I am sifting gears for this post in order to share some things I have learned about a pretty important topic: The Church. What is the church? Why do we have it? What makes a “gathering” church and what makes a “gathering” not?
Church is not a building – It’s people:
Church is not a building with four walls, a roof, and a big steeple on top. Church is not found in any building at all. Church in fact, has absolutely nothing to do with a building but has everything to do with people. The first “church” was a very small church. In fact, it had a membership of only three members. It was quite possibly the most perfect church that had ever existed. I am talking about Adam, Eve and God (I know God is three-in-one, which is an important piece to this church business we will consider in a moment). Adam and Eve had church with God. They spent time each day with God, in fellowship, worship, conversation, community, and all the above. It was a perfect church; it was a one-of-a-kind church that will one day exist again in the future.
* The church is not a building – it is about people.
It isn’t good for man to be alone:
In Genesis, God made man in His image. That is significant because that is where the church finds its identity – namely in Christ. When God made man, He said it wasn’t good for man to be alone. I had always struggled with that thought. Why on earth was it not good for man to be in fellowship with God as he was? It isn’t that I think women were a mistake or something or that women aren’t needed – they are. And I think this is where another characteristic of church is found. You see, God is one and yet He is three. There is a union that makes them complete and the trinity of the Godhead is important to fully manifest the greatest of God. In the same way, it was not good for man to be alone because it is God’s very nature to have a unity of community within the Godhead. So God made a helper/encourager/and companion for man to live and work together – to have fellowship, community, and relationally connect with in the garden.
* The church – from the beginning of time – was made for community, fellowship, and relationally in order to manifest the fullness of God’s image.
As God cannot fully manifest Himself in one entity, the church cannot manifest the image of God without others. This is the very nature of God. This is ultimately why we were created – so that we can experience the joy He experiences with the community of the Godhead. In a very real way then, I am dependent in being relational with other believers so that I can fully bear Christ’s image.
Once we have established that, we begin to see the mission of God unfold before us. There really can’t be any framing of the mission of God unless our operating theology doesn’t include a community – the Church. The mission of God is about establishing that in the world. What then does that community do? That community is also sent into the world, after the pattern that Jesus gave us, in order to multiply and regenerate other communities.
* Once we become a community, we are then sent to build other communities where fellowship, worship, and relationships exist, thus becoming a body that reflects the image of Christ to the world and beyond.
Jesus, in John 20:21 speaks concerning this issue saying, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you in order that you might bear much fruit.” Jesus spoke this to his disciples after He had been with them for several years. Jesus had taught them all they needed to know in order to be in relationship with others. He modeled this relationship/community/and fellowship with them in order that they might go out and do the same. They would not be alone though. Jesus would give the Holy Spirit to them in order that the Church would thrive.
This is where our understanding of church must precede. The church is not a place where we attempt to get people into the pews to sit through long sermons on a Sunday morning. The church should be a place where people are brought into relationship with God and others. The form in which that takes place can be unique in a variety of ways and should not be limited to a specific way. In closing then, I want to encourage you to consider what church has been to you and how church should be understood through the examples given to us in the Word of God. Are you really “going to church” or are you just going to a place where you sit, sing a few songs, giving lip service without really meaning what you are singing, throwing a few dollars in a plate that goes by, and clocking in your service for the day? I don’t mean that in a rude way but I found myself doing that several times before and have had to repent from my ways. Let’s be about the church – the body of Christ – the image of God that we possess in relationship with God and others. Let’s not allow four walls, a roof and a steeple be the only place we experiences the joy of community with God and others. Rather, let’s make this church thing a lifestyle that we enjoy often. Maybe then we can really get a glimpse of what heaven will be like while we are here on earth.