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Where did you get your definition for "the church"?

When you hear someone refer to the church, what do you first think of and where did you get that definition of the church?

When the average person refers to the church, I instinctively recall a big brick building, where there is a lot of legalistic teaching with long winded boring preaching that has a lot of judgmental and condemning attitudes, and it makes me uncomfortable.

I guess this comes from growing up in old fashioned traditional churches that actually were that way. I think the idea came from my family and friends that I had in those IC’s.

I would also say that when I first thought that there must be something other than the typical IC, a few friends told me that this is all there is, so we must stick with it and just do our best from within the system. Now that I think about it, this kind of response makes my yuck meter go sky high, and it literally makes me a little nauseous.

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I think of a large, medium, small, whatever 4 sided building with a roof. If it’s an older more traditional building it’s most likely made of stone walls and whatever type of foundation and a lot of stained glass windows. Let me jump to my point.

So twisted. Paul talks about living stones, likely they had the cold stone ones in his day in the from of a synagogue. But the law did nothing for people but make them feel bad, just like the majority of the so called NT churches still do.

And growing up in a cold “stone” church made me feel bad, guilty, condemned, everything that the law was supposed to do but with no remedy. So I learned early on many twisted things and developed core beliefs that were lies, “you’ll never be good enough to please God”, and the like.

Now I have come to a measure of truth and have come to see that what I learned to believe were what I call “pit lies”. Lies from the pit of hell through Satan himself.

May I close by saying after may years of torment I have come to the discovery of the glorious freedom found in Jesus Christ along with “warm, loving” stones that strengthen me in my “new” belief system. Conclusion, anything authentic from the Father will be twisted into a “form” of religion, unless one encounters the truth in Jesus Christ. He can straighten out all the tangled wires of belief and make us whole.


I think of the building.
As a small child I went to church every Sunday.
When I was told to get ready for church, I knew we were going to that one building. The word and building were linked together in my young mind.

Dawna - Sacramento CA

*Thankfully I know the truth now :smiley:

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I have always thought of a building where you go on Sunday Morning and sing a few songs,hymns or choruses off the wall, have a call to worship, offering, sermon, closing hymn, and then benediction. And of course there was Sunday School which came before the service or after the service or between two services in bigger churches so that people could do Sunday School and Church depending on which service they attended.
My family and I had the opportunity to volunteer and also lead some in a coffee house called the Exchange for several years. The vision of this coffee house was to serve people and build relationships with people who would never ever set foot in a church building on Sunday morning. The leader of this coffee house got me a t-shirt for a gift one time and I have worn it proudly. The front of the t-shirt says “Don’t Go To Church” and on the back it says “BE THE CHURCH”. This T-shirt has been a great conversation starter and helped me talk to many people about church not being a place or a building you go to on Sunday or Wednesday Night, but how we are the church and we represent Jesus to the world and we are the church as we go into the world building relationships with people and serving humanity out of love and compassion for people. I built good relationships with the leaders in this coffee house as well as with community people. Eventually, the people from the community who came to the coffee house to hear live music on Saturdays and to play games, talk, and drink coffee together over the weekend began to serve and volunteer and the model we set caught on and people wanted to give back and serve others the way they had been served. It was sad when the landlord where we rented for this coffee house got tired of all the people who hung out outside the coffee house at night and shut us down.
This was when my idea of church really started to change and I would have late conversations with the other leaders who became my best friends. We would talk about community and importance of putting an emphasis on relationships not programs. This concept really took over in my mind and heart. Every since then, worship services and Sunday morning services and church programs have really become boring, predictable, and are a let down compared to the experience my family had at the coffee house. Nothing else has really ever taken the place of that, but my wife and I would love to do something similar when we get older like a coffee house or bed and breakfast, or something similar where we could meet people, serve people, and build lasting meaningful relationships with people and create an atmosphere where people are free to ask questions, and listen to God and one another, and grow in and add to faith in Jesus. I would want some kind of place where you wouldn’t sit around and talk about it, but actually have opportunity to practice what you believe and have hands on experience to “be the church” and share Christ’s love with people from your community every day.


