A steady stream of books with titles like Pagan Christianity?, Quitting Church, Life After Church, and They Like Jesus But Not the Church show that some of the church's staunchest critics come from within. Many Christians advocate an ecclesiology in which church is understood merely as the plural of Christian; hanging out at a café talking about Jesus is just as valid an expression of "doing church" as traditional models, if not more valid, because it is more relevant to the culture.
In Why We Love the Church: In Praise of Institutions and Organized Religion (Moody), Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck, authors of Why We're Not Emergent, address what they call the "decorpulation" of Christianity, a growing movement of evangelicals who want "spirituality without religion, to find a relationship without rules and have God without the church." Barista Katie Galli, who this fall begins graduate studies in history at Cambridge University, interviewed DeYoung, senior pastor of University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Michigan, about his own struggles with the church and his reasons for remaining in a traditional, institutional church.
What makes a group of Christians a church?
As a theological category, church could refer to just those who are Christians. But when we use the word church as in, "I'm at church," "we are going to church," "we are the church," we're talking about a gathered body with certain parameters.
In the New Testament, you get a good sense that the church looks a little different in Acts than it does in Corinthians and in Timothy. But there's teaching. There's singing. There's praying. There are sacraments.
It's important to remember that when you have two people at Starbucks who are talking about Jesus, that's ...