Tuesday, August 31, 2010


Tinney Talk, September, 2010: Definitions of church!

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Observations by Joe Dan Boyd

A DEFINITION OF CHURCH might not be an easy thing to come up with, at least not for most of us. Not the dictionary definition, please! Rather, your own personal idea of just what it is that makes church. All of us know, instinctively, what church is not. It’s not our impressive family life center. It’s not our historic sanctuary. We’ve seen too many kids form a double handful of fingers to know that a child’s definition of church includes at least a sanctuary, a steeple and a bunch of people.

THAT CHILD’S DEFINITION OF CHURCH does, however, provide a not-so-subtle hint for what all of us are looking for. A full and true definition of church must somehow involve the people, those who have chosen to worship here at Tinney Chapel UMC. I’m not entirely certain that all of us could even agree on why we choose to worship, but I think it has something to do with an inherent need to experience the presence of God. If we come here to worship, and don’t encounter the Divine Presence, we leave unfulfilled.

HOW WE EXPERIENCE GOD’S PRESENCE may vary widely among the church family at Tinney Chapel. For some, it may be as simple as obeying the command of Jesus for us to love one another. After all, the best definition of God in the New Testament may very well be that single, four-letter word: LOVE. If one accepts Love as the very definition of God, then perhaps that simplifies an otherwise complex pursuit which is detailed in an ancient book titled, Practicing The Presence Of God.

AT LAST MONTH’S MEETING of the Native American Fellowship, held in our Family Life Center, Cherokee Steve Silcox presented a brief lesson on the meaning of certain words and phrases in the Cherokee language. One of those Cherokee phrases translated into English as something like “lifting each other up,” which strikes me as an acceptable definition of church.

BUT THE BEST DEFINITION I’VE HEARD recently came during our joyful fellowship at this month’s fourth Sunday lunch at Tinney Chapel, when we all shared home-cooked food, great humor, spirited table conversation and so much overflowing LOVE that Georgia Goggans was moved to observe: “This must be what church is all about!” No one disagreed. Do you?

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