It’s the most common excuse to avoid church: “I’m not going there; churches are full of swingers!” Wait, what? You haven’t heard that one? Well, up until recently I hadn’t either. But there’s a new “church” in town; and if that’s church, you can count me out!
According to recent news, a group calling themselves “United Fellowship Center” received a permit as a “church” in the Madison area, seven miles north of Nashville, TN. The group, formerly “The Social Club,” is a sex club that couldn’t get permitted because they sit within 1,000 feet of Goodpasture Christian School. So they changed their name and are seeking 1st amendment protection as a “church.”
What are the practices of this “church?” Up until recently, they have been BYOB (bring your own booze) fellowship and private rooms for fornication. But in order to avoid zoning restrictions, room names have been changed to “choir dressing,” “pastor’s study,” “sanctuary,” and “prayer rooms.”
This feels like a good time to say out loud, “this is why we call Bible things by Bible names!” Perhaps you thought it was silly how often your elders or a preacher told you, “words have meanings,” Do you see now why words matter?
When we allow words to be bent to serve any purpose, what happens? THIS happens. And if “church” has no real meaning, then why not let a swingers club hijack the name? In fact, according to the attorney for Fellowship, “‘church’ is something that cannot be defined under the U.S. Constitution.”
CANNOT be defined? Well, maybe not by the constitution. But it CAN BE defined.
The word ‘church’ comes to us from Old English via the German “Kirche.” It is based on an abbreviation of the Greek for “Lord’s House” (kurikon doma). It began as the “ekklesia” or a gathering of God’s people. But, in the specific context that ‘Fellowship’ is trying to get zoning status, the word “church” has a greater meaning.
Scripture teaches that the “church” is a group of believers who are “called out” to be in, but not of the world (John 15:19), following criteria laid out in God’s Word.
The church was in the mind of God before creation (Ephesians 1:4); it has Jesus as its head (Acts 4:12, Colossians 1:18); its members are called by the name Christian (Acts 11:26); Jesus built His church (Matthew 16:18); and it was established on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:38). The members of the church should have unity (John 17:20-23); there should be no divisions (Corinthians 1:10 &12:25,27); its message should be the cross (1 Corinthians 1:21-26); and its mission is the gospel (Matthew 28:19-20).
Most of us understand that getting drunk (Ephesians 5:18) & fornication (Matthew 15:19; 1 Corinthians 6:9) violate clear teachings of scripture. But here’s an interesting question. How does your “church” fare on other Bible definitions? What would it take before the group that meets at your building would no longer be called a church?
Is your baptism for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38)? Is your singing done by all of the body with the instrument of the mouth and the heart (Colossians 3:16, Ephesians 5:19)? Do your elders and deacons meet the criteria of 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1? Do you identify the body of believers at your congregation by a Bible name, ie., Romans 16:16?
And if you answered, “no” to any of those questions, what are you prepared to do about it? Simply accept it as inevitable? Say that ‘church’ can’t be defined? Or will you seek out a congregation that strives to be like the true church we read of in scripture? Give it some thought…