People often refer to the “Christian community,” but what is it? When people speak of the Christian community, they usually mean “Christians in general” or “Christian leaders.” The term may be in reference to a formal network of denominations, but is often simply an allusion to an informal group of believers.
For some, “the Christian community” refers to networks of churches or Christian organizations. When a particular event is jointly hosted by several groups, or when several groups issue a joint statement, it is considered an activity of the Christian community. This view of the Christian community is probably the most accurate cultural view as it includes the greatest number of people. However, it is also a rather subjective definition. How many Christian groups must be involved for it to be considered “the Christian community”? If Charismatics, Methodists, and Episcopalians attend an event, but no Baptists or Presbyterians, is it still “the Christian community”? Or if all denominations band together to issue a public statement, but 49 percent of their individual members are opposed to the statement, was the statement truly affirmed by “the Christian community”?
Others consider the Christian community to be the leaders of Christianity. When a megachurch pastor, bestselling author, musician, or other Christian celebrity speaks, many consider what is said to be the voice of the Christian community. The media often promote this perspective. For example, a news program may interview one pastor and then quote him as if he speaks for all Christians. When the representative speaks well, many Christians will agree, and the view may accurately represent the Christian community as a whole. However, media outlets often select the “loudest” or most eccentric voices in order to gain attention, and those who might truly speak for many Christians are overlooked.
Another view of the Christian community is that it comprises those in academia who discuss the beliefs and practices of the Christian faith. When a Christian topic is in the news, professors of religion are consulted, and they become the “experts” regarding what the Christian community believes. Again, this practice is often faulty, as scholars may or may not represent the beliefs and values of the true Christian community.
Finally, the Christian community can also be viewed biblically. The Bible’s original word for “church” is ekklesia, Greek for “assembly” or “gathering.” This word took on the theological meaning of “all Christians” in some contexts and of “local gatherings of believers” in other places. Acts 2:42-47 reveals that the original “Christian community” was known primarily for its devotion to Christ’s teachings and its love for one another. Viewed this way, the Christian community is simply those who love Jesus and live in fellowship with each other. When the world sees this in action, they will see the true love of Jesus and perhaps find themselves attracted to Christ, too.