Doing Church vs. Being Church

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People talk about “going to church” or what happened “at church today.” Those are all kind of misnomers. The problem is we begin to identify Christianity as the sum total of what happens in an auditorium two hours a week rather than as an identity issue of the individuals and the community of those who have gathered to worship. I made the statement in our men’s class last night that Jesus didn’t give the great commission saying, “Go into all the world and gather for two hours a week in large rooms apart from everyone else.” Instead he sent those on the inside to help those on the outside become insiders (in relationship with God). Now don’t get me wrong, scripture makes it very clear that there is a clear distinction between the people of God and the world but that doesn’t mean we insulate ourselves from the world. Instead we go out into the world as “the church” to make a difference and draw people to God. We are not drawing people to church or to a location. We are drawing them to God and as a result their identity is transformed and they become part of “the church.” We are not attracting people to a set routine of worship that is proper and pleasing. That is not what draws the heart. We are showing people Jesus and the result will be pleasing worship.

[What follows here is very stereotyped and generalized and is written to get the main idea and not to categorize everyone into one group or the other].

Doing Church Says:

You only invite someone “to church” if you invite them for a Bible class or worship service at the building during the appointed times of worship.

Being Church Says:

You invite someone to church when you invite them to worship, to serve, to study the Bible, or just to be present with other Christians in an environment that is intentionally about growing closer to Jesus Christ. Church does not have a physical address.

Doing Church Says:

We get people “to the church” and hope they learn something from someone (bible class teacher, preacher, etc) that will help them learn about God. That is passive.

Being Church Says:

Because we are the church we are not inviting people to a location to “do church” instead we are inviting them to be among the church (that is the people) in order for them to see an alternative to the world they live in (a group of people dedicated to living out their God-given purposes in the world). We would call that being missional.

Doing Church:

Focuses on singing a certain repertoire of songs, preaching certain types of sermons, and getting the order of worship right in order to have worship that is “in spirit and in truth” and that is “pleasing to God.” A successful worship service is measured in hitting the right notes and making sure all the right acts of worship were done in the right order, at the right time, and in the proper way.

Being Church:

Starts with a desire to be in proper relationship with God out of which our worship to Him flows. If not all the right notes are sung that is okay and if the preaching seems a bit off this week that is fine too because there is a bigger picture of the importance of what we do coming from who we are rather than just checking boxes.

Unchurched young people can come into a worship assembly and won’t have any idea whether or not the worship was done in a scriptural way but they can sure tell you if they thought it was authentic and whether or not those around them seemed to genuinely care and recognize they were present. Doing church properly happens best when the emphasis is first on being the church/identity. Doing church properly really doesn’t add up to anything if our being is not in line with God. The Pharisees taught us that lesson.

Doing Church:

When you meet someone in need you send them to the church for food because that is where benevolence is taken care of.

Being Church:

When you meet someone in need you actively reach out to meet those needs because you are a Christian who is making a difference in the world.

Moving from Doing to Being

The move is from seeing church as a location where we do certain things to an identity. It is less about ritual and more about relationship. It is less about talk and more about action. In a nutshell it is a perspective that says salt is only “playing salt” when it sits in the container. It actually acts as salt when it is sprinkled onto what it was intended to come into contact with and fulfill its purpose. That is when salt is really salt. When Christians get out of the walls of the building and actively engage the world in the name of Jesus Christ then the church starts being the church and our worship inside those walls becomes that much more meaningful.

14 Responses

  1. I think the one of the fundamental differences between “doing church” and “being church” is the former just becomes one more thing to do in an already heavily compartmentalized life. When we seek to “be church”, discipleship becomes our vocation.


  2. Matt,

    I don’t mean to intrude on your site, but… you have some great post. I think a book titled: The Shack, touches very eloquently on the topic of being the church.


  3. I really like how you wrote this…would you mind if I use a portion of this for a church launch I’m working on that is more about Being the Church rather than Doing Church?

    1. Hey Matt! Great post here! Stumbled on it at I would love to link this to my next post as well. I recently wrote “10 Reasons Why I Don’t Go to Church Anymore” and my husband has a great audio “Being The Church” at Check them out. ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. running late and on my way to church today, I was so busy trying to get there I missed a great opportunity God gave me to be the church when someone needed help. When God showed that me I had to get back to my priorities and repent. The pressure of always doing we forget to just be.

  5. I find this amazing im staring this daily qoute thing on facebook that my 8th grade guys read im going share this with them the quote is Dont just go to Church, Be the Church

    1. A great example is the parable of the prodigal son. The son that seemed to stay with the Father was only with God physically not spiritual. If his connection to God was spiritually driven rather thanworldly his heart would have been more focused on worry for his brother than himself. Allow your thankfulness and gratitude for all God does be seem by Him through your Love to others (His love through you to others) that you glorify Him as Jesus does. Amen

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