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The Church OF the People rather than The Church FOR the People

Filed under: God's movement,leadership,worship — 1:31 pm

Van Gogh

Yesterday, while dreaming and journaling about 2012, and stumbled upon some passionate feelings about the Christian church. This is hardly an original thought, but since it grabbed a hold of me so deeply, here it is:

I am way more compelled by a church OF the people
than a church FOR the people.

This is not to say that one is right and the other is wrong, but I’m becoming increasingly captured by the idea of the priesthood of all believers. Church as a movement rather than an institution. A church created by the people rather than consumed by the people.

A few examples…

In a church TO the people, Worship means: Come hear our most gifted artists provide a worship experience that will inspire and bless you. When it’s done, you’ll want to give them a round of applause, thank God, and be glad you attended.

In a church OF the people, Worship becomes: Prayerful, intentional space that empowers the people to co-create a worship experience – both as individuals and as a body, both at home and when together. The church helps people connect with God and each other, and then gets out of the way.

In a church TO the people, Evangelism means: Bring your friend to church to hear the pastor (who they will never meet) explain to them the truth. It is exporting evangelism to the expert, and reducing the sweeping Story of God to disembodied information.

In a church OF the people, Evangelism becomes: Training up disciples and launching them out to serve the world and share their story…and helping foster a community so alive and beautiful that people can’t wait to join.

In a church TO the people, Mission means: Give your money to the church so it can build a ministry to the poor. You write a check and they’ll take it from there.

But a church OF the people declares: “No one knows the poor in your town better than you. Let us help you serve them. And if you don’t know the poor in your town, following Jesus means that you’ll need to make some changes. Please let us help you humbly engage and learn from and serve the poor in your town.”

Obviously, these are exaggerated examples for clarity. Most churches I’ve been a part of are both, but tend to lean one way or the other. And it’s my personal hope that in this next year, every faith community will inch a bit more in the Church OF the People direction – developing and unleashing the supernatural potential of every woman, man, and kid.

And this year I commit to humbly and constructively use any opportunity I’m given to help and get swept up in this Movement. What an honor and responsibility it is to be (like EVERY one of us) the potential hands and feet of God!

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. (Eph 4:11-13)




  1. I agree on most points, but why will newcomers to church never meet the pastor? I frequently bring new believers and those who are spiritually curious to meet your father-in-law (or whoever the speaker is).

    Comment by Mike II — December 30, 2011 @ 2:13 pm

  2. I’ve noticed this at Willow when I’ve gone with my wife’s family. The whole congregation/audience/crowd claps after every hymn or mashup of songs. My tiny Menno church would never clap for after a hymn or special music. There’s a reverence that would never be exploited.

    Comment by Ledonia — December 30, 2011 @ 4:28 pm

  3. Mike,
    I agree that people can meet the pastor briefly – shake hands and say “hi” – but there’s usually not a way to build a relationship. And I wonder if people of the younger generation are more likely to trust someone they actually know and have a relationship with…rather than a person on a stage. Maybe I should have said “get to know” rather than “meet”. Thanks!

    Comment by aaronieq — December 30, 2011 @ 4:31 pm

  4. Point taken and I agree, Aaron. However, one could point out that the church is full of “pastors” or at least people who can hold each other accountable on their mutual spiritual journeys. Coming together as friends in the community of Christ is one of the greatest things a church can have, and I am happy to say that Willow has it in abundance. Still, I meet people there all the time who simply go to church and then go home, without saying more than 10 words to anybody. To each his own.

    Comment by Mike II — December 30, 2011 @ 4:57 pm

  5. […] are a few posts where I’ve tried to explore these questions: “Why I’m More Compelled by a Church OF the people than a Church FOR the People” and “Can the Church Still Matter in the World?” and “Why the Church is the […]

    Pingback by Church beyond institutionalism…back into something beautiful « aaron niequist — September 11, 2013 @ 3:20 pm

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