What Is "Church?"

Have you ever wondered what it means to be “the church”? While it’s common to say we “go to church” on Sundays, theologians remind us we “go to be with the church” since “church” is the fellowship of God’s people – the community of faith – and not a building. We recently explored different dimensions of “being church” with the Union of Indonesian Baptist Churches (UIBC).

“What is church?” – pastoral visits in western Java.

We started with a 5-day, 1,125 kilometer (700 mile) road trip around western and central Java with our colleagues, the UIBC’s General Secretary and Director of Community Ministries. At UIBC churches and schools we saw first-hand how Indonesian Baptists are growing healthy and faithful churches and blessing their communities. We were especially inspired by a church and its pastor in the Yogyakarta area. They have developed a community enterprise called Tani Organik Merapi (“Organic Farmers of Merapi”) that has created jobs, increased incomes and fostered cooperation and understanding between Christians and Muslims in this rural area. It is a powerful demonstration of what it means to be “church.”

 Tani Organik Merapi (Organic Farmers of Merapi) near Yogyakarta

Tani Organik Merapi (Organic Farmers of Merapi) near Yogyakarta

“What is church?” – member care.

Back in Jakarta, we led a training seminar for about 30 church mission leaders from 10 regions. They came to learn how to better support cross-cultural workers who serve among the over 300 ethnic groups of Indonesia and internationally. We shared our own experience with the challenges of living and working cross-culturally and offered practical tips for how a church can provide the support and guidance their workers need to be healthy, resilient and effective.

 Member care training with UIBC church leaders

Member care training with UIBC church leaders

“What is church?” – mentoring a “lost generation.”

The UIBC and its churches are deeply concerned about the future of children in Indonesian society. The program Sayang Anak Indonesia (Beloved Indonesian Children) was launched with the goal of training 2,000 young adult leaders to mentor 10,000 children in small groups. We were invited to help train about 40 regional coordinators from 19 regions. Our modules dealt with how to recruit church members to be mentors and how to support mentors and the children they work with.

 Sayang Anak Indonesia regional coordinators ready to recruit mentors for 10,000 children

Sayang Anak Indonesia regional coordinators ready to recruit mentors for 10,000 children

What does it mean to be “the church,” to “be Jesus,” in your city and neighborhood? Is church just a building where people meet or is it you, the presence of the kingdom of God – like salt and light – in your community? We work with partners here in in the Asia Pacific region as they reflect on this question, and we’d love to work with you as your church struggles with this crucial question, too. Just let us know!

Thanks for your prayer and financial support that make all this possible.