The quiet Sunday drive has been replaced by a bustle of activity as people race off to sports games, picnics, and go shopping. Many people claim that these activities are more satisfying than church, and that a hike or a bike ride brings them closer to God than church ever did. Is there wisdom in this? Let's take a look.
What the church is
the church is people
Not a building, not a place, not even its leaders or the ordained. The church of the Living God is founded on a profession of faith in Christ, and includes all of the people who look to him for guidance, redemption, and life. If this describes you, then you are the church. (Matt. 13:18)
The church is eternal
There was a garden, and in it was the tree of life. We were designed to eat of this tree and enjoy its fruits. Our rejection of God and his ways closes the door to access, but God has laid the path back to that tree. As we seek God, learn about who Christ is, and grow in faith and character, we strengthen our lives on earth and gain access to the tree once again. The fruit of the tree of life is eternal and bigger than this human existence, and available to all who seek the Living God in faith. The eternal church is building and growing into a magnificent future, bringing heaven to earth now, and looking forward to an eternity to come. Whether church interactions happen between two people, or five-thousand, eternal foundations are being built and hope is catapulted into the future. (Rev. 2:7)
The church is growing
Through grace and tribulation, the church is refined, tested, redeemed, loved, and coming out stronger on the other side (Rom. 5) Different people throw their varied gifts into the pot, and we all benefit with stronger, healthier lives and a deeper understanding of God.
What church is not
There are five things that are commonly believed about church that were never intended for the church to be. When we attach these things to the meaning of church, they actually detract from the richness and life that the church was intended to hold.
The church is not a building
As breathtaking as the cathedrals in Rome are, the church is more glorious. It's living, evolving beauty leaves decaying buildings to shame, even if those buildings are carefully kept up, plated in gold, and coated with images painted by masters. The reason our buildings can feel holy is because it is there that we gather and together seek the things of God. Worship, prayer and teaching are all good things; but it's not the building that makes them special, it's the people who embody the Spirit of God.
The church building is not the only place of prayer
God is not contained in structural habitations, and four walls do not connect us with our Creator. God is accessible for prayer, everywhere, and he is accessible right here, right now. No need to travel anywhere.
There is something special, though, in praying with other people. This can happen at church, around a dinner table, or even on a hike. Prayer amongst the other members of the church is what connects us to God, not prayer within a certain set of walls.
The church is not perfect, but it is being made perfect
If you dig into the life of anyone who approaches for worship, you will find heartache and brokenness, continuous healing and restoration. Perfection is held in the glimmer of a moment, and it is a lifelong process. There are people in church who have just exited toxic relationships. Some are in them and trying to navigate their way through. Others are having struggles at work, experiencing loss, or trying to figure out the next step in their lives. Everyone has a story, everyone has stories that try their patience and fill their hearts with fear and worry. This is the life we live, and in it is these trials where we are refined by fire and purified in love. We are all in this together, like a platoon in a war zone, and at our best we support each other, cheer each other on, and lift each other up.
The church is not better than you, and you're not better than others in the church
The gospel of Christ is for all people. It's not for them but not for you, it's not for you but not for them.
The church is not "Nice."
"Nice" is a farce, it's manipulative and shady, crafted for selfish gain and platitudes. The imperfect church is not nice, but it is growing (refer back to "the church is not perfect") in love. Love is fierce, caring, and loyal. Love reaches out with random acts of kindness and it bears much difficulty. It is slow to anger, and when fury finally escalates, it is not driven by selfish fervor; but is empathetic and passionate over destructive forces at work. Love perseveres and labors for the benefit and truth of all. This is the love of God for all of us, a love that has been demonstrated throughout history, and a love that continues on today and forever. This love is for you, and this love is for all of us.