The Most Important Type of Church

I read this quote the other day, and I have to say, I completely disagree with it:

A good church is a Bible-centered church. Nothing is as important as this–not a large congregation, a witty pastor, or tangible experiences of the Holy Spirit.”― Alistair Begg

I mean, on the surface, I think it sounds right. We know that as believers, the Bible is our bread. It is God’s very Word to us, able to divide joints and marrow (spiritually speaking). But is a Bible-centered church really the most important thing in creating a “good church” (whatever that means)?

Consider the Acts church, which grew rapidly and spread the Gospel like wild fire. Do you think the thing they focused on most, was the Bible? Was it within the Bible, and from the Bible, that they found their strength and power?

I doubt it. I think the Acts church focused most of their energy on something else entirely.

I once heard a pastor at a local Phoenix area mega-church talk about the 3 kinds of churches that exist. The first church is a Bible church, that focuses primarily on the Word. The second is a Jesus church that focus mainly on the Person of Jesus. And the third kind of church, he said, was a Holy Spirit church, that was more so preoccupied with things of the Spirit.

So after reading that quote and recalling this pastor’s sermon, I got to thinking; which type of church is best? Which of the 3 types should we strive to achieve and focus our energies upon?

Well, here’s the thing, if you’ve read this blog for longer than a week, you might know that the questions I posed, are trick questions. I’m not going to pretend that I know the answer, in its entirety, but here’s what I think…

I think all three “types of churches” are wrong.

My instinct, upon listing all three, however, is to say that being a Jesus-focused church is key. I mostly stick by that idea because as experience has shown me, nothing…and I mean nothing, is as important as knowing, seeking, and representing Jesus.

The problem, however, is that many churches that would categorize themselves as “Jesus-churches” are often really good at knowing about Him, but not necessarily knowing Him. These churches can give you all the correct Jesus-Sunday-school-answers, but representing Him in powerful, tangible, and practical ways is another story.

Next we have churches that focus primarily on the Bible. Now, please don’t misunderstand me here, either. I have grown very much thanks to some healthy Bible churches I know. God’s Word is trans-formative. Yet, what many Bible churches lack, is a practice and understanding of the Spirit.

Which leads us to the Holy Spirit heavy church, of which I have been a part of many. These churches tend to lean more towards experiencing the manifestations and presence of the Holy Spirit, so much so that they are often weak on God’s Word and/or the importance of an intimate relationship with Jesus.

So which type of church is best? Again, I don’t know, but my heart longs for a church that is a perfect blend of all three. When I think of the Acts church, I imagine them all-consumed with knowing Jesus and nothing else. I imagine them in pursuit of Christ, but neither lacking in the things of the Spirit or for a love of God’s Word.

As my husband pointed out to me, as I wrote this post, the things of the Spirit and a love for God’s Word all flow out of a devoted and Christ-centered heart. The New Testament church experienced the radical power of God in all forms, but I believe it was, in large part, because of the fact that knowing and loving Jesus, was their primary focus.

The Bible doesn’t call us the Body of the Holy Spirit or the Body of the Word. We are called the Body of Christ and if we know that the the Bible is God’s very words and the Holy Spirit is the indwelling of Christ in us, well then it seems that Jesus should and must come first.

A church relying mostly on the Bible or mostly the Spirit, or teaching only tenants of Christ, but not living them out, is broken, lop-sided, and lacking.

The more I have begun to grasp the necessity to cling to the Person of Jesus and seek Him and His headship over everything else, the more I have felt a part of the church…the more I have felt whole as a member within His body.

The church where Christ is head is best. Everything else is just secondary.

What type of church do you think is best? What type of church do you have experience with? Am I being idealistic to hope for a church that displays all three?

38 thoughts on “The Most Important Type of Church”

  1. Church can get off balance and heavy in these three areas. I’m like you, looking for the perfect blend. Fortunately I am going to a church that lifts up Jesus and is not what I call a “show me” church. They are a “grow me” church, where the focus is on feeding yourself during the week instead of just coming once a week to hear the word. Great post!

    1. Don,

      You said:
      “They are a “grow me” church, where the focus is on feeding yourself during the week instead of just coming once a week to hear the word.”