The Building, The Program and the People. I grew up with “church” as the label for all three.

I go to the church, I go to church and I am the church.

My dad built churches, we attended church on Sunday and we were part of the church.

Maybe it is the difficulty of the English language… not enough words to go around… so we combine meanings for one label.

I think, from my life long disappointment in the actuality, that I have always thought of Church as something that happens between God and people, possibly between people inside a particular building on Sunday morning. The building was the location, but was Not the expected event. I’m not sure What that event was, but I Think I expected to Meet with God there. And I think I expected to be truly loved and accepted by the people who claim to believe like me… I can tell you from decades of attending, hopeful, eager even at times, that it rarely happened. I spent many of my “church years”, looking around, feeling isolated, wondering what was wrong with me, that I didn’t “get” what so many others seemed to be getting. Often, they were vocal in their approval of what was going on; nodding, smiling, amening…I wanted So badly to experience what they seemed to, but often felt …nothing… At times, I would sense God’s Presence, in a very real way, and the person on the stage would just keep talking, moving the “service” along as if nothing and no one was there. I asked God, often during those times, why He didn’t Sweep in there and knock us all on our faces, why He didn’t Just Once- sweep that money that they offered, after all, to Him- up in a cloud of green that disappeared right in front of us all. Childish, idealistic, perhaps…but I have always believed all that stuff I’ve been fed in Scripture since my preschool days is true. I still do, actually, I just no longer believe it can be found in any man made institution…

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YES. Absofreakinlutely Yes.

I guess it depends on how they define ‘church’. Is it a place you go to, or what you are? Up until recently, it has always been the former with me, though I have heard pastors refer to the church as a body of believers.

Family and friends have defined church as the place you go to. So to them, not attending church means not being a believer, which I know now, isn’t true.


I got my definition of “the church” from attending services in a church building since I was a young child. It wasn’t until much later, after I believed in Jesus as my own personal Savior, that I learned about the church being the body of believers. I’ll admit, when I hear the word “church”, I still think of a building/group of people who attend services in that building. Ideally, I love to think of a church as being made up of growing believers in Jesus, seeking to follow Him in today’s world, and being free to question, wonder, express doubts, disagree, and study the Bible together. Jesus said the world would know “us” (the church?) by the way we loved each other. We (I) have a very, very long way to go.


Yes, Jesus said for us to love as He first loved us. I agree. We have a long way to go. We should be getting better and better at it, maturing as Christians and if we would, the world would see the light and be drawn to that light. In many ways the world is turned off by the church not drawn to it. Maybe we need to pray and ask Jesus to open our eyes and hearts to His kind of love. Just a thought.

I’m not sure I have a lot to add to what has been said. But I stumbled across this meme on FB yesterday which pretty sums up what I grew up believeing about church:

However, upon reading this and thinking about it, I had a visceral reaction to the various messages in it. While I believe that we should definitely strengthen our families, it is troublesome to think about the many who believe that God “ordained” institutions…and that he “ordained” church and government.

There is just enough psuedo-truth here to make you nod your head in agreement, until you really think about it – which is what I believed about the church up until recently. That “God made the church, and it was good.” Now, I think he saw what we did with all the knowledge and access to relationship we had, and it was hard for Him to stand back and watch us “create the church” over the last 2000 years and then presumptously add His seal of approval on it as being “ordained.”

Central Valley, CA


And the Truth really does set us free, and what a glorious freedom it is!

From my youth… the church was brick and mortar buildings. There was the United one a block down on the corner, the Presbyterian one just a street over from the United one. There was also a RC one, and the one our family attended was the furthest one from our house… which was not appreciated because we had to walk there… As a young girl, I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why we couldn’t just go to the United one or the Presbyterian one, especially during the frigid months of winter. (I grew up in Canada)
Now, even though I understand the truer intent of the word ‘church’ the psychological residue of my formative years overshadows my new understanding in a way that I kind of refrain from utilizing that word… which, in light of the general population’s perspective, just seems easier to deal with.

