The platypus is a fascinating animal that defies easy description. National Geographic says the platypus is a "hodgepodge of more familiar species." It's a mammal that lays eggs. It's got a bill like a duck, a tail like a beaver, and fur like an otter. Oh yeah, and males are venomous. (And, if you watch Phineas and Ferb with your kids, you know that the platypus can also be a crime-fighting superhero pet like Perry. Amazing.) So the platypus has characteristics that resemble all these other species, and yet it can't be reduced to any one of these other species. The platypus is like a duck (in that it has a bill), but it's not a duck. The platypus is like a beaver (check out its tail), but it's not a beaver.
As I think about the church, I find it helpful to compare it to the platypus.
The definition of the local church that I use is this: The local church is made up of gospel people, fueled by gospel priorities, and embodying gospel practices. (That definition itself may deserve some unpacking, but that's for another post...)
Understood in this way, the church has characteristics of LOTS of things, and yet it can't (and shouldn't) be reduced to any one of them. The church is an organization (and therefore can benefit from appropriate insights regarding leadership and organizational health), but the church is not JUST an organization. The church offers support and counsel, but the church is not JUST a therapy clinic. The church gathers around the teaching of the Bible, but the church is not JUST a lecture hall. The church is the people of God, but it's not just a social club. (And I could go on...)
A platypus isn't a beaver or a duck or a fish. It needs to be appreciated for what it is. So too with the church. The local church is both an organism (comprised of a people and empowered by the Spirit) AND an organization (with accompanying purpose/mission, leadership, and prescribed practices). It's both. And we need to keep both in mind as we think about it.
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