In their latest podcast Shealan asks John what church is supposed to look like. John explains that relationships and the ability to connect with vulnerability and strength at introvert level should lie at the heart of church. They explore together what this looks like in practice - a lively discussion that's well worth listening to!
Click here to download the podcast 'What is church?'
Click here to add your comments and your own thoughts and experiences of church.
Renee Dixon wrote: 'Great podcast. Thanks Shealan and John. One thing that works against those deep, meaningful relationships is when a church gets big. Its too easy to remain superficial in these circumstances. But in every conversation we have with brothers and sisters in Christ we really need to be listening not just to their words but to their heart, and be responsive to what we hear from their heart.' Blessings, Rene
John replied: 'Thank you, Renee, for your observation that it is more difficult to relate at depth in a large church. All the early churches, probably for the first three hundred years were essentially house churches with the church meetings taking place in a home. Church historians agree that house churches could rarely have been more than 15 or 20 people—simply because they took place in small apartments. Probably as many as 90% of people lived in apartments of one or two rooms crowded above or behind shops. When a house church grew too big to be accommodated it simply multiplied by starting another house church nearby. Automatically this issue of being too large to know everyone was solved! The church would normally meet in the dining room of a private home as it was usually the largest room. Most apartments shared a public courtyard with adjoining units, and families cooked in the courtyards. The dining room and courtyard provided space for teaching and preaching, prayer meetings, celebration of the Lord’s Supper and various missionary activities. Most of church life was conducted in full view of any neighbours who were interested enough to observe! The question is, how do we take those principles and apply them in our culture today? Any thoughts?'
God's church is amazing?
God’s church is amazing. That vast number of people, found across the globe, often in the most unlikely of places, was God’s great idea. As F.F. Bruce puts it when commenting on Ephesians 3:10 - ‘This new, comprehensive community is to serve throughout the universe as an object-lesson of the wisdom of God’.
It is right at the heart of God’s eternal purposes. When Paul writes of the power that raised Christ from the dead, and that put him above all other powers, he says that ‘God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church’ (Ephesians 1:22). Church is absolutely central to all that God is doing and will do with his creation. Even while describing this elevated position of glory to which Christ has been raised, Paul adds that the church, ‘is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way’ (Ephesians 1:23). We can’t be any closer than that to the action.
The church is the place where God’s Spirit lives when we allow ourselves, as living stones to be ‘built into a spiritual house’ (1 Peter 2:5). We are God’s temple (1 Corinthians 3:16; Ephesians 2:21-22), occupied by the Spirit of God who brings into our relationships the very presence of the Father and the Son.
When the church is functioning as it should, it has the ability, because Christ is at the centre, to meet the deepest needs of every human heart. The world craves for what the church has – but doesn’t know it. There are three reasons for this:
some people have never heard the message in all its simplicity.
some hear and don’t want it because they are not prepared to have Jesus Christ as Lord of their lives.
the church can obscure and contradict the message it is trying to communicate.
We can do something about the first and third. We must keep communicating the wonderful salvation that God has made available through Christ - and we need to ask ourselves if we are living lives that are consistent with the message.
The Bible doesn’t recognise the ‘lone Christian.’ It is full of phrases that speak of relationships – e.g. ‘each other’, ‘one another'. It contains images that demonstrate the connections we have with each other – the body, the living temple, God’s family. It is only in the context of our love for one another that God’s ‘love is made complete in us’ (1 John 4:12). When we are ‘born again’, we are born into a family – God’s family.
Church is an opportunity to work out together, led by the Spirit, what those relationships look like in practice. We never arrive, this side of heaven, but we are journeying together.
 Bruce, F. F. (1984). The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians (p. 320). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
Bible study series - 'The foundational principles of church'
In our Bible study series on 'The foundational principles of church' we looked at key principles that can make relationships work and that can demonstrate to a watching world that there is wisdom in the church for what matters most - our relationship with God and with each other (Deuteronomy 4:6). Click each study topic below to listen to the recording of the study.