Thursday, April 15, 2010

expressions of the church

In the denomination I'm part of, we like to say that there are three expressions of the church. These are the congregation, the synod (a regional area ... there are 65 in my denomination), and churchwide (the whole country). Despite the natural inclination by many people to think that churchwide is more important than the synod, and that the synod is more important than the congregation ... or even, perhaps, the inclination to think exactly the reverse, my denomination goes to a lot of effort to emphasize the equal importance of each expression of this church, and to communicate that different types of ministry happen by way of each of these expressions.

And while I don't disagree with what the church says about these three expressions, I believe we're painting an incomplete picture. It seems we've left out a fourth, arguably more important, expression of the church. Maybe we've left it out because it's not part of the institutional structure, but that doesn't make it any less significant or important.

The expression I'm thinking of is the household. As much as we seem to try to elevate our impact or importance for faith formation as church leaders, ultimately people spend exponentially more time in the household (family) than they do in the church (and especially the church building). I'd even argue that pastors' kids (who sometimes have to spend evenings at the church building while pastor-mom or pastor-dad participates in meetings) spend more time in the household than in any other iteration of the church.

I'm at least as guilty as anyone else, but I wonder why we spend so much time and energy on congregational (or synodical or churchwide) infrastructure, or even on ministry, when we spend relatively so little time and energy on supporting faith formation in the home.

What would it be like if we talked about four expressions of the church? Would it change anything? Or should we just leave it alone, since all the best ministry happens outside of the structures and hierarchies of the church?

1 comment:

  1. You make an excellent point and despite the Hand in Hand training and the Faith Formation cards I bought I haven't followed up doing any of this. I bought myself a Lutheran Study Bible this week but did not buy one for my daughter. Hmmm...I need to work on growing the family's faith as well as my own but we seem to leave faith growth at the back door of the church when we leave on Sunday.