What Does Church Look Like?

I have traveled a lot of miles. By plane, by highway, by both. I’m afraid to add them up. In those travels I have gotten to see and still see a lot of different churches and a lot of different worship services. I’ve seen pretty much every style, format, and size. You name it, I think I’ve been able to be a part of it. It’s actually a real honor and it has shaped me in amazing ways, and even more so it has influenced how I write music and lead worship. Something is simmering in my mind and I want your opinion:

Scripturally-speaking, what is church supposed to look like? What is the picture? Who is there? What are the main things you notice in a service or maybe a building?

The book of Acts comes to mind for me as well as the conversations the Apostle Paul had with the different churches. What about for you?

All of this questioning comes from an experience I just had as a presenter at an amazing conference called D6. D6 draws from Deuteronomy 6 and focuses on children and family worship. I learned a lot and hopefully offered something good. It has pushed my mind and heart to take an important look at church focus.

I’m not trying to fix anything; I’m hoping for some good conversations. Church is God’s idea and I want to understand it more, not just go along with it or make any assumptions.

So, let’s talk it out. Would you leave me your thoughts about what church looks like in comments section of this blog?

I hope to hear from you. Thanks for the time to talk.

Blessings and (as always) God is good all the time!


P.S. If you are looking for an amazing resource for family worship and family formation, please check out my friend Rob Rienow and his ministry Visionary Family. Awesome stuff for marriage and family!

9 thoughts on “What Does Church Look Like?

  1. As I consider worship, I cannot separate it from theology. Biblical theology is always God first doing the action and we, His people, reacting. Luther got it right calling it “Gottesdienst” or God’s Service or Divine Service. His understanding was that worship is God serving us first and foremost with Word and Sacrament, AND THEN we respond with our prayers, praises, hymns and spiritual songs. In other words the action of worship is first from God to us and then we respond. Receiving from God the father through Jesus by the Holy Spirit is not merely emotional nor intellectual but (S)spiritual (However, let’s never divorce emotions and the intellect from the spirit!) Worship is best done in receiving the Words of love from our Father and then saying these same words of love back to Him. Frivolous and superfluous words, sentiments, fads, moods, etc. should be avoided. Although I love to feel good in worship, the goal of God is not to make me happy but to make me healthy and holy. I truly am of the mindset that instrumentation, placement of singers, choirs, bands, organ, styles of worship – contemporary, traditional or blended, color of the carpetting, size of the pulpit, altar flowers: real versus artificial are all issues neither commanded nor forbidden by Scripture and are therfore adiaphora. What matters is are we hearing God’s Word, receiving His gifts being assured of our salvation in Jesus alone and loving Him in return. Ok, that’s the nickel tour for you to meander through my thoughts on this.

  2. As I grow older, I’ve come to realize that in it’s simplest terms Worship comes down the word. God’s word. Be that through teaching, song or action – you have to have the word in your Worship and your life. Because if you live the word a life of praise will happen. And then JOY!

  3. RE: “the goal of God is not to make me happy but to make me healthy and holy.”
    AMEN, PASTOR BILL! I think so many Christians are losing sight of this reality.

    I have been blessed to worship in a variety of settings and with a number of different leaders who each glean a different understanding of the focus of worship from Scripture. I think by and large, we’ve stopped being the Church for the sake of church. Which is not only unBiblical, it is an extremely dangerous slippery slope. We’ve put aside God’s design for us to be in communion with Him and with the Church because we don’t like certain songs, instruments, words, styles, pews, chairs, microphones, screens, papers, etc. etc.. We forget that that’s not what being the Church is all about. Worship is God’s gifts (Word & sacraments) poured out graciously to us undeserving sinners and our response to the Almighty God. And the Church is God’s people together, for Him and His kingdom.

