What Is Church?
Shaun Groves is an artist I have seen play a couple times and also talked with one of those times... briefly. I always thought the guy was great and his message was great, but (sorry, Shaun) I never really got into his soft-rock sound. Then, a year or two ago, I discovered Shaun's blog and then begins the real liking of the guy. He knows plenty about the music industry and seems knowledgeable about just about everything else.
Shaun recently posted a very intriguing post called, "The Church I Want". He outlined what he's looking for in a church within driving distance. First, he explains what he's not looking for because he already has it, from people to hang out with to a place to serve. Second, he explains his criteria for a church, which includes a commitment and a purpose for being.
Although this definitely is the ideal definition of church, it's not how I commonly use the phrase. To me, "church" is just going to a service on Sunday morning. It's a building a couple blocks away. That's not what Shaun is talking about.
I think what Shaun is really looking for is what we call "Christian community" or more specifically, the People of Praise. We're not just a community that lives in one cul-de-sac, we're in cul-de-sacs in 20+ cities across the country. Our purpose is to spread that type of richly lived Christian life where we have meals together on a regular basis and live our lives more in common. We're not just about cleaning up a poor neighborhood, but we're about moving in with them and making their burdens our burdens. We're also working on meaningful ways for young people to live high school and college life with much more than a social scene. Not only are we reaching out through preaching, but we're also reaching out through creating useful businesses that are Christ-centered and support our work in other ministries.
By most definitions, People of Praise is not a church. There are no pastors. We are a group of laity who all are a part of our respective churches but seek a more purposeful and communal life. I myself am Roman Catholic, but regularly share life with Lutherans, Baptists, and many more Christians.
If you want to learn more about the People of Praise, I recommend reading our publication. Sorry, Shaun, but we're not in Nashville yet, but maybe we'll be starting up in Music City in the future.