What the Church Is and What it Should Be

Jason Fairbanks, pastor of First Congregational Church (United Church of Christ) in Lake Worth, Florida, recently wrote a series of posts on his blog about what the church is and what it should be.  In making his case for what the church should be he offered the wisdom given him by his father:

A church is a hospital for those that find themselves hurting and on our doorstep. It is these that we have the opportunity to receive and to love.

A church is a greenhouse for those interested in growing in their relationship with God and others. It is here that we learn together, encourage one another, and, ideally, practice our faith in a safe environment.

A church is an army–not, as I used to understand it, as an army to march and convert the world to our way of understanding God, but as an army assembled to march against the darkness of injustice and hopelessness which shadows our world.

He finds that many churches fall short of these ideals.  They function more like a social club with members only privileges or shopping mall offering religious goods and services or courtroom filled with judgment.

So What?

The language we use to speak of church is significant.  While Fairbanks’ language is dated it is constructive and likely familiar to many who have been in church for multiple generations.

  • How many images of church can you name in Christianese (aka biblical language) that may not be meaningful to the uninitiated (ex: body of Christ)?
  • Which inappropriate (social club, shopping mall, courtroom, etc.) image is most tempting for your local congregation? Why?
  • What images would you add to the list (hospital, greenhouse, army) describing what the church should be? I offer two to begin the discussion:
    • Church is a family: an inclusive, open and welcoming community
    • Church is a discipleship laboratory: no matter where one is on the journey of faith, church provides a safe environment for discovery and growth


  1. Jeffrey Bovell says:

    Dear Jason, Tomorrow I will be attending anm all day A.A. meeting. Would you please send me a copy of the daily prayer readings for this week 6/6 thru 6/12/2011. As you know I am always in needf for as much spiritual help that I can get. Have a wonderful service and may God bless you and our congregation. Thank you Jeffrey Bovell

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