the weblog of Alan Knox

How has your understanding of the church changed?

Posted by on Feb 12, 2013 in blog links, discipleship | 13 comments

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A few years ago, I wrote a post called “I used to believe… Now I believe.” In that post, I explained several ways that my understanding of the church has changed over the last few years.

Last week, Joe at “More than Cake” wrote a response called “I used to believe, but now…” In his post, Joe shared some of his own experiences with the church by comparing and contrasting with some of mine. Also, he explained how some of his understanding of the church has changed as well.

Here are some of my favorite explanations from Joe’s post:

I have never been one to make an idol of leaders. But at one point in my life I did see leadership as something reserved for a certain few. Now I see leadership as a mark of maturity in every believer. I also agree with Alan that serving is the ultimate kind of leadership. Finally, I have moved away from the “Senior Pastor” model of leadership. Now, within the diversity of Christian-leadership, I see a place for the kind of leadership that gathers together the saints under the guidance of Elders…

I don’t regret any of the discipleship classes I took, but I am glad there is so much more to the Christian faith beyond the classroom. I agree with Alan, classes can be good, but the way we structure our training should more about developing relationship and accountability and intimacy. I have put these principles into practice while writing my own Bible-study materials and I would love to see this kind of approach from more publishers…

There were several periods in my life, in total about 12 years, where I got NOTHING from the sermons I was hearing. I used to feel guilty, but then I realized that the Sunday sermon was not about me or for me. The sermon is for the church and there are some people who need to hear the sermon. When I listen to a sermon, I look for ways to build on what the speaker is teaching and pray the Spirit will help me find discipleship opportunities…

What about you? When you look back over your own experiences with your brothers and sisters in Christ, how has your understanding of the church changed? What triggered that change of understanding? Have you put that new understanding in practice?


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 2-12-2013


  2. 2-12-2013

    Where do I start? I ‘pastored’ 5 churches ‘fairly successfully’ in a mainline denomination in South Africa over 40 years. About 6 years ago my wife and I quit because we could no longer continue to be/do ‘church’ in that way. Since then I have completed a Masters on ‘House Church/Simple Church,’ and we have facilitated 4 organic-style house churches amongst the middle class and poor in our Metro, determined to let Jesus be the head of all in principle and practice. Needless to say, we have never looked back. God, independently of us, raised up a fellow house church planter in our metro, and the Lord is using him mightily amongst the poor and sick – we have just baptised some 7 new believers, most of whom have been hospitalised with TB. Together we are breaking into new areas.
    So, how have we changed as to viewing the Church? Very much along the lines of what you guys are doing: open fellowship, no clergy-laity distinction, organic growth, lifestyle discipling, incarnating the Lord Jesus in the marketplace, missionality, etc. By the way, all three of our married children with their spouses are busy with the same kind of thing.

    Alan, I so appreciate your biblical balance in all things – theological and practical. Way to go…

  3. 2-12-2013

    My appreciation for the church is increasing, and my understanding… only under God’s light is increasing. On the one hand the church is God’s heart’s desire, what God is after, and on the other hand the church is formed of and is among people of flesh and blood who love the Lord and gather together in His name to just enjoy Him!

    I’ve been moving around a lot these past 6-7 years, even from a country to another country, and I have seen Jesus living again in so many of His believers, my fellow co-partakers of the divine promises! I am so glad for the small setting where the Lord placed me for now, and my vision of the Body of Christ is strengthened whenever we gather in a larger number. We need both small and large settings / gatherings, and specifically we need that 80-90% of our meeting life to be in homes, in a mutual shepherding format, where we all can function and learn!

  4. 2-12-2013

    I used to think I (or other ‘successful’ business students or professionals) needed to apply excellent marketing skills to be able to spread God’s Church in today’s world.

    Now, I believe it is actually completely God’s work to build His church & “present it to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle” (Eph 5:27).

    So my role & the Church’s role is in the submission (Eph 5:22-24).

    Which basically changed everything.

  5. 2-13-2013

    Somehow my desire for ‘participatory church’ over the years has been squashed by systems that work on the theory that we are all equal but some are more equal than others. For whatever reason, there always seems to be an inner core and the ‘unwashed masses’…which includes me!

  6. 2-13-2013

    you can bear the system, Tom.
    Christ is not a system, teaching, methodology or philosophy.
    therefore, His Body also.

  7. 2-14-2013

    It has been interesting to me (over the last few years especially) how many people are coming to a different understanding of the church – a more relational and less systematic understanding. And, yet, almost everyone I’ve talked to about this started for a different reason.


  8. 2-14-2013

    that’s an awesome observation, Alan!!

    God is so amazing! That He can take each individual life and know what specifically He should reveal (based on personality, role, background, experiences up to that point, desires) that would help shift perspective for that person. That is just mindblowing to think about the web of relations & how He can be a personal God to each yet we are all part of the bigger picture. How He must do this is just unfathomable! 🙂 We can trust He is fully capable to build His Church & that He is doing it & will do it!! 🙂

  9. 2-15-2013


    My understanding changed from a “gather to hear preaching” model to a mutual edification model, primarily through reading the NT and from finding others on the internet who were struggling with the same issues I was.

    My change in understanding came from a negative point of view. It was the LACK of experiences with my brothers and sisters, and my experiences WITHOUT my brothers and sisters that helped shape that change. As I began to study ecclesiology, two things happened. I was searching for answers to “why are things so bad?” and found some. Also, as I learned about the church from scripture, I had “a-ha” moments, such as, “okay, THIS explains why such and such is problematic.”

    The big problem for me has been putting my new ideas into practice. People resist those ideas, and there seems to be some kind of invisible force field in place (or maybe it’s a universal “no” sign) that prevents the body from functioning with a “one another” mindset.

  10. 2-15-2013


    I love your comment! Thanks for sharing not only how your understanding of the church has changed, but what God used to trigger that change of understanding and part of the process your went through because of that change.


  11. 2-16-2013

    Alan, I don’t have the experience of the religion places. But, I have always seen the family as life, living daily together, experiencing Christ in and through us. It is who we are “naturally” with the Spirit of Life in us. The family loves, the family lives, the family cares, the family endures, the family is family.

  12. 2-16-2013

    Alan, I have come to see the church more as movement than as institution. The transforming power of the gospel changing lives through the Spirit’s work in, with and through us. I no longer see it primarily as a place of theological or doctrinal education, though that is a part of it. I see a great deal more room for disagreement, so long as Christ is proclaimed as Lord. I see the church, in it’s purist form, as the partnering of the people of God with Christ to make the values of heaven the values of this earth.

  13. 2-17-2013


    Yes, we are family with the Spirit of Life, and we live as family when we are submitting to the Spirit. There are times when we do not submit, though. I thank God for his grace and how he continually brings us back toward him… if we are willing to listen, change, and follow.


    As I look back in history at movements, I’ve noticed something interesting: movements tend to lose sight of the people and focus on the movement itself.