Thursday, August 11, 2011

Google Images of Church Point to a Massive and Unfortunate Misunderstanding

When you go to Google Images and type in the word "church," this is what you get. You see photo after photo of buildings; almost no people are present.

What does this tell us? Our culture thinks that the church is a building. This is not surprising, but it is troubling. The simple reason is that the church is, by biblical standards, most definitely not a man-made edifice of any kind. Rather, it is the people of God.

Every Christian that I know, regardless of local church affiliation, knows that the church is people not buildings. They may occasionally refer to a church building as a church, but they do know the true definition.

Our culture, however, really seems to think that churches are made of brick, stone, concrete, stained glass, carpet, etc. This is problematic because it shows that we as the church have failed to communicate to the broader culture what the church actually is.

This is not some small issue of insignificance. Rather, it has gospel implications. The reason is that for the most part people don't really care about buildings (unless they are sight-seeing). They do, however, care about people. If non-Christians believe the church is a building, they simply aren't going to care about it at all. If we can on the other hand get the message across that the church is made of people, then they might take notice. They might want to know more about it.

This change will only come through conversation and really getting to know people. If we are willing to spend time with the lost, then we might be successful in changing some poor perceptions of what the church is. For example, if we let our lost co-workers know that we are the church, and then we live loving, serving, sacrificial, holy lives around them, they will take notice. Ultimately, we hope this will lead to gospel proclamation and salvation.

We need to be clear with our culture that the church is Christ's people. This will not happen if we retreat from the world. Instead, we must lovingly invade the world as Jesus' church.

There are many days at work when I feel like (to borrow a science fiction title) a stranger in a strange land. You probably do, too. To some extent this is a good thing because our citizenship is in heaven as opposed to here. We are new creations who stand in stark contrast to those who walk in darkness.

Let's be careful to recall that we all once walked in darkness as well. Now, however, we are the church. The world needs to know that this odd people, following after Jesus, are what the church really is. When we live differently they will take notice. That's when we get to tell them the great story of who Jesus is and what He has accomplished for us.

The church is people. We must get that message across.


Aussie John said...


"When we live differently they will take notice."

Bull's eye!

See my comment on Alan's blog, Translating the Gospel and Disciple Making

Eric said...


The public really doesn't care much at all what we do when we get together. However, if we love and serve them, they'll take notice. The question is whether or not we live what we say. I hope I do.

Scott said...

Brother Eric,
I agree that is a stinging google search!

Likewise a search for "home" indicates that homes are simply buildings.

You should however be pleased with a search for "home church" it shows almost no buildings just people gathered :)

Brother Scott ><>

Tim A said...

It's a very obvious picture of how misconstrued the concept of church is for our culture, both the lost and believers. There is no way around it when believers devote so much money to this one tradition of men. Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also - is an axiom of where your heart will be - guarranteed. It will be fixated on the building - which will dilute believers ability to be devoted to one another.

Eric said...


The nice thing is that this is one of these issues where Christians can and should all easily agree. We all know that the church is people. We just have to work together to convey that message.

Eric said...


Buildings certainly are a distraction and/or terrible waste of money for some Christians. There are others, however, where the building is simply a place to gather and that is all. I suppose it runs the spectrum. In the end, my hope is that we will all work to correct this massive cultural misunderstanding that acts as a obstacle to evangelism.