As an organization, we feel prompted to give voice to new ways of seeing and thinking about what it means to be the Church. I want to give voice to this because, one of the barriers to the flow of the gospel that has been noted and discussed and experimented with for the LONGEST has been the issue about how the forms of "church" and the functions of church are not the same thing, and that if forms inhibit function, find a form that releases function.
I am going to mention the lead pastor for Grace Community Church, John McArthur, and their decision to continue meeting inside their building in defiance of an order not to do so. I am not using this to critique a person, but to use this as a case study about form and function.
The most recent news is that Pastor John has said he will continue to defy the order of local government and his church will meet indoors. His rationale is not just that Jesus is head of the church, but he has also said this recently, in essence: "The world needs the church more than ever; the church has the message of good news and salvation and hope; we need to be the church right now."
I have nothing to disagree with in those comments, in and of themselves. But I would suggest that Pastor John has equated church with "a large gathering, and a gathering that is meeting inside a building." He has equated a "form" (where you meet, how many meet, etc.) with "function" (the role of the Body of Christ in offering hope to the world, and in welcoming those searching for hope into our midst).
To me, this is an example of how specific "forms" have taken precedent in the evangelical church. That concept or insight has been intelligently applied to music, locations, methods of teaching prayer, clothing, times and days, group sizes, etc. While I pray for a speedy end to COVID-19, and a speedy opening of all sorts of public gatherings, I also pray that many churches will ask deep questions about what it means (in essence, not habit) to be the church, and find new forms to express that reality.
Dr. Kevin Higgins
Director | Frontier Ventures