Who is Church For? [a guest post by Tyler Braun]

From Cara: I have been consistently challenged by Tyler's words, I hope that you will be too. In case you missed it, I did a guest post for his blog. You can check it out here.


photo by tymesynk.flickr.creative commons

6 years ago I started church ministry as a vocation and immediately knew I was where God wanted me. But I came to see this through the wrong lens. I was the youngest person on staff at a church with a large sanctuary and large budget, but dwindling numbers of congregants under the age of 30. I quickly saw myself as someone the church needed. "If I'm able to push my weight around all the problems can be fixed," I thought.

This is typical for how we view problems: if only we had the power, the problems would disappear. And in taking a similar mindset I couldn't have been more wrong. I saw church as a place for me to push my agenda and my priorities, bringing others along so we could reach my generation. You can guess the end of the story, because yes, the struggle to reach my generation continued.

In recent weeks I've had this one question buzzing around in my head:

Who is church for?

Is church for the broken? The wealthy? The poor? The young? The old? The seeker? The believer? The godly? The pastor? The congregation? Jesus? The people in the seats? The generation disappearing from churches?

Or maybe church is for the sinner. Or for those who choose to worship the Savior. Or maybe just for those who decide to show up.

Most of us act like church is for ourselves.

We impose our beliefs and our understanding of who God is onto other people so they can begin to see God rightly. We have our styles and our preferences, and we hope to bring along others who prefer the same things. Sometimes when we do this really well we develop a crowd and a bunch of people who like what we do also get to hear about Jesus.

In our eyes, church is a hospital where we get healed and cleaned up. Church is a store where we get fed and are given tools to grow. Church is a concert where we take our seat quietly to enjoy the entertainment. Church is a school where we go to learn more about God. Church is a club where we sign our names on the dotted line to become members.

When church is exclusively any of these things, then we can rightly impose our priorities, because church exists for ourselves. When church exists as these forms we can and should do everything to change it through any means possible. If it's for us, then it's also our job to make it better.

But church isn't first a building, an institution, or a set of beliefs—church is a body, comprised of followers.

Maybe we should have started here all along. If church is a people, it's a conglomeration of relationships and interactions and lives bouncing around in a random kinetic explosion. Throughout the Scriptures we are taught this. Paul says on numerous occasions that Christians are the body of Christ (Ephesians 1:22-23). What makes these Christians an ekklesia (Greek word for "church" "assembly" "called out ones") is not the building or systems for organizing, but the act of being a gathered body. The implications for this change how we view church.

I don't spend time with friends anticipating all the ways my interactions with them will benefit me. Instead, I think about the ways I can care for them, knowing them more deeply.

If church is a people, it must be a place we choose to serve. If church is a people, it can't be a place first for ourselves, but is a place for others.

Church is not a place for you to first receive and be poured into. Church can be that if church is a mall that has things available to you.

But if church is a people, then we must choose to serve first.

Church: a place to serve and be served, to the glory of God alone. 


Tyler BraunTyler Braun is a husband, dad, pastor, and writer from Salem, Oregon. He is the author of Why Holiness Matters (Moody 2012). You can find Tyler online through his blog or @tylerbraun