If you grew up with a church background, you may have done this finger rhyme as a child: “Here’s the church, here’s the steeple, open the doors and see all the people.” At the risk of sounding like a nitpicky killjoy, I take issue with the separation of church and people in this rhyme. In reading the last sentence, I definitely sound like a nitpicky killjoy, but I’m trying to illustrate a point!
The word “church” means an assembly or the called-out ones. It was used in non-religous settings before Christians began to use the word for their gatherings. So the word “church” had people at its core. It had nothing to do with the structure people gathered in. In Romans 16:5 Paul says, “Greet the church that is in their house.” Notice the difference between people and structure. Now why is this important?
Church transcends a building or a day. It helps ground my identity in Christ if I see myself as part of the “called-out ones.” It also grants me great purpose. Church is the walking, talking expression of Jesus to the world. The church is in a constant rhythm of gathering and scattering. We gather for worship and scatter for mission and sometimes the two overlap. I’m part of a local Christian community. The Bible knows nothing of isolated or individual Christianity. Hebrews 10:24-25 says it’s important that we not neglect gathering together because it’s in these gatherings that we stir one another up towards love and good works. A podcast or online sermon won’t do it. The church assembles. It doesn’t let good weather, sleep-ins, or anything else rise above the value of gathering together. We show up for each other.
Lord willing, in a few weeks our church will gather in a new building. Our shared hope is that this building will further our mission to “Make Disciples Who Make Much of Jesus in All Nations.”
OK, I’m done being nitpicky. Let’s just live out this truth together!