The chicken or the egg?

On the topic of church again. I was thinking the other night about why the church is. Here are the two scenarios that seem to materialize when we talk about church.

  • Church exists and so people come. Granted, lives are changed (sometimes) and people do church stuff. We sing, we learn, we reach out to the community and to the world.
  • Then there is this thing that happens when people love each other, do things in the community that reveal God and his kingdom, study the scriptures, give their money, and just pursue God. Then they find that they need a place to meet.
  • I know that is a real simplified way of explaining what happens but I think that my question is this: Does church exist so all of the good things that we want to happen can, (like people coming to know God, personal transformation, etc) or should church be a result of those things already happening? Church then becoming a venue for further more connected change?

    Let me try to give a practical scenario to explain what I am talking about.

    “Every morning Johnny goes to the same coffee shop. He orders the same drink. Reads the same paper. During this routine he meets Timmy. Timmy seems open to conversation and willing to share. Johnny invites Timmy to church thinking that the church (or someone at the church) can solve Timmy’s problems or that it provide an opportunity for Timmy to hear something that would change his life. Timmy never comes and the relationship fizzles out because Johnny is too busy.”

    Does this sound familiar? It does to me. Why do we think that the it is the churches job to do the work of a citizen of the Kingdom of God? I think that we think that since the church exists it should be the one to do the work. Hence my first point from above. “The church exists and so people come.” But is that how it should be?

    I think that the scenario could have gone something like this instead.

    “Every morning Johnny goes to the same coffee shop. He orders the same drink. Reads the same paper. During this routine he meets Timmy. Timmy seems open to conversation and willing to share. Johnny begins to share his life with Timmy. He invites him to dinner with his family. He asks if he would like to shoot a round of golf. They go to movies, and concerts, and begin a genuine dialogue about life. Timmy wonders what it is about Johnny that is so inviting. He wants to be involved in more meaningful dialogue and begins to see things in his life that are inconsistent. Timmy comes to church because of the relationship that he has with Johnny.”

    The chicken or the egg. Does the church exist so we can invite people to it? Or does it exist because God’ people are really shedding light and wisdom into the world?

    What do you think??


    ~ by dallasbpeters on February 12, 2007.

    3 Responses to “The chicken or the egg?”

    1. I think the second scenario is at least a much healthier (and perhaps more christoocentric?) In this sense, I know I’m personally beginning to see the church as a redeemed community that is realized, rather than initialized by us.

    2. I believe that the first scenario cannot be true only because i’ve been a part of so many groups like that. People not only believe church is going to fix their friend but them as well. It all turns into this messy deal where everyone wants to suckle off the small group of pastors and everyone ends up starving to death. The second scenario seems closer to what Jesus intended, and most like what the apostles exemplified in the upper room. They weren’t gathered together to lift each other up toward the stained glass windows, they just got together because they had all seen the life that jesus offered and were drawn to one place in unity as a result.

    3. good question. I believe the church is where Jesus is. Jesus started all the goodness and continues to create it. The church exists when she is actively following Him. It does not wait for people to come, she goes to the world, just as Jesus does.

      Specifically in your second example, I’d say Johnny is the church.

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