In the Wed night discussion group this week, as the study guide helped us define what a church is, we got sidetracked on what people expect of a church.

The purpose of the study is to help us get past the idea that “church” is a building.  That’s the place where the church meets.  It’s not a denomination or state-sponsored national religion, although some call their brand of Christianity “The Church”.  Instead, church, according to the study guide, is both universal and particular.  It is universal in that the church is the sum of all believers in Jesus as savior (Jesus being the head of the church).  It is particular in the sense of being a gathering of believers in a particular place (“the church at Ephesus’).

The point of denominational differences is how a particular group of individuals express their faith.   Do they stand or do they kneel?  Do they speak in Latin or Greek or Spanish or Tongues?  Do they sing or chant?  Is is a capella (without accompaniment), with a 5-rank pipe organ, with an old piano, a rock band or some two-stringed native instrument?

What got us off track was how we are seen by outsiders, especially those younger than us, those who are teenagers.  The teacher reminded us that many of today’s teens – the post-modern “Millennials” – aren’t turning away from faith, but toward it.  They want to know what is true.  In a world where everything is temporary marketing hype, many want to give themselves over to something bigger than themselves.  The faith of the Bible offers that kind of challenge.

The problem comes when they compare what they read in the Bible with what they see in many of the churches.  Jesus says to give it all away, and the TV church wants it all for themselves, not to feed the poor but to build a bigger building.  Jesus says to love the unloved, but our blogs (and often our sermons) shout at one another with mean and hateful speech.

A healthy church is always looking at itself, checking to make sure what it does matches what it says.  As you evaluate what kind of church you say you are, compare  that with what kind your neighbors think you are.  It might be time to adjust how you do what you do.