It's a big building with patients, but that's not important right now.
I'm currently teaching through a Sunday school series called "Church Matters," the brain child of Lance, where we've combined the adult & youth classes at Providence Church.
The first week we looked at what the church is not, interacting with 4 articles from Mike Sviegel:
Part 1 - The Church is not a merely human organization (e.g., not political party, not a club, and not a business).
Part 2 - The church is not a supermarket of spiritual groceries (problems include church shopping, hopping, and dropping).
Part 3 - The church is not just a gathering of a few believers (especially those for whom they deem no church is worthy).
Part 4 - The church is not an option (it is a necessary component of sanctification).
I highly recommend those, and I'd like to add a few more along the lines of what the church is not ...
1. The church is not a meat market for singles to meet in order to cure them of the disease of singleness, nor should a church promote (or condone) itself as such. Certainly, Christians should marry Christians (2 Cor 6:14) and a great place to meet like-minded believers is in one's church, but the function of the church is not pairing people up.
2. The church is not a place of mere intellectual performance, a platform for people to show off their mental prowess or big words. Certainly, we are to love the Lord our God with all our minds and intellectual stimulation should occur if we are so loving God. However, church does not convene for a pastor or teacher to show off or to demean others of less intelligence/knowledge.
3. The church is not a building. Sure, the vernacular allows the building to be shorthand, just as we realize the Burger King is a entity that serves people food there. The church meets there and owns/uses that facility. However, it's far too popular to think of the building as the legacy, with people being loyal to a building and not Christ or His flock that meets there. I've even heard people personify a church building by speaking of it saving people and it making a difference in the lives of other or a community.
4. The church is not a gig. The church is not a venue for the band to entertain or try out new material. It's not a place for an audience to come to get entertained by artists. It is, however, a place for musicians to use their talents to the glory of God as worshipers are aided in exalting our Triune God together.
5. The church is not a place to network, to be seen or make business contacts. I've only experienced this secondhand, but looking for a church based on networking possibilities is particularly heinous.
6. The church is merely not a place to come and unload about your aches and pains. Sure, it's as much a hospital as much as it is an army, but Christian love dictates that we care about others, not just about getting our concerns on the magical prayer list. It's good to share your needs, but don't forget about the needs of others.
7. The church is not a group of perfect people. In fact, recognition of one's sinfulness is required for joining. We are people being perfected, but that means we're called to be patient, kind, forgiving, and loving with each other in the growing process. That means we give patience, not just expect it for us.
“For as long as Jesus insists on calling sinners and not the righteous to repentence-and there is no indication as yet that he has changed his policy in that regard-churches are going to be an embarrassment to the fastidious and and affront to the upright.”
-Peterson, Reversed Thunder, 54
Any others?Recommended Reading: Stop Dating the Church: Fall in Love with the Family of God, by Joshua Harris.