- Let’s meet at the church.
- Welcome to the house of the Lord this morning.
- Are you going to church this weekend?
What’s the problem with these three statements? The assumption that “church” is a location for gathering rather than the gathering itself.
The fact is, we never gather AT the church–we only gather AS the church.
Let me confess something to you: I don’t like it when people call the church’s building “the house of God.” In fact, I despise it. I know–it’s an ole’ school way to refer to the church’s building, but by externalizing the “house” we lose something essential. The “house of God” is not made of brick or wood–it’s the people in which God lives by his Spirit.
The actual house of God (the people) may own a building, or we may meet in a rented storefront. The house of God may meet in a living room, or gather in a school gym. God’s house is mobile, gathering wherever we can fit.
Where we gather isn’t the point: that we gather is. Streaming in from our stressful weeks and our demanding work, often unfocused and frazzled, to re-connect with each other and worship Jesus together–that is what it means to gather as the church.
So go ahead and steward the church’s building, make beautiful and functional spaces, maximize the resources for the kingdom, honor the gifts given–but don’t make the mistake of referring to a location or a building or a space as “the church.” And furthermore, don’t let the physical space distract us from the real building God is concerned about–let’s make sure we are putting our biggest investment, our greatest concern, the bulk of our energy and priority on the actual house of God–the men and women and children in whom God lives and to whom God is calling us to go.
On Monday morning, Jesus-followers are out there, working and witnessing and serving in their communities, families, schools and work, loving others in the mix of life. And throughout the week, Jesus-followers look forward to the privilege and necessity of gathering again as the church to worship Jesus, to serve one another, to hear God’s Word, to be reoriented around the purpose of the Father for us, and to be sent back out into our world for another week of witness.