A friend of mine wrote a very thought provoking post about church. You can read it here. I highly recommend you do as it provides the backdrop to this post. Jeremy is wrestling with what it means to be the church. I think the sentence that summed up his big idea is “You can’t “go” to church, you can only “be” the church”
His post provoked an exchange of emails but I wanted to post some of the content here for everyone to read. This may seem rambling, its a small section from a much longer email. For the purposes of this post however I thought it best to focus on the Church.
Church is in fact a people. It is NOT a place. The building that churches meet in are houses of worship but they are not the church. Calling a building a church is a fundamental change to the original meaning of the word. Having a building to meet in is not a bad thing. One of the main points of consideration I see Jeremy make is that the church is not BEING the church. I agree. We need to be on mission, which is is a catchy way of saying we need to be doing what God has called us to do. Here is our calling/mission from God in Matthew 28(18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”) We have been commissioned to be on mission for God.
Having a base of operations is a good thing if we treat it for what it is: the launch pad and not the goal. Sinful man loves to exalt himself and show what he can do. A building to hold worship services is no different. “See what we have built? See how glorious it is? Look what we can do!” Reminds me of the Tower of Babel a bit. Sunday worship and Sunday school, and community meals, and housing homeless, and offering clinics from a church building are good things when done for God’s glory. Worshiping the gathering instead of the God for whom we gather is bad. Worshiping the created building instead of the creator is bad. When we worship the building over God we have done nothing more than turn our building into an idol. These problems seem to point to a decline in theology. A failed understanding or full grasping of what and who God has called us to be. What He has called us to do. In the end I think most issues come back to discipleship. The Body of Christ is not training and mentoring each other in the Word and how to live with eternity in mind.
I understand the desire to jettison the building. I think it has become an impediment to entering into fellowship for many. People fight over the building and how people choose to worship rather than a right understanding of God and His commandments. If you want to wear a suit to worship, please do. If you want to wear sandals and a t-shirt, please do. If you want to listen to hymns, contemporary, a capella singing, please do. If you want to alter the message of the bible to fit your sinful desires, I draw the line. It seems to me Jesus didn’t rebuke people for what they wore (not talking about immodesty or sexually suggestive dress) or their music or their worship style. He rebuked them for the objects of their worship and thus their perceived source of righteousness. IE was the source of their righteousness themselves, their own prayers, their adherence to the law? Or, was their source of righteousness God and not themselves? I long to see a renewal of right understanding of the worship of God. I want to see Him soften hearts and bring people to repentance. I want to see people living together in loving, glorious community. The family of God. I want to see people disciple others. Teach them what it means to follow Christ and have a relationship with God.