In 1 Tim 4:16 Paul sets forth several metaphors that inform his ecclesiology: “I write that you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and support of the truth.”

These metaphors for the church frame church conduct which, in a word, is godliness. In other words, the context of godliness is the Church. Godliness is a community project; it is something we are not meant to cultivate alone. We need one another as examples, encouragement, accountability, perspective, and prayer. Now, this is a real problem in the American Church. Most Christians are not cultivating godliness, much less cultivating godliness in community, in relationship with other Christians.

Why is this? I submit the reason that the American Church is not a godly community is because the American Church has unbiblical ecclesiology. In an attempt to identify defective American ecclesiology, lets consider popular Christian readings of these church metaphors: 1) “household of God” 2) Church of the living God 3) Pillar and support of the truth. Defective American ecclesiology reads these metaphors as 1) Building of God 2) Logo of God 3) Fortress of God

The Building of God

To read “the household of God” or “church” as a building is to view the church as static not dynamic. It stays in one place. Thus, the notion is that we GO to church. It is separate from the rest of our lives, a building among buildings, a place among places. As a result, there is no reason to take it home. If we go to church, then it does not make sense that we TAKE the church with us, wherever we go. The building is the place where we are spiritual, where we see Jesus. Much like the church sign down the street from my house that reads: “See you Sunday – Jesus.” As if we couldn’t see Jesus on Monday, outside of the building. We often treat the Church as an art building/museum. We come to look, observe but not take. We would never take the art; it’s a crime! We come to church just to check it out, to view the spiritual paintings and sculptures and, perhaps, talk to other viewers.

The Fortress of God

A popular way to read the “pillar and support of the truth” as a doctrinal fortress that keeps bad theology and bad people out. It’s not any building, it’s a strong building, one built on ancient doctrine. It’s an old institution and because it’s old, its outdated, irrelevant. Being build on the pillar and support of the truth means that it is stodgy, stuck in its ways. It’s not open to new ideas. People who follow church teachings are fundamentalists or just don’t know any better. They are the kind of people who post those signs on Sundays: “repent” Like the Constitution; it needs to be changed to fit the form of our times. Like an old sculpture, we respect it for its antiquity and cultural staying power, but dismiss it’s relevance for daily living.

The Logo of God

Just to make sure no one confuses the church building with a government building we put a logo on it, a cross on top of a steeple or on a wall or sign. This makes the pillared building a church or a building-like fortress with a logo. As a result, we christianize a building with the cross, not sanctify a people with the gospel. American ecclesiology sees the cross as a commercial, the church not as people. Like the children’s rhyme: “Here is the church, here is the steeple, open the doors and see all the people.” The church is where people go, not who they are or what they do.