What is Church?

I found the following note written by Richard Holloway, that sums up many of my thoughts:
The vast majority, who belong to a church seldom if ever, reflect on what it is they belong to, and have little or no awareness of the deep historical roots which lie beneath the façades of everyday church life. The first Christians were Hebrews – disciples of the long-awaited Messiah. The origins were found in the Hebrew Scriptures – a process consolidated by Paul within two decades of the death of Jesus. But by the fourth century the church had become the official religion of the declining Roman Empire. There were claims to absolute truth and invincibility but the church is a human organisation, the result of human choice and subject to death and decay like any other organisation!
Members have acted in ways that cannot be reconciled to the Jesus of history.
There was a move away from an inspirational interpretation of the origins of the church towards a sociological understanding.
There was persecution of those who didn’t conform – the threat of excommunication (and hell).
Did Jesus really say, “go and make disciples …” Consider that the results of missionary work in comparatively simple cultures was profoundly polluting.
Other religions at best, were seen to be misguided. Worldly wisdom had to be suppressed when it clashed with the seen will of God (e.g. birth control).

Truth is something that shifts and changes according to human perceptions and understanding. It is never absolute. The church in the West is in steep decline. Will a new tree rise from the ancient roots or must a new seed be planted? If the roots are diseased …

The church as an organisation is dying. Leaders can only lead with the consent of those whom they lead – but the church still retains structures, rules and procedures better fitted to a long gone social model. The church is losing touch with the world around it!
Some are trying to preserve the traditional essence of the orthodox faith at all costs, while exiles maintain the need to strip away the baggage of religion!

The practice of Churchianity as we know it – all the gruelling, unfruitful self-effort to change has very little transformative power!
The truth of the gospel (Christ in us as our life) is little understood.
There is some authentic spirituality in those passion filled churches that have better things to do than make converts, collect tithes and build membership roles.
Few people seem to have authentic transformative experiences – the rest just hear stories and believe them. How much harm do the majority of belief systems create?
There is a lot of deconstruction but little seems to be replaced!


It was early in 2003 that I had an email from an Internet friend pointing me to A Churchless Faith – an article by Alan Jamieson written in 1999. This was the second of three articles in a series. The others were “Ten Myths about Church Leavers” and “In search of Turangawaewae“.
This was the beginning of a long journey through the emergent / emerging / house church scene where I shared with many others travelling in a wilderness. It was during this time that I wrote about my understanding of the different “Stages of Faith“.It was at some point in 2003 that I was reading a number of booklets about the church or the ‘ecclesia‘ that had a big impact. It raised so many questions. Tyndale was a Greek scholar who produced the first English New Testament from the original Greek. Among other things he used elder instead of priest; congregation instead of church; repentance instead of penance. Tyndale was martyred in 1547 and all but two of his Bibles were destroyed. Why?
Who authorised the Authorised Version and why? Why were there significant differences between the Authorised Version and the Geneva Bible (that did not promote the divine right of Kings and ruling bishops, but instead recognised the priesthood of all believers)? How much influence did King James have on the translation (and why?) – he was an absolute monarch who believed in the divine right of Kings – he dissolved Parliament and ruled for ten years without it.[This understanding was very significant when I came across the writing and broadcasting of Bob Greaves, The Unconventional Pastor, who  is also a Linguistic Anthropologist. I hadn’t realised at the time that by 600AD the Greek scriptures had been translated into Latin, and Latin was the only language allowed for scripture]. It is also worth considering the British Feudal System. The land was owned by the King or his lords. Inheritance was to eldest sons. Younger sons often sought power, influence and identity through offices in the church. It’s hard to imagine how anyone would dare to question them!
Consider how cathedrals dominated the skylines while the serfs lived in very primitive surroundings. I Corinthians 3 surely makes it clear that God does not dwell in temples made with hands – we are temples of God’s Spirit (1Cor 3.16) – so why the ongoing emphasis on buildings?
The true church is a living organism, but by the time of Constantine the old temple order was being reinstated, and is I would suggest, still well entrenched!There were many more questions but I think that’s where it all started.
The next post is here.

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