When I'm asked about my church, I often respond, I pastor one of the most mixed-up congregations I know. We have people who are theologically ultraconservative and others who ultraliberal and a bunch more in between. We have some folks with money (though no super rich) and folks with almost no money and the some in between. We have educated folks and uneducated, homeowners and renters and people who live in public housing. We have folks who are morally squeaky clean and others who are trying to find their way out of the wilderness. We have teetotalers and social drinkers and not a few recovering alcoholics and some whom we hope will recover. We really do have all this. Yet, we are church. We gather for worship; we work to provide coats for children in our local school; we pray together; we minister together; and, on occasion, we argue--sometimes over something important.
Most of all, we're just church. We are present to each other and we try to be present to and obedient of our Lord's teachings--as best we understand them.
So, what is church? I like the definition given by Bill Leonard, the James and Marilyn Dunn Professor of Church History and Baptist Studies at the School of Divinity, Wake Forest University, in a recent article published by Associated Baptist Press.
. . . church is not a place you go depending on the personality of the preacher (or lack thereof). It is a community of faith composed of a strange assortment of sinners held together, not by common creeds -- they have believed many or none at all -- not by common doctrines -- they have believed contradictory ones with a passion -- but by faith in Christ grounded in Scripture and the life-giving breath of the Holy Spirit.Churches that fit Bill's definition can be messy places, but they are places alive with love for our Lord and for each other.