      What!? You mean Jesus is more than just that darn Sunday morning obligation that I need to make sure other Christians see how Christian-y I am? Yikes! :) Good on you, Don. I think you’re at a good starting point.

    2. Don,
      I agree with Donald. I’m glad you are in a “grow me” type church. It is certainly a good start, but I would even go a step further and challenge you (and all of us, of course) that we should be a church that doesn’t merely exist to feed ourselves, as it were, but to feed others.

      The Body of Christ doesn’t exist to serve me, but rather it is the Body whom I am called to serve. The church is for the building up of the saints and I’m not fulfilling that call if I’m just want to grow, but not edify others, as well.

      Thanks for the comment Don!

      1. “The Body of Christ doesn’t exist to serve me, but rather it is the Body whom I am called to serve. The church is for the building up of the saints and I’m not fulfilling that call if I’m just want to grow, but not edify others, as well.”

        Nicole…do you mean to say we should attend to one another, as brothers and sisters, first, and then that frees us up to attend to the matters of The World our Father puts before us?

        Good. Because personally I see it no other way. We are only as strong as our weakest link, so to speak. You edify me, I edify someone else, they do likewise and such and so on, and ultimately Jesus is glorified and shown to a lost and dying World irrefutably and undeniably.

        You’re a freaking rock star, Nicole. Nicely said.

  2. Nicole,

    Nailed it. Those three styles of American churches are real, they really exist, they really do those things, and God help us all because of it.

    American churches are businesses. Jesus is a great money-maker. Not to mention, as I alluded to with the other Don, they fulfill that unspoken requirement of putting forth our best “I love me some Jesus!” face for the scrutinizing masses.

    Ekklesia. Simple as that. That is where it is. Until we, as modern-day covenantal believers, are allowed to manifest this despite the concentrated efforts of the religious community, The Body suffers, the individual suffers, the seekers suffer.

    As hokey as it sounds, just give me Jesus and some folks who want the same thing. No denial of The Spirit. No theological (pardon me for this next word) pissing contests. No self-proclaimed leaders based on church attendance in years past. No automatic worship leader (is there even such a thing?) based on a person;s ability to strum a guitar. Upon that rock, how can we not prosper?

    1. Donald,
      It’s funny, as I was writing this post, I thought “I think Donald will like this one.” Ha! I guess you are the new barometer for what’s worth writing.

      I love everything you wrote but that last paragraph, man, that’s what Jonathan and I are after. That is what we are experiencing within our organic church (not “ours” like we run it, but “ours” as in we belong) and the more I experience this kind of church life, the more I long for others to know the same.


  3. I’m pickin’ up what you’re puttin’ down. I think, however, my weird way of tying it all together is this…Depends on how you define church.

    Like you said, we are the body of Christ. We are the church… the bride. And at the same time, the Bible says that the body is made of individuals. Still one body… but lots of parts!

    And we, the individual parts of the body of Christ (ya know, the toe, the ear, the freckles),d\ need to study and pray in our own little closets at home and practice our faith on a daily basis so we, as a unified body (all working together as one body) can support the whole body of Christ AND love freely. And by love freely, I mean love EVERYONE, NOT just other Christians.

    God has called us to spread the Gospel of Christ. The Good news! God is love. We are called to spread HIM. He is LOVE. And when we are really living it as He told us to, the world will know who we belong to. “They will know us by our love.”

    I think the church (the entire body of Christ) should be a combination of all three churches, but even more than that. Christ centered (who is also the WORD made flesh), Bible reading, Spirit-filled and filled to overflowing by love and mercy of Jesus.

    1. Donna,

      You said:
      “I think the church (the entire body of Christ) should be a combination of all three churches, but even more than that. Christ centered (who is also the WORD made flesh), Bible reading, Spirit-filled and filled to overflowing by love and mercy of Jesus.”

      I totally agree, as I’m sure many of the wise readers here do as well! But let us dig deeper. You said the church SHOULD be such and such. Well, I believe the Church already IS all of what you said it should be, but that our (meaning mankind’s) ignorance, fear, and pride, have made it into what we see today.

