What Does a Church Look Like?

Have you ever asked yourself the question, “What does a church look like?” It might seem like a silly question at first, but how we answer reveals a lot about our view of the church. For some the church looks like a building with a steeple or bell tower that is dedicated to the worship of God.  For others the church looks like fully developed community organization with programs that meet specific needs.  Still for others the church looks like a modern theater with a coffee shop, an awesome worship band, an excellent communicator on stage and great programs for their kids.  What all these responses have in common is that they primarily are concerned with the form of a church.
But what if church wasn’t defined by its form but rather its function? This is the fourth article in a five-part series on increasing effectiveness in developing disciples by making small shifts in our behavior, based on Daniel Im’s book No Silver Bullets: Five Small Shifts That Will Transform Your Ministry.
The fourth shift Im highlights in his book is to move from form to function. Im reminds us to hold the forms of church loosely while clinging to the functions of church. Our pre-conceived ideas of what a church should look like (form) often surpass the more important question of what a church should do: the function of the church.  The form (what church looks like) should always follow its function (what church does).
The author references the late missiologist Lesslie Newbigin who famously suggested that the church should be a sign, a foretaste, and an instrument of the Kingdom of God.  A sign doesn’t point to itself.  Therefore, a healthy and effective church shouldn’t be about attracting people to itself, but to Jesus and His Kingdom.  Similarly, the church isn’t the feast, but the foretaste.  Healthy churches should help prepare people for the feast that is to come.  And finally, Newbigin suggests the church should function as an instrument of the Kingdom of God here on earth as it is in heaven. Healthy churches should understand their function of being Christ’s hands and feet and an instrument of God’s blessing in the world.
So, what does this church look like? What should its form be? The truth is that different churches can take on various different forms so long as the form of church serves the function of being a sign, a foretaste, and an instrument of the Kingdom of God. The question we need to ask is how do we need to reform our congregation in order to execute the functions of a healthy, Christ-centered, mission-minded church?


Pastor Bryce Formwalt is the Director of Mission Growth for the LCMC Texas District. Residing in Georgetown, Pastor Bryce is available to coach congregations on mission. Feel free to contact him with any questions or comments: 512-942-7776 or bryce@lcmctexas.org. Like us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/lcmctexas.

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