I surely am able to relate to your aversion to using the word C____h. Am I reading you correctly on that? I am much more comfortable with the NT ekklesia. I never cease to wonder how man can take something that God made it and institutionalize into a dead, boring, lifeless, mass of stained glass windows, padded pews, and cold brick and stone. In it’s current state if could not be farther from where God intended it to be.

Paul said very specifically that we are to be living stones, made alive through faith in Christ and enabled to do His will by the indwelling Holy Spirit. Carnal man is the author of nothing but futility, misrepresentation, and downright evil as to matters pertaining to “the faith”, specifically spiritual life as Jesus ordained it to be in the early days of the ekkelsia.

Thankfully there is truth, healing, and forgiveness to be found as we revisit the toxic roots and core beliefs of our formative impressions of Who God is. There are methods for doing that. But Jesus replaces those lies that were implanted at such a tender age with His truth in a way that can be received. The result is life changing and maintenance free, simply because in that area we are no longer the person we used to be!

Today I can say I think of God’s people called out of the world. Several years ago when not going to church I was tormented by the question “did you go to church today” (it was “proof” I was letting God down). God, one day, put on my heart “did you go to family today” and it blew my mind open. That is absurd! How can I go to what I am part of? I can no more go to family than I can go to church (my spiritual family).

For the first decade or so I would have confidently claimed the place where Christians meet. That is like calling my house my family. Silly. As the years go by our loving Father continues to unfold more and more meaning behind that initial thought, He is so awesome! Coming from a very dysfunctional background I was primed for performance-based religion when I was saved at 29 years old. I just transferred the attempts to appease an earthly father, who was impossible to please, to my “god” who was even more difficult to please. Not the real God of Heaven, but an idle made in my twisted mind of what this god had to be. Another reply mentioned realizing how toxic he is, and I have come to use the same term, toxic, for my own inner heart life. God is soooooo gentle in showing me just how toxic my heart is, and is slowly (in my view - fix me now!) healing some of the garbage so that I can start to breath fresh air. It was for liberty that Christ set us free! Liberty to not hate who I am. Liberty to not crush myself emotionally when I screw up. Liberty to honestly call Him Abba, Father… Daddy. (That was so hard to start doing. My earthly father was not a “daddy” to my mind.)

I read on one of the replies in this forum that I am kept in bondage when I think there is something that I can add to the work of God in Christ Jesus on the cross of Calvary. Profound! As long as I think any minute particle of my salvation, or gaining God’s approval, is up to my doing I am open to the manipulation of the (pick one) religious system of man, and to the condemnation of my own heart as well.

I am looking for this church daily and starting to see glimpses of her here and there. I don’t look in buildings anymore, just in people. I long for more of her. Perhaps when I am not so toxic. I have hope because I know Who to look to, not where to look.

Thank you for this community and a few others like it.


Father has been showing me that the way I treat myself is very important. That being kind and compassionate towards myself is a good thing and and not evil like I used to believe. I used to battle with beating myself up and wallowing in guilt for poor choices I would make but today my heart is settling into a more healthy positive view of who I am and into the understanding of how he truly sees me. It’s almost as if I thought hating myself was a righteous thing when really it was self-righteousness in disguise and it had nothing to do with denying self. I focused to much on sin instead of focusing on what Jesus has accomplished by freeing me to simply be in his presence and that he truly takes delight in me and does not condemn me for stumbling and falling down but is right there to pick me up and help me along again. He is my greatest cheerleader. A good father does not point out the mistakes of his kids over and over and over or call his kids wretched or depraved. The fact that Jesus wrapped himself in a human body shows just how precious humans are to him whether they walk with him or not. My thought is that my view of myself and God are linked. If I have a extremely low view of my humanity then my view of him is gong to be far off as well.

Johanna Lemmon
Federal Way, Washington State


What a tragedy as to how the NT has been translated!! Paul wrote to the assemblies, congregations, and the like, not cold stone buildings. The KJV translates Strong’s G1577 in the following manner:
1)a gathering of citizens called out from their homes into some public place, an assembly
2) an assembly of the people convened at the public place of the council for the purpose of deliberating
3) any gathering or throng of men assembled
4) an assembly of Christians gathered for worship
5) those who anywhere, in a city, village, constitute such a company are united into one body
etc, etc.