      When I speak of Church (Ekklesia), I am speaking of a gathering of redeemed humanity that does center itself on The Word (Jesus in the Flesh), the Spirit (empowerment and guidance), and fellowship that cannot help but manifest itself in love (God’s version, not ours).

      We pine for these things in the American Church and we shouldn’t need to. Therein lies the rub. I believe in His Body, His Bride, and She looks nothing like what the American churches have portrayed Her as. Shame, that. We shouldn’t even have to be having this conversation. This should already be a done deal.

      You spoke wisely, Donna. Brava!

    2. Donna,
      Yes and yes. I agree with everything you said and you said it well.

      I think the definition of church is crucial here, as you point out. I suppose when we talk about the 3 types of churches, most of them are not operating under the idea that the church is not a building, but rather the collective saints.

      All that to say, even within those churches, I have never seen a church which is truly Christ-focused be lacking in the Spirit or the Word. Christ as the center begets Spirit and Truth. Sadly, however, I know of so few of these types of churches.

  4. Great post, Nicole. It’s funny, when I first read the quote and went on to read what you said, I was not in agreement with you. I’m glad I kept reading, because now I see we’re definitely on the same page. Here’s where I think we tend to get confused in the focus on any one of those three things: A right understanding of any one of those focuses should lead to being balanced among the three. If we are truly a Bible-centered church, we should see from scripture that we ought to be fully committed to the Person of Jesus and rely upon the Holy Spirit. I would contend that the same is true of each of these. If we’re truly after Jesus, then the importance of the Bible AND the Holy Spirit will not be lost on us. And if the Holy Spirit leads us into all truth and points us to Jesus, again, we will have a love for the Word and a love for the Person of Jesus.

    Thank you for your thought-provoking and heart-stirring posts, Nicole. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: you are truly a blessing!

    1. Brittany,
      So well said, friend! I love your examples here.

      Although, as I commented to a few others. I’m not sure it’s a balance, so much as placing things in the right order. We can’t balance Word and Truth. I mean, not really. But if Jesus is the head, then Word and Truth should naturally flow from Him and through us.

      But all that to say, I totally love what you wrote and you get it!

  5. I don’t get it. If we are a “Jesus” church, we are a “Bible” church. You can’t have one with out the other. Actually, let me re-phrase that: We shouldn’t have one without the other. I have seen the abuse of all three “churches”. When we cut the “spiritual cord” of Jesus, His word and the Spirit, we get all tongue tied (not talking about speaking in tongues here :)).

    When I seek Jesus and closer to Him is by abiding in His word. I don’t take His word out of context and don’t manipulate Christianity to fit my standards, but I’ll let the Word change ME to fit the holy scriptures.

    Some people will have the word without the soul, but I like to have both.

    1. Moe,

      I had to laugh at the ‘tongue-tied’ reference you made, because I wonder if sometimes that particular fear isn’t harming The Body. I mean, come on, being available and realizing we GET to speak in tongues, not HAVE to speak in tongues, is not in and of itself a bad thing. It’s all about being available and willing, in all things our Father has for us, right? However, the moment I intellectually put a limit on His Power, based on perhaps poor teaching/theology, I am the one who loses out, not God our Father. He doesn’t know what defeat it! :)

      Sorry, I went off on a tangent…

        1. LOL! Now that was classic! The only problem is that if there were a blog written in angelic tongues, the Fundamentalists would say it was of the devil, or that it is for a different time and no longer valid.

          Also, there would need to be a ‘tongues interpretation’ app available for people to read it. And then there would be a discussion if it should be in King James, NIV, NASB, The Living Bible, or etc versions. Oy. Maybe it’s a good thing there isn’t a blog in angelic tongues, after all. Too much possible frustration and controversy. :)

    2. Moe,
      I, of course, agree with your brilliant comment. :)

      I will say though, that a church functioning with Christ in the center, filled with the Spirit, and abiding in Truth is pretty stinkin’ rare. I don’t think I know of one church that does all of these well. It is human nature for us to lean towards one facet of God.

      But, knowing your love for God’s Word, I totally get what you are saying. I think we make a mistake when we talk about “balance” however. It is not a “balance.” it is allowing our spiritual lives to flow from Christ, who is the head.

