Jesus' church was very simple. He was the Son of God who had reigned as Messiah throughout the Old Testament period. And after his resurrection and ascension he would continue to reign among all nations "until he has put all his enemies under his feet" (1 Corinthians 15:25). When he came and lived among us he enrolled disciples to learn the principles of his kingdom (the kingdom of heaven, the kingdom of God, the parables of the kingdom).
Learners were enrolled by baptism (as explained in Go Make Learners). At first they gathered with him to learn by the seaside, sitting on the grass, or walking along with other disciples. They had chores, and children, and work to do, so most of them could not spend all their time with their teacher. "He is back teaching by the sea in Capernaum, let's go and listen to him this evening."
In the Epistles there is only one church in each town or city and the surrounding country (Antioch, Ephesus, Philippi, Thessalonica, Corinth, Rome) but the members of that church meet in various locations (as in Romans 16:5, 14, 15). That is inevitable when it would be too far to walk to one gathering place. These days the location of congregations in a city is governed by the availability of public transport, automobiles and parking facilities. There is also a limitation of size. For the first three hundred years Christians gathered in private homes, and that is still necessary in places where the church in that city is being persecuted.
So for the purposes of this book we will use the terminology of one church in the city of Kingston (where this web site is written and posted). But it meets in more than a hundred locations. The meetings places have names such as St. James' Anglican, Chalmers United, St. Andrew's Presbyterian, St. Mary's Roman Catholic, the Union Street Gospel Hall, First Baptist, Alliance, Salvation Army Citadel, the Military Base Chapel..
Admittedly many congregations are used to calling themselves a church such as Christ Church, The Church of the Good Thief, The Pentecostal Church. Our aim is not to force people to change their name, only to clarify the language we are using.
In addition to congregations connected with the various denominations there are dozens of other meetings of the one church in Kingston. They might meet for Bible Study and prayer in homes, nursing homes, penitentiaries. Students meet on campus. In some places school facilities and restaurants are rented.
Using our terminology people do not quit church going if they move from regular attendance at one location to another gathering of Christians with the same or any other denominational label. We will consider the frustrations that arise from denominationalism in chapter 5. But already by our definition there are far less total church quitters than might appear from denominational statistics. Many of their members have moved to meet some other place in their own way.
Love is a respect for the freedom of the other. And God certainly cares for our freedom. That implies that Jesus is building a church to free us, but he will never use guilt to force us into it. If people freely decide to quit church, we do not assume the decision wrong. But it does concern us enough to examine it. We want to gather any information from our readers that might help us understand and find ways to remove the frustrations where possible.
Chapter 2 .....