He seemed apologetic, and fully agreed with me. He said that what he and others were doing in that organization was being wonderfully blessed of God. However, he felt that its ministry was still not what God really wanted. This was because it was not happening through a church, but rather through a “parachurch.” (He was also confused about church and parachurch.)

A day or two later I was driving along in my car thinking about my conversation with my son. I felt the Lord gently asking me: “What is it that makes an organization a church?”

As I tried to answer that question, I sensed God gave me a revelation. I had never before seen so clearly as I did in that moment of time.

An organization is not a church because it has a certain shaped building that people call a church.

It is not a church because it has been duly certified by the federal government as a church.

It is not a church because it has been recognized by a denominational headquarters as a church.

It is not a church because it has regular Sunday morning services, and practices baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

It is not a church because it meets on a regular basis or in a particular location.


The author of the book I WILL BUILD MY CHURCH, Alfred Kuen wrote:

“It is easy to get bogged down with unimportant issues and questions. There does not seem to be a clear-cut way to define a local church.

“When, then, can a body of believers be called a church? I personally tend toward a simple definition: a body of believers can be called a church whenever that group meets together regularly for mutual edification.

“Jesus said, ‘For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them’ (Matt 18:20 kjv).

“It is clear what Tertullian, one of the early church fathers, felt Jesus meant. Tertullian said, ‘Where there are two or three believers, even laymen, there is a church.’”

Jim Montgomery, author of DAWN 2000: 7 MILLION CHURCHES TO GO, also addresses the question, “What is a church?” He writes: “I’m impressed with how a group of Christians faced this most fundamental question in China.

“These Chinese believers remarked — ‘Many older Christians said that they could not predict the future form of Chinese churches. They turned to the Bible for an answer. They found there that the house-church form was a legitimate church. Paul mentions a house church in 1 Corinthians 16:19.

“Later, we found a book by Wang Ming-dao. He was perhaps the most highly respected believer in China on the subject of the church. Because of his faith he was put in jail for more than 20 years. He believed that where there were Christians, there was a church.

“We were happy about this. Our group consisted of only a few people. However, we assumed we actually were a church, and our head was Jesus.