20 June, 2024

THROWBACK THURSDAY: ‘When Is a Church Not a Church?’ (1967)

by | 30 May, 2024 | 0 comments

When Is a Church Not a Church? 

By Geoffrey L. Arnold 
June 10, 1967; p. 6 

When is a church not a church? The question may appear some­what ridiculous, but its implications are serious. A church is no longer a church when it becomes something other than a church. The church is the group of people, exclusively the Lord’s, whose sum total of purpose is to extend and expand the Lord’s influence on life, both of self and of others.  

A church is no longer a church when it becomes a club. A club is a group of peo­ple meeting together for a common pur­pose, usually of social benefit. A club may be good in purpose and in plan. Many or­ganizations are quite essential to our so­ciety. But a church is no longer a church when it becomes a club.  

A church is no longer a church when it becomes a bank. A bank is an institution that receives and keeps money for other people. A bank is intrinsically necessary in a society that uses money as an essen­tial commodity. But a church is no longer a church when it becomes an institution for holding money.  

A church is no longer a church when it becomes a building. A building is a life­less, bloodless, wood or stone structure, designed to facilitate a purpose. It is used to accommodate and shelter people, pack­ages, food, or something else. But a church is not a building, nor is a building a church.  

A church is no longer a church when it becomes a self-centered group. A self-­centered group is one that concentrates its effort, money, concern, time, love, and thought on itself. Many groups are com­pletely self-centered, and necessarily so, for self-survival. By nature of definition, a church is interested in others.  

A church is no longer a church when it becomes an institution. An institution is an organization or society for a public or social purpose. An institution can be seen, defined, changed, directed, mistaken, aborted, confused, or dissolved. The church is an influence, not an institution. It is pure, redeemed, just, pristine. It is no longer a church when it becomes in­stitutionalized.  

A church is no longer a church when it stops doing the work of the church. The work of the church is to save souls and to feed the flock of God. When Chris­tians, who have been fed for twenty-five years, are still on the verge of starving, there has been little quality to the food. When no one but the preacher is able to see souls saved, the saving has dropped in effectiveness. A church that is not pro­ducing new souls for the kingdom, new preachers for winning others, and sheep skilled in the Word is no longer a church.  

A church is a monarchically controlled group of devoted followers, yielding full and unquestioned obedience to its King. A church is an effecting influence. It changes anything it touches. It touches everything it can. 

The church lives to serve, and serves to love. 

END 

Mr. Arnold is minister to the Church of Christ Eastside, Oelwein, Iowa. 

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