      Your reference to “abiding” in Him captures this idea perfectly. Go figure, the Bible has something to say about this too…

      1. Oh, I agree. Our broken “system” speaks of a higher “power” and a “beta” tag of all our hard efforts at getting it right. I’m glad you mention abiding, because to me, this is perhaps the most important part of this thing we call Christianity. I don’t work too hard to attract Christ with systems or theology or even church. I do work hard at remaining in him and receiving that ‘water’ that has never allowed me to thirst again. Ever! I may even go running through the streets of New York City yelling, “come and see the someone who has told me everything I’ve done – He’s the Messiah”. I just need a better pair of sneakers. :)

  6. There are already some smart comments here. So I won’t elaborate, except to say; Nicole, right on. The only thing promoting “types” of churches does is draw unnecessary lines that divide what is supposed to be one body. Do we really have to pick between the Bible and Holy Spirit?

    Practically speaking, Why would anyone (ahem, Allister) prefer to be part of a congregation that focuses on our source of information about our God, rather than our God himself?

    1. Ben,
      I think you pose a great question to Allister and others who think like him. But as I commented to someone else too, it is really difficult to have a church that operates well in all three areas. I don’t know of any that do.

      It seems to me that only if Jesus is the head, can a flowing of the Spirit and a understanding of the Word really be present. It isn’t a balancing act either, where we have to balance Word and Truth. No, I think we just place Christ where He belongs–at the Head–and the rest just sort of happens.

      What do you think?

  7. Wow, I totally relate to everything you’ve written. I think it was Bill Johnson that said theology without experience is simply religiousness. I love that so many focus on good doctrine but when we get absorbed with simply “right” teaching, we emphasize having it all figured out as opposed to working it out through our lives.

    Jesus should always be central and like you said, the Word and His Spirit come from that primary reality.

    Now I don’t say this lightly because I am a teacher, but we cannot over-emphasize the Word at the expense of experience. I’m not an advocate of “feeling” everything but at some point the words on the page have to equate to POWER if we really believe them.

    1. Tony,

      You said:
      “I’m not an advocate of “feeling” everything but at some point the words on the page have to equate to POWER if we really believe them.”

      This is why perhaps we should replace the word “feeling” with “witnessing”, meaning I don’t “feel God and His Spirit”, I am “A witness to God and His Spirit”, meaning, His reality and strength is in no way connected to my theology, for He needs not my theology to be Who He is.

      Dig it? Yep. Totally dig it.

    2. Tony,
      Great comment! I, like Donald, am going to cal out your last sentence though. Yes!

      Far too often, we read God’s word and we love Jesus, but we miss out on the power of those words and Him in our life. If we really believe the Bible, and I’d add, really believe the Spirit of God is dwelling within us, then we should have an expectation for much much more.

  8. Great post!

    For sure, a Church mixed with all three of examples listed in this blog would be ideal. For fun though, let’s add a third idea: a “sent” church – or missional community; it’s purpose, to make Disciples, and send them out into the city to mirror Christ. Just a thought in relation to the ancient church we read about in the book of Acts.

    1. Andy,
      I like your thinking, but I’d have to say that if we are focused on the Person of Christ, His Word, and His Spirit, well then things like making disciples are a given result.

      You cannot be in love with Jesus, drenched in His Word, and led by the Spirit and not make disciples. If you are those things and aren’t making disciples then something is terribly broken. The Acts church did not use words like “missional.” They simply lived a life fully devoted to Christ and one another. It was their love for Jesus, resulting in their love for one another, that was so attractive to those outside.

      It is when we try to flip the script that we fail and suffer. We often try to make disciples, reach others, and “show God’s love” first when, in fact, we are neither focused on Jesus, in His Word, or filled with the Holy Spirit.

      He has to come first. The rest flows from Him.

  9. It’s the trinity of the three – Bible, Jesus and Spirit. But if the manifestation does not result in first loving God and second loving others we are just playing games and truthfully most of us are probably playing games. If not forgiveness, would be an epidemic and reconciliation would shut our courts down. They will know that you are my disciples if you love one another is what Jesus said. If it ain’t loving it ain’t real!

