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There is a popular line that exists in sermons (heck, I've even preached it myself!) that says something to the effect of "a church is not a social club." A church is not the local Kiwanis, it is not the local Boy Scouts, and it sure as heck isn't supposed to just be another "community center."

But how?

In what concrete ways is a church different than any other faternal or social organization?

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FWIW, I've always thought of the local church more like an embassy for those of us whose citizenship is elsewhere. It should be a small part of Heaven, breaking into this world. –  Wikis Oct 25 '12 at 17:02
    
Are you asking for concrete suggestions on how to make a church less like a social club? Or for how the fundamental nature of the church is different from that of a social club? –  DJClayworth Oct 25 '12 at 17:17
    
@DJClayworth It's your second phrasing of the question - how is the fundamental nature of the church different from that of a social club. –  Affable Geek Oct 25 '12 at 17:31
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At a social club you have to pay for your own wine, but they don't cut you off at one sip. –  Jon Ericson Oct 25 '12 at 19:50
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Other than a setup for a joke, I'm not sure how this question can be constructive. Trying to answer it, I'm struck by how much variety there is in local churches. Some are social clubs that happen to meet on Sunday mornings. I don't think that's the way God intended it, but I'm convinced this site will work best if we don't focus on how things should be, but rather how they are. Maybe it would be better to recast this as a "theology of the local church" question? –  Jon Ericson Oct 25 '12 at 19:58
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3 Answers

up vote 11 down vote accepted

The Church is presented as the Body of Christ (an organism, not an organization [e.g., 1 Cor. 12:12+]) and as the household of faith (a family, not a club [e.g., Gal. 6:10]--also sons of God, brothers and sisters). As the Body of Christ there is an implication of a different kind of life (this may address a spiritual nature), an implication of diversity (different parts), unity (one body), and completeness. Both the body and family metaphors point to the lack of choice of individual members in who else is part of the collective--one does not choose one's relatives. Both also point to a fundamental identity in and with the whole (an eye cannot just pop itself out and reject its being part of the body; the parts suffer together and rejoice together).

On a practical level, this should mean that the common boundaries of social status, personal interests, etc. should not be separating factors in the Church as they tend to be in social organizations (e.g., Gal. 3:28).

The fact that the Church is God's (new) creation rather than a human formation (e.g., John 1:12-13) also has implications for persistence(e.g., Phil. 1:6), righteous action (e.g., Eph. 2:10), and ultimate success (e.g., 1 John 3:2). (This might be analogous to the difference between Scripture and human writings.) (The Church might also be viewed as something like the Holy Spirit as "earnest" or the resurrection of Christ as a first fruits--a sample of what the new creation in its fullness will be like and an assurance that this fullness is coming.)

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+1 about people of diversity coming together in a church, vs people with something in common coming together in a social club. –  thursdaysgeek Oct 25 '12 at 23:09
    
Welcome to C.SE, btw - and I like the thrust of the proof. I want to give a little more time for competing answers, but this is very good –  Affable Geek Oct 26 '12 at 0:06
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It might be appropriate to add the differences in the purposes of the founders, which might be expressed as the glorification of God (which includes worship but also the witness of good behavior and signs of God's favor) versus the glorification of creatures. The lack of mention of the aspect of ultimate purpose is a weakness in the answer. –  Paul A. Clayton Oct 26 '12 at 14:09
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First and foremost I want to say that I think it's pretty much just an old cliche and I've heard it mostly used when people are talking while the preacher is preaching. I think the idea behind the cliche is generally saying that we aren't here to socialize we are here to worship.

However, let's see if we can take that cliche a little deeper and let's start with one scripture that just about sums it up, Matthew 21:13:

And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves. (KJV)

However, in context this verse alone isn't enough because Jesus was speaking of some very specific activities outlined in the previous verse, Matthew 21:12:

And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, (KJV)

So, let's see if we can concrete this some more right? How about we go a little deeper to 1 Corinthians 6:19-20:

19 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? 20 For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's. (KJV)

Here we gain an understanding of the temple as its known today, our own body, and Jesus said in John 4:21-24 just what He's after when it comes to the body:

21 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22 Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. 23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. 24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. (KJV)

Specifically take note to this for the Father seeketh such to worship him.

