Francis Chan is one of my favorite preachers. I enjoy listening to him because he's insightful, witty, and authentic in his preaching. Yet, at times, I dislike it because he brings up the areas I need work in. In a sermon I was listening to today, Mr. Chan addresses something that's been bothering me recently. What do we mean when we say church? Perhaps some background is in order.
This summer, the bible study I'm a part of will be going through a series called "The Elephant Plant". The goal is to figure out how to go about planting a church in a very practical way. As I was preparing the overview for the summer, I found myself struggling with a very basic question. What is church? This is so important to me, since I want to be a pastor. I want to lead the church, but what am I wanting to lead?
I was tempted to just google the answer and get some theologian's treatise on the word. Or, perhaps just rely at what I had seen on Sunday mornings. However, I decided on a different approach. I looked at the bible. I decided to hit some of the major passages I knew taught about the church, and tried to read them point blank. I'm not too comfortable with what I found.
In Acts 2:41-47, the first picture of the church is given. I suppose the gathering of the disciples before Pentacost counts, but this is the first picture of the Holy Spirit filled church. That Holy Spirit part seems to be important. After some time, the church gets persecuted by the Jews, and gets scattered (Acts 11). Oddly enough, instead of trying to regroup, they just plant churches wherever they end up. Later, Paul, one of the lead church planters gives a picture of the leadership in these churches. In Acts 14:21-28, Paul appoints "elders" to lead the church. Later, in a letter to his spiritual son Timothy, Paul explains the qualifications of these elders, and names another group involved in the church who he calls: "deacons". In Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, he lists gifts that are given by the Holy Spirit to each individual, and how each gift works together to build the church.
First off - what the heck is a deacon? I mean, my church has ushers, but somehow I doubt that passing out cards and the offering bucket is really what deacons are for. Second, I don't see a pastor position specifically named, though it seems that Timothy had a role similar to our idea of it. Third, while there were house churches and large churches, they weren't staying in one spot. They were always moving out, always planting new churches wherever they ended up.
I'm concerned that I can't lead a church, because I'm not sure what church is. I'm no expert, and I'm by no means against modern church. Yet, what I see in the bible doesn't seem to fit to our modern understanding of it. The role of deacon seems pretty important, whatever role they have. Likewise, I wonder if my focus should really be on being the best pastor that I can. Maybe getting the qualities listed in 1 Timothy 3 should be my goal.
An overseer, therefore, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, self-controlled, sensible, respectable, hospitable, an able teacher, not addicted to wine, not a bully but gentle, not quarrelsome, not greedy— one who manages his own household competently, having his children under control with all dignity. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of God’s church?) He must not be a new convert, or he might become conceited and fall into the condemnation of the Devil. Furthermore, he must have a good reputation among outsiders, so that he does not fall into disgrace and the Devil’s trap. (1 Timothy 3:2-7)
I may not know what everything looks like, but I do know that I can work towards these qualities. Whatever a leader in the church looks like, I want to have the character sufficient for it.