The Simple Nature of Christ’s Church

joelThe printer is now printing my new church planting book, and it should be available in one week. I’m excited that Ed Stetzer, author and plantingchurch planting guru, wrote the foreword. People like Alan Hirsch, Aubrey Malphurs, Larry Kreider, Bob Roberts, and Peter Wagner gave wondeful recommendations. Allow me to share the introductory excerpt from the second chapter (What is Simple Church?):
When Martin Luther nailed his ninety-five theses to the door, he didn’t plan to break from the Roman Catholic Church. His goal was to correct abuses in the church and make God’s Word the foundation for faith and practice, not the pope’s authority.

Luther’s reformation didn’t settle the question of the true nature of the church. Break-away groups, like the Anabaptists, wanted to practice Luther’s doctrine in a church with like-minded people. They felt the state church was culturally bound and didn’t conform to Scripture. Yet Luther vehemently opposed the radical reformers, and the debate about the nature of the church continued unabated.

Similar debates continue to this day.

Some denominations, for example, don’t believe a church exists until an ordained pastor is in charge. Others won’t officially recognize a church until there are enough charter members; still others believe a church must first launch a public gathering, say on Sunday morning, before the real church is present. Some go farther, demanding robes and rituals. Wolfgang Simson sums up this view: “The image of much contemporary Christianity could be summarized as holy people coming regularly to a holy place on a holy day at a holy hour to participate in a holy ritual by a holy man dressed in holy clothes for a holy fee.”

I am convinced that many of our church definitions are far too complicated.
What is the church?

I then go on to explain what I believe Scripture teaches about the simple nature of the New Testament Church. What do you think? Have we over-complicated the simple nature of Christ’s church?


Joel Comiskey

3 thoughts on “The Simple Nature of Christ’s Church

  • Our thinking is often over complicated, because we try to do church by instituting a complicated set of procedures……

    But it is our underlying conceptual framework (how we think about the church) which is the problem…….

    Nature of the New Testament Church?

    I like to think of it as a set of relationships…….

    A cell group – A set of relationships.

    A congregation – A group of like minded cell groups – a wider set of relationships.

    A church – A group of like minded congregations – an even wider set of relationships.

    This is very different from what I used to say the New Testament Church was all about…..

    I used to say it looked a lot like small groups that have the following characteristics (weekly, outside the church building, evangelistic, pastoral care/discipleship, clear goal of multiplication) etc. Now this definition comes from a very famous world expert on how to do church 😉 and it’s very good. I don’t disagree with that way of expressing what the church us about. In fact I promote it! It’s just that I find that westernised Christians that I work with tend to look at that definition and use it as a template on how to do church. And then they miss the underlying assumption, that the New Testament Church has an underlying relational base. It was a set of relationships. Intentional, deep, warm, caring, inspiring, motivational relationships that underpinned all that activity that the New Testament Church was involved in.

    Interestingly I have been in Hong Kong for the last twelve months and hung around some cell driven church people there. If I said to these folk (who live a busy urbanised lifestyle) that the church was a set of relationships they would have looked at me and said – Of course dur….. (I think that’s a uniquely Australian colloquialism) – Loosely translated it means – That’s quite obvious – we already knew that – didn’t you??????

    Christians I observed in Hong Kong work harder, have less free time, yet spend more time relating than in Australia (Both examples are folk in cell driven churches). Go figure that out???

    Sorry – should have stuck to the questions – That’s what I think.

    Question 2 Have we over-complicated the simple nature of Christ’s church?


  • Great words, Iain! Hey, will I see you at the CCMN conference? I’ll be there. Will you?

    For those listening in: CCMN means CELL CHURCH MISSION NETWORK. They will be having their annual get together in Hong Kong from November 4-7. And it’s free, in case you would like to join us.

  • Major Bummer – moved back to Australia last month and will miss CCMN conference 🙁

    But Joel Comiskey will be there Yeahhhh! 🙂

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