So, if He's seeking those to worship Him, we can't do that by socializing. Worship is not a form of socializing, worship is a form of praise, thanks, and communication with Jesus that's much deeper than the superficial gatherings of clubs like the Kiwanis or the Boy Scouts.

So, with those scriptures I think we can see that the temple is meant for praise and worship rather than socializing. However, let's not get carried away because that's what we love to do, the Bible does not condemn gathering together to socialize with one another. What we do before and after service, that's socializing, and it's necessary for the saint to stay saved. Take note to 2 Corinthians 6:14-18:

14 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? 15 And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? 16 And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, 18 And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. (KJV)

There's a lot here but I'm going to try and keep it simple. Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers is letting us know, we can't commune, or today you might call it socialize, with unbelievers for the vast majority of our time.

Then we see the same theme here that I pointed out previously, and that is that we are in fact the temple, And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God, and so God is saying we have got to stick together and spend time together with like minded people.

Then you have a clincher with this one, Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, clearly stating that we need to come out from among those that God saved us from.

At any rate, it's still not saying you can't spend time with them, it's just letting them know that you have to be spending time with each other because if you get too close to the fire you're going to get burned. You have to spend time with those that aren't in church or you'll never get them in church, but they should be somewhat uncomfortable around you at times even because you're different, you're separate.

Alright, I'm going to have to quit now before I go on forever, but I hope this has helped.

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-1: Thank you! I read this answer to my young son and he began napping! // Seriously though, long meandering answers like this remind me why Church attendance is falling through the floor. Citing Scripture is great, but please make your citation short and applicable. Thanks! And welcome to Christianity.SE! meta.christianity.stackexchange.com/a/1363/1100 –  Jim G. Oct 28 '12 at 0:36
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@JimG., I fail to see how the scripture I cited is not applicable to answering the question. Are you able to expand on that or do you just not want to read answers that are complete by the mouth of two or three witnesses? –  Michael Perrenoud Oct 28 '12 at 11:15
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@JimG. I actually +1d this answer. Long answers are actually encouraged. BigM - Please don't take one person's opinion as indicative of the entire community. –  Affable Geek Oct 29 '12 at 13:04
    
@AffableGeek: No they're not. Good answers are encouraged. Even good answers that happen to be long are encouraged. Long answers which simply reference Scripture (and in this case, the Old English version of Scripture) are not encouraged. As I've said, this is partly why Mass attendance is rapidly declining. We don't want to promote this anti-pattern on Christianity.SE. Please see my Meta post: meta.christianity.stackexchange.com/a/1363/1100 –  Jim G. Oct 29 '12 at 13:29
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@JimG, so what you're saying is you'd prefer both a newer version of the Bible because the KJV apparently is an invalid translation and you'd prefer somebody's opinion over the Word? Sorry friend but I won't be able to do that, please see 2 Timothy 2:15 - answering questions with the Word of God alone is the way things should be answered, that's why God gave us His Word, right? –  Michael Perrenoud Oct 29 '12 at 14:11
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A church is a comunity. Where people with the same beliefs come together. God gave the church to unite Christians. Being Christian is not something you do in a Church. You are Christian everywhere. At school, at work, at home, and you come together with other Christians in church.

A social organisation, sports club or whatever, is something where you come, do your thing together, go home, live your life, come back after a week and again.

What is the difference between the activities in a social organisation and church? A social organisation is for yourselves. You come there to share with others, laugh, sport or whatever. In church you may find this too, but the real difference is that you are not there for yourself. You come to church to worship, glorify God. And in second place be together and be united with other Christians.

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Welcome to C.SE! Good answer! –  Affable Geek Oct 26 '12 at 0:06
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