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What is the difference between Traditional Church and Kingdom Community?

If you have read my previous articles, you might have gathered that I am a proponent of a style of the church different from most people’s practice. It has many names, Organic Church, House Church, Simple Church, even Primitive Church. I feel that each of these explanations fall short of what our worship experience is. I prefer to call it Kingdom Community.

This style of church expresses a biblical ecclesiology that encourages profound growth both in and out of the meeting time. But, I have not always been a part of this ancient ecclesiastical tradition.

My first 27 years of life were devoted to a traditional church expression. And I have no regrets in that regard.

If it weren’t for the traditional church, I would have never heard about my Savior. I would have been deprived of the opportunity to hear what God is doing among the nations. I wouldn’t know the beautiful stories found throughout the scriptures.

The traditional church gave me a solid foundation, and though it is not my worship style of choice today, it is my heritage, and I still love it.

In my past two posts, “What if they don’t come back to church,” and “Is the church as we know it preventing the church as God wants it,” I received some “interesting responses.” Everything from wholehearted agreement to impassioned dissent. (There was even an apostolic succession argument thrown in there for good measure)

But today, I wanted to shift my focus to the traditional church that we know so well. As people gather to meet this Sunday, some extraordinarily beautiful things happen as people flock to their weekly gathering place. Let’s talk about why we love the traditional church.

Things people LOVE about the traditional church

We love regularly worshiping with people from different stages of life. Young couples love seeing the elderly grandma with the sweetest spirit and the kindest smile. Seniors who spend most of their week alone at home also love to see young people enthusiastically pursuing their faith. We socially surround ourselves with other people like us; the traditional church allows us to step outside of that comfort zone and appreciate believers in another stage of life.

We treasure our Bible study group that teaches us to go deeper into God’s word and find treasures that help us to live the Christian life. Hearing the perspective of a wonderful teacher and discussing our thoughts about life and godliness is a foundational opportunity for growth that most traditional churches provide.

We are fascinated with our missions program, which teaches us about new cultures and how they express the gospel in their context. We love giving generously to help people have clean water to drink, clothes on their backs, and food to eat. We devote ourselves to sending missionaries to these faraway lands and eagerly anticipate hearing what they have learned and what God has done while they were away. They are, after all, an extension of the ministry of our local church.

We cherish our times of congregational singing. There is nothing like hearing hundreds or even thousands of men, women, and children sing praises to Jesus as one voice. Our hair stands on end, and we get goosebumps when we hear everyone sing with full hearts and voices about Blessed Assurance and Amazing Grace. We love seeing gifted musicians lead us before His throne to worship our Savior.

We look forward to a weekly message from our pastor. He studies and spends hours each week to take us deeper into the scriptures, helping us understand how to apply these truths into our daily lives. His education and ability to understand God’s word in the original languages are enlightening and allow us to understand obscure passages and concepts.

We love our fellowship time and pot luck dinners, where we gather together as brothers and sisters to have a meal and bless each other with food and fellowship. We eagerly anticipate these delicious diversions from our church’s more formal expressions; from ice cream socials to chili cook-offs and fish fries.

I am no longer in the traditional church world as described above. I want to be clear, however; Kingdom Community is not opposed to these principles; in fact, we desire to intensify these beautiful aspects that we know so well.

Taking it to the next level

We, too, love the diversity of the church. We love it so much that our gatherings are always multi-generational and usually multi-ethnic. We rely on each others’ varied experiences to guide our meetings with seasoned wisdom and youthful enthusiasm. But these relationships go beyond the weekly greeting and a cute Christmas card during the holidays to a deeper friendship. These deep-rooted relationships are enabled by an open meeting style that allows us to get to know each other more personally.

We study scripture in a very similar way to the traditional Bible study groups. However, without the restriction of a schedule and with the added focus on everyone participating and contributing, we can go deeper and study longer. It also compels us to look into God’s word in our own time, not just when we are together.

Kingdom Communities don’t have missions programs (or any programs for that matter). We prefer to think of international gospel ministry and meeting local needs in our community as a natural overflow of who we are as a church. So, we esteem the same concepts but just from a different perspective. We prefer personal interactions and involvement, both locally and abroad.

When we gather together for our regular meetings, we may have 10–30 people in the gathering. So, it will never meet the power of 1,000 people singing. But we write our own songs and follow the direction of the Holy Spirit as he directs our speech and our songs. The power of congregational singing in the Kingdom Community is found not in the intensity but the intimacy.

The responsibility of teaching in our community is shared. So, each individual has a duty to personally study and search the scriptures for something that might be encouraging to the body of believers. This encourages a corporate love of God’s word. It also allows us to have a more natural learning process directed by our personal study and the things that we are going through at any given moment. We love growing in understanding but believe that knowledge that does not result in obedience is impotent.

As a Baptist, fellowship and food are an essential part of my worship expression (wink). I have many great memories of fellowshipping with church members over a plate piled high with everyone’s best dishes. Our small kingdom gatherings eat together at least once a week, sometimes more. We take the Lord’s supper in the context of a full meal, and we love to bless those in our midst who are less fortunate with a weekly feast.

The Traditional church and Kingdom communities have vastly different meeting styles, but we also have a lot in common.

My departure from the traditional church was not based on a fundamental disagreement with the church’s foundational precepts. Instead, it was motivated by a desire to know more of Christ and His church, to go deeper, and let the expression of my faith extend far beyond the walls of the church building.

To my friends and readers who are still in the Traditional church, I love you, and I know you love Jesus. That is not in question, but I think you will find that if you give these ideas a chance, you too might find it is just what your heart has been longing for.

You may find, like me, a bottomless well of spiritual growth from which to draw. You are always welcome in the Kingdom Community. But if you decide to stay where you are, we still love you, and we rely on you to express Christ in his fullness where you are.

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