17th February 2023

“What is church like?” Have you ever been asked that question? How would you answer?

The New Testament often speaks about the church – or the Kingdom of God – in analogies. Jesus would tell his followers that the Kingdom of God is like something else. In his letters, Paul frequently used everyday images to illustrate what a church was, or could be, like.

In the First Letter to the Corinthians (3.6–17), Paul uses two images to describe the church. The church at Corinth is imagined as a field into which Paul had scattered seeds of faith when he first visited them and preached the gospel. He was followed to Corinth by the evangelist Apollos, who is imagined as watering the seeds of faith that Paul had planted. But it was God alone who could make those seeds grow.

The second of Paul’s analogies appeals to my engineering mind. He imagines his preaching as laying the solid foundations of a building. Then other teachers build upon those foundations. The wise builder uses materials that will last – gold, silver, precious stones – constructing a building that will survive the disasters that are to come. The building – the church – is a place in which God dwells with his people.

Later in First Corinthians (12.12–26), Paul describes the church as a living body. Christ is the head; all who are baptized into his name are members of the body. Hands, feet, ears, eyes, the parts that are less honourable… all are joined together into one body, caring for one another.

Which image speaks to you? Perhaps you can think of a modern analogy.

Ian Waddington