Is it a stiff and smelly old building, or a giant warehouse? Is it the people that constitute the "church", or the staff that runs the program? How would you define it?
I define it the way Jesus did... meaning the body of people whether they meet in a building or not. The place a congregation meets is just that... a meeting place... which can be outside under a tree or in a temple, synagogue, mosque, etc.
I consider a church to be more about the people than the actual building...the building really has nothing to do with it IMO...even though it is often what comes to mind first. I've been to churches that took place in a high school gym, in an empty cinderblock building, or even in an open field. I'd say it's a collective grouping of people that come together to share, listen, and sometimes discuss (but mostly listen, I guess) their personal beliefs. Generally, the same or similar personal beliefs are shared bewteen the members, and I think churches serve the purposes of affirming your beliefs and to provide a sense of community/worship and accountability to its members. In general, there is a pastor and other leaders who have likely gone to seminary or have had some formal education in theology etc and who have studied the Bible (for the intents and purposes of this post I am only addressing the Christian church), but frankly, I think that pastors are not completely essential to a church although they do provide leadership and organization.
I'd say it's a collective grouping of people that come together to share, listen, and sometimes discuss (but mostly listen, I guess) their personal beliefs. Generally, the same or similar personal beliefs are shared bewteen the members, and I think churches serve the purposes of affirming your beliefs and to provide a sense of community/worship and accountability to its members. In general, there is a pastor and other leaders who have likely gone to seminary or have had some formal education in theology etc and who have studied the Bible (for the intents and purposes of this post I am only addressing the Christian church), but frankly, I think that pastors are not completely essential to a church although they do provide leadership and organization.
I agree with what Seanan said above, though.
I think you're right and its the reason I am no longer a part of any congregation. If (unlikely) I ever found a group of people (church) in which the paramount goal was following the lead or learning from the most knowledgeable member in the form an a truly educated pastor who followed the religion's tenants and taught only those, (given I would have to agree with them) I would attend. I'm afraid that is, in fact, where religion.. especially Christianity... is getting its bad reputation. The uneducated (in the religion) membership is feeding itself and some of it is not pretty. What someone is wearing can, I think, be "spun" into being part of religious tenant but its a stretch and can be refuted by the more important teachings of the religion. When the varied "personal beliefs" of a congregation dominates... the whole purpose of the "church" is gone. It then deteorates into the socially skilled members having inordinate power... just another social structure having little or nothing to do with the real spiritual purpose for attendance. Of course, I realize that the purpose for some is just "I went to church on Sunday... thus I'm a good person."
Mmmhmmm, I can definitely see where you're coming from here...and I think you're right...that is where Christianity really draws a lot of its skepticism. Also, those "varied personal beliefs" of congregation members who have not studied the Bible for themselves (but just went to church because they were forced to when they were young or something) really opens up doors to a lot of dissention and relativism within the congregation. How can a body of like-minded believers exist in a community where no one agrees? Plus, add that to the fact that pastors, are indeed, only humans like you and me (regardless of their education and personal study).
I'm currently studying to be a teacher...and one thing that I have come to realize is that I am not "the authority," and it is not my job to solely impart knowledge onto my students. Instead I should be facilitating my students to think for themselves...and yes, part of that process involves teaching concepts that they are not yet aware of, but what I teach is about application and not just regurgitation of facts. As for religion, I definitely think that is imperative to evaluate your beliefs and really understand why you believe them on a personal level...not just because it's what you've been fed by others. The older I get, the more I realize that religion is so much more than just "going to church on Sunday"...it is really something deeply personal to me and is a huge and integrated part of who I am. I find that I even have "church" amongst some of my good friends (even though we don't call it that) who do believe similarly to what I believe. We have accountability between each other and can bring up problems/struggles -- and to me, that kind of community is nice.
When it boils down to it, I believe that God knows our hearts and intentions.
On what we're discussing... I like the TV minister, Joyce Meyers, and she said something once that really took me aback (she has a habit of doing that LOL) Anyway words to the effect:
"So many of you complain that this church member or that is judgemental, petty, competitive and so on.. well, you know what, church is not, mainly, for the healthy.. its for the sick... they need to be here."
Haha... still cracks me up when I think of it... she's the ballsiest minister I've ever seen.. she cuts right to the heart and I guess alot of people like it based on her following.
Re: teaching... I do disagree with some but that's another conversation I guess... I think kids are sadly in need of "authority figures."
I like Joyce Meyers' straightforwardness, too; interestingly, my agnostic roommate will stop flipping channels when he sees her and listen to her for a bit! A church is the community, not the building. Religion is a way of life, not just a Sunday service.
A church can be anything. When someone asks me if I go to church or not and I suspect they're gonna be long-winded, I tell them yes I do: I go to the church in my head everyday. That usually ends the conversation, but the truth is that it's not really a lie
I disagree. Kids are sadly in need of authority figures but it should be the parents at home, not the teachers.
I understand what you're saying and agree but I was referring to the "respect" factor. When a teacher becomes a "buddy" its as bad for the kids as parents trying to be "friends." There should be lots of "authority figures" for a kid. Being too free and independent is proven to be subconsiously frightening to them and the cause of many psychological and behavior problems. They're too young developmentally to deal with the idea that "its just them"... they know as much as anyone else... yes, scarey. I'm sure I didn't say that well as I'm in a hurry.