  10. I think there is always going to be churches weighing heavier in one area or another. I know I wouldn’t be comfortable in the church weighing heavily in being Spirit led, if you mean assembly of God type churches. However, I know these churches preach the bible and are focused on following Jesus. I guess it’s a style of worship thing. Presbyterians seem to focus on education and teaching, of course I am generalizing, but so were you. But they still believe in the Holy Spirit and following Jesus, they’re just much quieter about it. I could go on and on. This was a great post. As long as we go to churches made up of humans, we are going to find lots of things we don’t like about church. I know this is true for me. Keep writing girl. I learn a lot from you. :)

  11. I am fortunate to attend a church that is a Holy Spirit filled, Bible believing, Christ-centered church. Though it may not be palatable to everyone because we have a more modern style, the goal remains to resemble the Acts church in the context of modern day America. It’s about becoming more like Christ so that we can spread the truth of the Gospel and give everyone the opportunity at a better life and eternity. If it was JUST about being connected to God in an intimate way, living righteously and educating ourselves on the Word of God, we should all just die within seconds of our salvation prayers and go to heaven. The God ordained tools we are equipped wtih by our churches should have an outward focus, beyond our own skin, homes and churches, to those that don’t understand the massive love that is God. If we are not living the fullest potential of God’s plan in our lives and revealed thru His Word and the Holy Spirit then neither can God’s power be fully manifest in our lives. If there is no power in my life or discernable difference between my life and any non-believer residing in my socio-economic ranking, then how can I possibly say that Jesus is The Way, The Truth and The Life? I really can’t.

    It must then be that:

    Bible learnin’ + Holy Ghost communin’ + Jesus lovin’ = souls saved

    We can never get around Jesus’ command: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” It’ll always be about God and other people.

  12. Sometimes I think we as the American church are worshipping Father, Son, and Holy Bible — elevating the Scriptures to God status. Not to sound dramatic, but that’s idolatry. The Bible is not God. The Bible is God’s Word.

    A question I’m pondering is can there be such a thing as a Trinity-centered church? Because what happens if we don’t experience revelation of God the Father? What happens if we don’t know how to relate to the Holy Spirit? I’m not trying to be critical, just nuanced.

    A quote I heard once about the dynamic between Word and Spirit is: “The Word and no Spirit, you’ll dry up. The Spirit and no Word, you’ll blow up. The Word and the Spirit, you’ll grow up.” — interesting to think about.

    At the end of the day, I think this whole discussion is so nuanced with ideas built upon ideas built upon ideas and just leads to even more questions and discussion in our continual pursuit of learning how to follow the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

    Thanks for pushing buttons, Nicole : )

  13. I couldn’t agree more. It’s about a healthy dose and balance of all three, and by healthy, I of course mean “as much of all three as you can possibly squeeze in.” America (and the rest of the world that enjoys first world problems) tends to take it all to extremes, and we’re getting huge rifts in the church as a result. It’s not just the internal theological debates that jump up, it’s things like “I don’t like this new worship leader” or a resistance to change in general that drives people off, when in fact we are all the church, no matter where we find ourselves.

    A lot of this is based in the American consumerist attitude (something I have been most guilty of) where we go to a Church on Sunday, expect to have our spirit tingled by the right singer or preacher, and have one foot ready to step out the door if something from the pulpit dares convict or challenge us.

  14. Thank you for this blog, and the open ended questions(they are my favorite). I agree fully with you, that it is all about Jesus. In my own walk, everything from God’s Word, to the power of His Holy Spirit moving in me is all about my walk with Jesus. He is the head, and I would not want it any other way. Blessings!

  15. 1. Love your blog. Just found it and quite like it.
    2. I think you are correct in stating that the Acts church focused on something else entirely. They didn’t have a “bible” to work from. They were so happy to hear the good news of the resurrection and impending political overthrow of Roman law that they met in secret, coverted followers, and were generally giddy with their grassroots movement. BUT…
    3. I think that the foundations they laid in both Jesus-centered, and Spirit-led behavior should be revivied today. The “Church” (as in body of Christ) should be first – all about Jesus(kind of the whole reason), knowledgeable in the Word(because it is not only our bread, but our sword, and our scalpel), AND able to follow the Spirit as it guides because not every situation is black/white and there are times where God needs to move, regardless of your itinerary.

    Just my opine. Thanks for writing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *