During my long car ride back from Chicago yesterday I read two interesting posts that you should check out (if you haven't already!).
The first one was from Alan Knox, Do You Know What Is Written? Alan looks at the odd way that so many people are very sure about many aspects of the church but don't seem to have studied them and are unable to defend them from the text...
Since my ecclesiological beliefs (understanding of the church) are different than many people’s beliefs, there are often disagreements when I’m talking with someone about the church. I’m not upset or disappointed when someone disagrees with me, especially when those disagreements come from different interpretations of Scripture.
But, what I’ve found is that most people don’t know what the Scriptures say about the church. Those same people usually have very (very) strong convictions about the church. But, when I ask about Scripture, they usually say something like, “Well, I haven’t studied that like you have.”
Like I said, it’s perfectly fine when someone disagrees with my interpretation of Scripture. But, I’m very confused when someone stands steadfastly on a certain belief about the church, but that person knows very little about what Scripture says about the church.
I get what Alan is saying. I think that thorough and Bible focused study of the church is sorely lacking in the church. We often spend a ton of time deeply diving into esoteric topics and even topics that are ancillary to church functioning (like baptism and the Supper) without ever really grappling with the issue of the church itself. The church is so very important to Christ and the fulfillment of His commission and calling, it certainly deserve more than a cursory study.
The other post I liked was from Eric Carpenter who makes a great post about community, i.e. if you don't know the names of people you "go to church" with, you aren't really in community with them: A Good Test of Community
Here's the simple test:
Can you name everyone in your church family? Write down their names.
That seems pretty simple, right?! Eric goes on to say:
My point in this post is not to say what a church is or isn't. Instead, my hope is to get us thinking (more) about community life in Christ. It helps to know what this looks like. Basic common denominators must be that we are Christians and that we actually know one another. This means knowing names.
If you gather with a large group, many of whom you don't know or barely know, then you really aren't part of the same local body. Instead, you may be part of a group of local bodies within a larger organization.
That is dead on and it addresses some of the issues I am working through on a post I have in the pipeline. It doesn't matter if you sit in the same building, listen to the same sermon and have your names on the same "membership" roll. Community requires knowing one another. Granted, knowing someone's name is not sufficient for real community, but it is necessary. I have been in a few churches where I didn't know the names of a lot of people who came to the same building every Sunday. We weren't part of the same local church and we weren't in any sort of real community with them. Just being in the same building at the same time is not community.