wants to think it is in charge and is the only gig in town, there is another church that is living, breathing, existing, right under its nose.

Small c church

In my personal opinion (and I might get burned at the stake….again…for saying this), is that the real, true, authentic church of God is YOU!  It is not in some building, ruled over by a hierarchical, patriarchal structure, confined by doctrine and laws….but is the living breathing people who have sincerely sought to know the love of God in their heart and live that out in their daily lives.  The church of God is not determined by our obedience to an outside perceived authority and its laws, but is determined by our obedience to the God within and to the guided empowerment of that God and in the ways we live out God’s love in the world….regardless of our chosen denomination or lack thereof.  As Paul explained in his letter to the Corinthians, when we seek to know God, come to discover, cultivate and share our gifts in the world, the WE ARE THE BODY OF CHRIST.  THIS is the small c church.  So here’s the really cool thing….there are people in EVERY denomination, EVERY religion, EVERY philosophy and belief system, EVERY culture, of all walks of life who are the small c church.  The small c church is not constrained by belief.  The small c church is not contained in a building.  The small c church is not defined by differences or separated by membership.  WE ARE ALL the small c church when we seek to know peace and desire to be a sincere vessel of compassion and love in the world.

What is church to you?

Where have you found gift in the BIG C church?

How are you being called to recognize your call to BE the little c church?

Lauri Lumby

Authentic Freedom Ministries