We gather AS the church, not AT the church.

  • 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.

Where the Erickson Covenant Church gathers.
Is this a church? No, but it is where our church meets.

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.

Being built up by the Holy Spirit into God’s living house AS we gather is what matters–where we gather was never the point.

4 thoughts on “We gather AS the church, not AT the church.”

  1. what you say I agree with, but to those who attend our weekly gatherings is it not just a word to describe in its simplest form ,where we meet ? What do you call the place we meet in? What should we call it to those who do not attend? Is God Assembling us ? or will we always just be gathered? I like the word gathered together but boards can be gathered and still remain a pile of boards whereas an assembling reminds me of the building with purpose, being built up into one thing. I hope this does not come out as arguing its just a few marbles rolling around in a big space. cheers

    1. No, I’ve wondered that myself. I think it is tricky, and I do think we are often stuck for an “unawkward” way to refer to the building or place we gather. The reality is, I think we should “invite our friends to church” — but I think we need to know what we are saying, and think about our gatherings and our places in a way that keeps us focused on what matters. Thanks for raising this question–I think it’s a challenge. 🙂

      1. I look forward to seeing my church family and visitors every Sunday morning. It would not matter where we gather as long as we are together worshipping and listening to gods word. I love my Church family, and enjoy spending time with them where ever we meet.

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