As we continue to define New Christianity, one of the resources which I use is the web site dictionary.com. ( www.dictionary.com) This web site, A New Christianity, seeks to help you renew your relationship with God. To do that effectively, we need to communicate clearly, making sure that there is a good understanding of the words we use. There are few words of which this is more true, than this one: church.
If you click on the word Ďchurchí, above, you find that it pops up a link to the dictionary.com page where the word church is defined. I have used the word ‘church’ (or referred to it as ‘the church’) in some of my articles already. So before I write any more articles, letís take this time to ‘get on the same page’, so you will know what I mean by ‘church’ as opposed to what I mean by ‘Church’.
The most obvious difference between ‘church’ and ‘Church’ is the use of capitalization (and the red letter C). The ‘Church’ (with a capital C;) is defined at the top of the dictionary.com page under definition 2-1: “The company of all Christians regarded as a spiritual body”. Or, as I would say: All people everywhere, who believe in the Christ, and in God. There are no distinguishing factors and there are no membership requirements, except for the obvious one: a belief in Christ. If you believe in Christ, you are a member of the ‘Church’; if you donít believe, you are not a member.
That leaves us with the ‘church’. All of the articles Iíve written, in which there are negative comments about the church, have been written about the ‘church’ with a small c;. So what is the ‘church’? Simply put, the church is defined by all of the other definitions (#1, #2-2, #2-3, #3 through #5) at the top of the page at dictionary.com. Thus we see that it is the church which has denominations; is defined as being a building; is a specific group of people who belong to an institution with specific membership requirements regarding what you should believe about God, Christ, and their teachings. It is the church which instigated the crusades and the inquisition. It is the church which regularly and consistently explains that “God loves you, but if you donít act, or think, or look, or dress, or arenít like us in some other way, then please go somewhere else”.
Please note: When I write about ‘the church’ and its teachings, I am doing so to point out that those teachings are often inconsistent with the simple truth that “God is love”. This inconsistency stems from the blurred vision of an institutionally defined relationship with God. In the First letter of John, the apostle warns us about this blurred vision. In Chapter 4, verse 1, he writes: “Dearly Loved Friends, donít always believe everything you hear just because someone says it is a message from God: test it first to see if it really is. For there are many false teachers aroundÖ” (The Living Bible)
Now, if you are a member of a ‘church’, thatís ok. (Many members of the ‘Church’ are also members of a church.) Please understand that I am not suggesting that you should leave your church. But, the first article I wrote for this web site (A Logical Relationship), clearly states what John means in the verse above: Whenever you learn anything about God, or your relationship to Him, (even from your church,) you should verify it with the ‘still, small voice within’. If you find it to be true, then believe it. If you don't, then keep looking for the truth!
Grace and peace to you all,