What is Church? — Guest Post 6 — Final post

Today’s guest post is written by Kandace Brooks.

Dr. Kandace Brooks is currently the Pastor at Tomoka United Methodist Church in Ormond Beach, FL. Prior to her appointment at Tomoka, she served as the Director of Community Life and Adjunct Professor of Worship at Asbury Theological Seminary in Orlando, FL; as Founding Pastor of Celebration United Methodist Church in Gainesville (3 years); as Coordinator of Worship Arts and Associate Pastor at Trinity United Methodist Church in Gainesville (7 years), and Associate Professor of Music at the University of Florida (12 years). She received the Doctor of Philosophy Degree from London School of Theology in Homiletics (1983); the Doctor of Musical Arts from the University of Georgia and the Master of Divinity degree from Asbury Theological Seminary. Kandace has also taught a two-week intensive course in Homiletics at the West Africa Theological Seminary in Lagos, Nigeria.

What is Church?
I should want desperately to complicate this answer – to write an extended essay filled with theological terms and a complete (!) outline of the Wesleyan understanding of grace. I want to talk about the marks of the church – to provide a checklist of sorts so that the various communities that bear the name CHURCH can measure themselves against some established norm.

I should want my understanding of church to be SMART – a project to be managed; neat and tidy.
Specific
Measureable
Attainable
Relevant
Time-bound
I should desire the church to be duplicated in every detail in every place and for every person.

But the truth is that this can never happen.

Because the church as I truly understand it is not a project to be managed; nor is it made any better or more effective through the application of impressive theological terms.

It can never happen because the church; the church as I have come to understand it, is centered on a person.

Jesus Christ.

And formed for the transformation of people, and of the world.
Broken people.
Messy people.
All people.

This is how I understand the church – that it is the active and visible presence of Christ in the world.
Through people who are not Christ, but are seeking to be Christ-like in their thoughts, and words and actions.

The active and visible presence of Christ in the world.

And If the life of Christ is not messy enough to convince us that the church will be the same, I’m not sure what will.
The life of Christ demonstrated compassion, grace, love –
The life of Christ went to places not only unexpected, but also unapproved.
The life of Christ cared nothing for the values of world but cared deeply for the people of the world.
The life of Christ was lived amidst
miracle and mayhem;
insight and ignorance;
compassion and confusion.

Why would we think that the church would be any different?

I think that if we could understand the church in this way – as the active and visible presence of Christ in the world – perhaps we could be less concerned with the trappings of the institution and more intent on being present with people.

And just maybe, the church that is centered on model of a single person – Jesus Christ.
Could become a place for all people.

Amen.

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What is Church? — Guest Post 5

Allison Burnette was born and raised in Tallahassee, FL. She is currently a sophomore at Florida State University studying Advertising and International Affairs. In addition to attending FSU, she also works at the school as a University Ambassador, giving tours to prospective students and their families. She has a taste for the simpler things in life, especially being outdoors, listening to really loud music and drinking coffee.

What is Church?

Growing up, my parents always opened our home to guests. We would have relatives staying with us for weeks, one of their coworkers living in our back room for months, friends passing through to join us for family dinner. It was always lovely, complicated, and worth it. I like to think that’s how church is. Church isn’t confined to a building but it certainly feels a lot like home.

Over a year ago, I moved out of my parent’s house for college. Thankfully, I’ve found home in the three places I’ve lived since. It’s this strange feeling leaving a place, it’s as though you finally realize how much it means to you. Suddenly the grundgy walls of your dorm, the windowsill that was never quite big enough to to sit on (though of course you tried), and the coffee rings on your desk seem endearing rather than annoying. It’s those imperfections that make you nostalgic. It’s the way you learned to live in the mess that makes you sad to leave. When I left my home church, I began to see those same truths. I missed the slides that were never on cue during worship, the way the bus would break down on every youth trip, and the group of broken people who had been a family to me. Church almost never seems like enough when you’re there, but as you prepare to leave it, there’s a certain sentiment it holds. You see that you made a home there, and even more, a family.

This idea of family is especially striking because it so closely resembles the community that Jesus spoke of.

Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. Hebrews 13:1

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity. Proverbs 17:17

Brothers and sisters, pray for us.
1 Thessalonians 5:25

I believe church to be a close-knit matter, one that is solely based on Christ. Church gathers around the weak and the worried, strengthening them with love, sharing scriptures, praying for them with a great deal of heart. It takes time, investment, and honesty, just as a family does. But when you are the one who is weak, when your worry is consuming you, it is this church, this family that you have come to love, that will stand beside you.

I know this because I’ve lived it, time and time again. I saw church in a hospital room when I was at my very worst. I saw church in my college decision, as I worried that staying in my home town was settling. I saw church when I was leaving it, as they gathered around me and prayed for my next home, for the people I would consider family in years to come. Today, I see church in a warehouse where we put up drywall and strings of lights, worshipping god in such authenticity.

The funny thing is, even as you move and change and others do the same, there is a church that you carry with you. It’s not a particular congregation, pastor, or building, it’s a confidence in The Lord that you have found home before and that you will again, that very possibly, you already have. It is this beautiful truth that makes church worth it. That compels you to search for community even when you see it’s imperfections. That leads you to transparency even when you’d rather not be vulnerable. That leads you to a family you would have never chosen, but that help you grow closer to god, the greatest part of this home you’ve all made.