    So the way I see it is this: God’s there giving freely, we’re there responding to His love, grace and mercy. God’s giving looks similar–His Word and the sacraments, but our response can look very different. Does your son or daughter love to build complex lego structures? Do you love to make homemade cards or scrapbooks? Does your toddler love to bang on the pots and pans in the kitchen? I would venture to say all these things are responses to God’s great love for each one. I once knew a girl who just learned a new nostril trick and said, “I haven’t decided how I’m going to use it to serve the Lord yet.” Sounds weird…and maybe gross to some…but she gave me a wake up call to the fact that EVERYTHING we have and are and do is a gift of God and we are to use EVERYTHING we have and are and do to respond. And corporately…well, I don’t think it’s been ordained by Scripture as to what worship should look like. It probably needs to be a bit broader so that the Church can worship together in an appropriate response by everyone, but I think we can just keep it simple.

  4. I think church is about relationships. But more than just casually friendship, church is a gathering of people around God’s Gifts (Word, sacraments, grace) for God’s people. In church we become aware of God’s love for us and we are (hopefully) filled to the point we can do nothing other than share that love with all we encounter.

  5. When I first started reading this post, the end of Acts 2 jumped into my mind where the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teachings, fellowship, eating together, praying for one another, and living communally.

    My church background isn’t quite as diverse as yours but I grew up in a Lutheran megachurch and am now worshiping weekly in a mid-sized Baptist church and a home church. I’ve had plenty of “This is Church as God intended it” moments in all three of those places but the moments that stick out for me are more unconventional:
    – The local college campus where the weekly worship service (complete with holy hands, dancing, and a long message) is still going strong at the one-hour mark.
    – The open mic where brothers and sisters are welcome to share how they’ve seen the Lord work.
    – The Chinese congregation that worships at a chicken plant because their land was confiscated decades ago. Likewise, the scene David Platt describes in Radical where Christians are gathered together for hours on end studying scripture.
    – The dirt-floor church in rural Nicaragua where I wasn’t sure our mission team of 26 would fit inside the building much less the locals too. Yet we jammed in. (It wasn’t at this church but at another one we put the sound system outside so the neighbors could hear. We didn’t need it in the building). We stood to our feet to all pray aloud independently in both Spanish and English. The singer asked our guitar player to accompany her while she sang–never telling him the song or even the key (probably because there wasn’t one). From a material standpoint, these were the poorest people I’ve ever met without safe access to clean drinking water. From a spiritual standpoint, they were the richest, most joy-filled, and most generous (the offering basket was full).

    I think worship is supposed be the moment where “uncomfortable” and “beautiful” meet because there’s nothing easy about it and in that juxtaposition, God gets the glory. No questions asked.


  6. What is the church? We are the church. What is worship? Worship is adoration as a natural response to grace. Where is church? Wherever WE (not just me) respond to grace in adoration. Unlimited.

  7. When I was growing up, church was about snuggling. In a pew, in between my mom and dad, or mom and sister. It was about being touched, a blessing during communion. It was about joining my voice with others, whether I could follow the tune or not. Being called by name, and looked in the eye, and known. It’s wasn’t going somewhere to be with God, because he was (is) with me everywhere. It was about going to somewhere to gather with others who knew God is always with us, and share in that joy, or confusion, or direction. And in my family this didn’t happen weekly, and was something that I looked forward to.
    So now, I guess that’s still church to me. Gathering, touching, joining, learning, growing, struggling, being known. I attend a church in the round, which is so powerful because you can focus not just on the pastor or the alter, but at a larger view of the body of Christ- in all it’s distractions. I make a lot of eye contact. I feel known, and I feel that I know others. It’s rejuvenating.

  8. God really speaks to me through music so when I read this, I thought of The Church Song by Jay Beech which expresses just how I feel about the Church:

    We are the church, the body of our Lord. We are all God’s Children. We have been restored.

    The church is not a building where people go to pray
    it’s not made out of sticks and stones, it’s not made out of clay.
    We are the church, the body of our Lord. We are all God’s Children. We have been restored.

    You can go to worship but you cannot go to church
    you can’t find a building that’s alive no matter how you search
    We are the church, the body of our Lord. We are all God’s Children. We have been restored.

    The church is not a business a committee or a board
    it’s not a corporation for the business for the business of the Lord
    We are the church, the body of our Lord. We are all God’s Children. We have been restored.

    The church, it is the people living out their lives
    called, enlightened, sanctified for the work of Jesus Christ
    We are the church, the body of our Lord. We are all God’s Children. We have been restored.

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