What is the church?

As I prepare to move to a new church and leave behind two that I have served for the last few years, I find myself contemplating what it means to be the church.

Here is a starting thought. What I am looking for here is not an abstract definition of the church, but a practical one — one that might challenge and shape what we actually do as the church and in the name of the church. As I say, here is starting thought:

The church is a people called together by God to live in such a way as to not cause a scandal when the way they live is compared to what they say when they pray the Lord’s Prayer.

My first thought was to end that with the phrase “when they claim that Jesus Christ is Lord.” That might be stronger, but it takes a lot more explication, which is not necessarily a bad thing but can give us lots of ways to wriggle off the hook.

My definition, of course, leads to questions about the meaning of the Lord’s Prayer and what it would mean to live our lives in ways that do not make the prayer a scandal. I suppose I find myself really enjoying the thought of doing that work with a congregation.

The cancer of church decay

Warren Buffett on the dangers to ongoing success in a business:

“My successor will need one other particular strength: the ability to fight off the ABCs of business decay, which are arrogance, bureaucracy and complacency. When these corporate cancers metastasize, even the strongest of companies can falter.”

How has the United Methodist Church done in avoiding the ABCs of church decay?

The basis of Methodist polity

Stuff I’m picking up in polity class at United Theological Seminary:

What is the end of all ecclesiastical order? Is it not to bring souls from the power of Satan to God; and to build them up in his fear and love? Order, then, is so far valuable, as it answers these ends; and if it answers them not, it is nothing worth. (Letter to John Smith, June 25, 1746)