You Are the Church
Like many other families, our kids have been returning to school in-person the past several months. Our two youngest, Ellie and Avery, went back to school first as their school quickly met state requirements and received a waiver. Then Colson returned to school about a month ago as his school opened back up in hybrid mode. Thankfully, the transitions have all been fairly smooth. However, even though they missed going to school and seeing their friends this past year, they still complained (some) when it was time to actually return. It reminded me of how my brother and I used to complain about school, and my Dad would tell us how lucky we were to be able to go to school. He used to say, when I was your age, I had to wake up early in the morning, work on the farm, and then walk several miles barefoot in the snow just to get to school. Now I’m sure some of that was probably true but barefoot in the snow . . . in Hawaii (which is where he grew up)?? C’mon Dad! I guess it’s hereditary because these days I find myself telling my kids about my childhood hardships and how much they should appreciate school (although I don’t mention trudging through the snow in Orange County 🙂).
Similar to missing school and the sense of purpose and community it provides, church together is one of those things I have a greater appreciation for after this past year. Now, don’t get me wrong, we’ve had worship service, bible study, discipleship, and fellowship in various forms throughout the pandemic and God has been active and faithful in our church family. Many have been able to learn and grow, and stay connected through technology or through good old-fashioned mail and telephone. But there is something special when the church family and guests come together in the same place; when we’re able to see and interact with each other face-to-face. Many people today think of church as a building or a location. But that’s not really an accurate understanding. The biblical understanding of the word “church” is a translation of the Greek word ekklesia, which means “an assembly” or “called-out ones.” Jesus first used the word ekklesia in Matthew 16:18 when He said “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” The church is the body of Christ, of which He is the head. Ephesians 1:22-23 says, “And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.”
So the assembly of believers gathering for the purpose of teaching, fellowship, and edification is what defines the church, not the specific place or location. That means it’s possible to assemble online or over the phone, and carry out God’s mission and purpose, which we’ve seen this past year. But there is definitely a unique dynamic that happens when we assemble together in-person with the Lord combining each one’s voice, presence, and personality (which we do each Sunday and will do back inside the sanctuary beginning Sunday, June 6th, at 11am). Taking it a step further, pastor and author Carey Nieuwhof says to believers “you don’t attend church, you are the church.” When we decide to receive Christ into our lives and follow Him as our Lord and Savior, we become a part of His universal church, the family of God. But we are also called to be an active part of the local church body as well. As believers, you and I are meant to be engaged in working together to grow in the Lord and serve Him. Merely attending church is not the ultimate goal. The way Nieuwhof puts it, each of us should be moving from being consumers in the church to being contributors. Being the church means living your life for Christ, demonstrating God’s love by serving others, and sharing your faith with other people which requires more than just attendance.
There is a purpose for which Jesus used Peter to establish the church, and we are all to share in that purpose or mission. We do this by joining, supporting, and serving others in Christ. As you think and pray about how God may want you to participate in the life of the church moving forward, remember that as a believer church is not something you attend. You are the church for which Christ died to sanctify and glorify (Ephesians 5:25-27). Praise the Lord! May we continue to love and serve Him faithfully.