Being the Church
Life is busy. Many of us don’t have time to do all of the things we need to do, much less the things we want to do. When I was younger I loved going to the movies, it was one of my favorite things to do when I had a free night. There were times when I would see a movie almost every weekend . . . but things change. Now when I have a free night I would much rather just relax and spend time with my wife. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy going to the theater and seeing a good movie, but I just can’t do it every week anymore. I still make it to a few movies a year, but most of the time I just wait for the DVD, if I see them at all. Life changes, I guess that’s just the way it is.
Chances are you are a lot like me. Life has become busy and your priorities have changed. We all have things that we used to enjoy that we just don’t have time for anymore. In fact, busyness is one of the main reasons why people say that they stop attending church. Many people who used to attend church regularly now only make it a few times a year, if they go all. It’s not because they don’t appreciate church. Many of these people are Christians who claim that church is important. They encourage others to go, but it just doesn’t seem to fit their schedule anymore.
It is very easy to understand why people think of church as a place. Most towns have many buildings with signs that label them as churches. A lot of those buildings are ornate, they have steeples and they are designed to look like . . . well . . . um . . . a church. We often think of the church as a landmark, a place with an address, a place to have weddings and funerals. Whether we realize it or not most of us talk about church as a physical place.
- Where do Christians spend their Sunday mornings? At the Church
- Where do people get married? At the Church
- Where do pastors work? At the Church
- Where are funerals held? At the Church
Many people also think of church as an event. This may be the way you think about it. If so, when you hear someone talk about church you probably think about the Sunday morning service. You picture a group of people who come together to sing, pray and listen to a sermon. The truth is that most churches do have services that include all of those things, but the Sunday morning service is not, in and of itself, church. While it is easy think about church as a place or an event, the reality is that both of them minimize what the church is really meant to be. God has a plan for this thing called church, and it is much bigger than buildings and Sunday services.
So what is the church? If it’s not a place and it’s not an event, what is it? According to the Bible (God’s Word) the church is a group of people. More specifically, the church is every person who has been accepted by God through the death, the burial and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. In 1 Corinthians 12 Paul compares this group of people to our physical body.
12 For just as the (physical) body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we (those who are Christians) were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.
When we receive Christ we become a part of His body, the church. All Christians are a part of the same body, the body of Christ. When God thinks about His church He doesn’t think about a building with a steeple or a Sunday morning worship service. His church is made up of all those who have entered into a relationship with Him through Jesus Christ. This means that if you are a Christian you are a member of the body of Christ, you are a part of the church. And God has an incredible plan for His church. Just as every part of our body has a unique purpose, every member of the body of Christ is necessary. Paul explains.
14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.
Each Christian has been placed into the body by God and has been given a unique position in the body. God’s desire is for us to live together and function as a body. Unfortunately, we live in a society that values independence and self reliance. We would rather do our thing, in our own way. That line of thinking is reflected in the way we think about the church. Many people would prefer to live the Christian life on their own. More and more people are deciding that they don’t need the rest of the body in order to live the Christian life, but that is not at all what God planned for us. He never intended for us to live the Christian life in isolation. If we continue in 1 Corinthians 12 we read:
19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”
We aren’t supposed to live the Christian life alone! Every member is necessary for the body to function properly. God desires for His people, His body, to “do life together.” He desires for each member to contribute and serve their function. We need each other! Those aren’t popular words in our generation. We prefer to fly solo, but God planned for His church to function together, and there are built in benefits. The result is . . .
25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.
Our culture tends to say, you worry about you and I’ll worry about me, but God’s people should see one anther much differently. He wants us to know one another, love another, support one another, look after one another and encourage one another. The Christian life is supposed to be lived in community. That is why we come together in church buildings for church services. It’s not about the building or the service, the place or the event; it is about us coming together as God’s church to learn how to love God and live with one another in a way that pleases Him.
God has given us an incredible gift, but many of us have exchanged His gift for a place or an event. We approach interaction with the body of Christ like we are going to a movie. We choose the one we like and the time that fits our schedule. We go, we sit with our friends, we are entertained, and we leave. We may have been affected by what took place, but we don’t allow it to change our lives. We sit in a crowd of nameless faces. As a group we may laugh together and cry together, but after it’s over everyone goes their separate ways, leaving without truly interacting with anyone. Theaters are full of strangers who enjoy the show together and leave as strangers. Sadly, many Christians approach church in the same way. We go, we sit, and we listen, but we never develop the genuine relationships that God intended. We never allow the songs that are sung, the sermons that are preached and the relationships that are available to truly change our lives.
What About You? How do you view church?
- Is it a place where you went as a kid, but that you don’t have time for anymore?
- Is it an event that you try to make time for occasionally, but that never really takes priority?
- Do you view the church as a nonessential part of the Christian life?
God has given us an incredible gift. He wants us to live and grow together. He has given us a group of people to “do life with;” a group of people who can rejoice together and suffer together; A group of people who are pursuing the same goal, Jesus. But some of us simply don’t have the time for it anymore. Life is too busy.
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