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What is the church?

November 10, 2008

by Rev. Erick Thompson, Bethel Lutheran Church, Lester Prairie

There has been much debate about what the word “church” means during the past 500 years. Ever since Martin Luther started the process that began the Reformation, church has meant different things to different people.

I suppose, the real question is, “What does church mean for you?”

At Bethel Lutheran Church, we have been busy preparing for our lutefisk dinner. This dinner gives Bethel members an easy definition for the question, “what is the church?” But, we all know there is much more to Bethel Lutheran than the delicious, stinky fish our grandparents taught some of us to love.

How would you answer the question, “What is the church?” Would you point out Sunday worship services, the people gathered for coffee and fellowship, the building that reminds people that we are here, or something else entirely?

Martin Luther’s experience with the Roman Catholic Church of the 16th century caused him to say that we should always be reforming the church. That seems a tall order, and yet, we are always changing. Even though our church looks the same, there has been much change over the years.

Often, our own answer to the meaning of church changes as we go through life. When we’re younger, church might be a place that our parents make us go. As young adults, we sometimes choose to exercise our Christian freedom, and don’t attend church. Later in life, church starts to make more sense to us, and we come back.

What does church mean to you now? How would you answer the question, “What is the church?”