You all know the children's rhyme: "Here's the church. Here's the steeple. Open the doors. And see all the people." It's so easy to create a church that WikiHow has a article on "How to Create a Church with Your Fingers." But is this right? Is the church a structure in which the people meet? Can I really just put my hands together and suddenly have the shape of a church?
Have you heard yourself recently say the following in reference to the physical location your church gathers: “Let’s meet at the church.”
Or maybe you have commented to a neighbor regarding the worship service: “We have church at 10:45 on Sunday morning. You should visit.”
Interestingly, there is not one NT use of the word church that is a reference to a location or an event. The use of church is always about a group of individuals that have been called out by God into a special relationship (just a few references: Matt 16:18; Eph 1:22-23; Eph 5:25-28; 1 Tim 3:15; 1 Peter 2:9).
Implications on Changing Our Definition
- We will be less inclined to think of the church as a “Sunday” thing, when we stop thinking of church as something we “go to” or meet “at” and realize it is who we are.
- The church is indeed a group; but it is a group of individuals united. Gathering together is Biblical and right; but scattering out as the individuals on mission is also an important aspect of church life.
- Consequently, introducing the world to the church is less about getting them to the building or the event and more about you individually fleshing out the commands, to the church, to go into the entire world and preach the Gospel. You are introducing people to the church everyday if you are a believer.
- Consider a change in your verbiage. Focus your usage of church on people and less on places and events. Say instead, “Let’s meet at our church’s facility.” Or “Our church gathers at 10:45 on Sundays. Come join us.”
Maybe, right now, you’re saying, “Andrew this is all semantic nonsense. I know what I mean and others know what I mean.” Maybe you do and maybe they do. But chances are they don’t know and chances are that your own verbiage is influencing your mindset more than you realize. I know this is true for me.
I recently started trying this with my own children. One Saturday evening recently, anticipating Sunday, I told my 4 year old that the church is not a building but rather the people. In the recent weeks since, where I have been trying to change my language with them, the conversation has revealed how even his 4-year-old mind has been heavily influenced with “place” language.
Me: Son, what is the church?
Son: The church is the people.
Me: Right! The church is not a building.
Son: Right, Dad. The people are the building.
Hah! Okay, so I have some work to do here still and take the blame for the problem. But, I’d encourage you to take up the challenge in your own life and just see how it might transform your own view of the church and your responsibility as one of those God has called out as His people.