If you've been around Evangelicalism as long as I have you know the answer:
The Church is the people.
While I understand this statement and the sentiment behind it, I heard something the other day that gave me pause to think. We usually say "Church is people" in contrast to an understanding that Church might be a building, a denomination, a mission, or a religion.
I'm at the dentist last week, and my hygienist starts talking to me about my work as a youth pastor. We talk (as well as I could talk in between scraping, polishing, you know the drill!) about her participation and frustration with church over the years. We talk about the need for positive influences in the lives of youth and the importance of spirituality. In the course of the conversation, as she alludes to past hurts done by church people she says,
"I always have to remember the Church isn't the people; it's bigger than that."
Did you catch that? It caught me off guard. It actually made sense. It makes sense. The Church can't just be the people. If the Church is "the people," then we've got a mess on our hands, and so long as people continue to be part of the Church, the mess isn't going away! I think, and I'm still trying to think this all through - constantly working on ecclesiology - that the Church has to be bigger than the people. To be certain, the Church includes the people, but it's got to be bigger. Right?