What do you think of when I mention the word ‘church’? Perhaps you think of a building with a steeple. Or maybe you’ve known a church in a different setting like a theatre or a converted warehouse. What about the people? Some will immediately think of a small, close-knit gathering of believers, whereas others might be used to going to a church with thousands of other people, whose names they’ll never know.
Some of us have had wonderful experiences of church. It’s been a place where our deepest relationships have been formed, where we can laugh, cry and really be ourselves, and a place where we’ve felt God’s presence and grown in our relationship with Him. Others, if they’re really honest, have been bored at church, and sometimes wondered if they’re really getting anything out of it at all. Even worse, some have been badly hurt at church by other members, or even by their leaders. I don’t need to tell you that being a Christian isn’t a lifetime protection against being hurt! Thank God that He can heal our hearts as we choose to forgive.
Ever since I became a Christian, it was drilled into me how important it is to go to church and to fellowship with other believers. I agree wholeheartedly with that. We need each other, and meeting at least once a week is a healthy practice. However, I’ve also noticed that for many people, ‘going to church’ has become a substitute for being the Church.
We need to be constantly reminded that Jesus never actually told us to gather together once a week, sing songs, listen to a sermon, drink tea or coffee together and then go home. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing bad about any of these things. However, we have a serious problem if we’re ONLY doing these things! You see, the church isn’t really about us. I once heard it said that the church is the only institution in the world that exists for the benefit of its non-members. It was never supposed to be a social club for the born-again! We have a job to do.
Jesus is the head of the Church, and we’re His body. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we’ve been given the task of continuing Christ’s ministry on the earth. Before Jesus ascended to heaven He told His disciples very clearly what they were supposed to do. He said ‘go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you’ (Matthew 28:19-20). Can you believe it? There wasn’t even a mention of buildings, musical worship or tea and cakes!
This is probably also a good time to mention that God never asked us to ‘build’ the Church for Him. Jesus said ‘I will build my church’ (Matthew 16:18). Our job is simply to carry out the commission He’s given us and He’ll do the rest.
Can I encourage you to keep going to church, but to put even more emphasis on being the Church. In my personal experience there is nothing more exhilarating than committing your life to fulfilling the simple commission of Jesus, all the time relying on the power of the Holy Spirit to enable you to do it.
Prayer: Father, thank You that You haven’t called me to live a boring life. Thank You that You have an amazing plan for me and that, as I walk in obedience to Your Word, it will come to pass. I’m sorry for the times I’ve settled for going to church when you’ve wanted me to focus on being the Church. Would You help me to live my life in such a way that You, Your Kingdom and Your purposes are at the top of my priority list. Would You empower me by Your Holy Spirit to be a living example to those around me, as I carry out the simple commands of Your Great Commission. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
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