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Being the Church

This past week offered me and my family and extraordinary look into the difference between going to church and truly being the Church. It’s evident that western Christianity has shifted with near full force toward the former, while the latter remains the biblical idea.

As we walked through the emotional path of burying my father, groups of folks that have surrounded my parents for more than fifty years rose to the moment. One such group were those who had worshipped with them for 45 years while another had celebrated Christ at their side each Sunday for the past decade. Numerous sacrificial acts, genuine expressions of love, and eyes that conveyed real connection and friendship truly produced the Bible’s sense of sharing one another’s burden. Family, as we see up close, extends beyond blood line. It emerges anywhere one finds such compassionate love.

Being the Church is the greatest life assignment we can carry. When Jesus said to “Love one another” it seems clear that He intended more than just “go to church” together. He knew where His disciples were headed, what they would face, and how desperately they would need each other’s genuine life engagement in order to continue in faith.

Contrast that with the spectator sport church has become for many. Shuffling through crowded hallways until finding a desired seat, we engage a platform, a quality performance, and a message for life that we’re on our own to apply. Week after week we can end up experiencing the house of God without making any sort of connection to the family of God. And when we do, something is tragically lost.

I frequently ask my students to consider that if the Church were a building to which we simply go:

  • We would continue to “go” to God, when He has revealed that He has “come” to us.
  • We would compartmentalize worship as a separate reality from life.
  • We would more easily be given to rituals that can become lifeless.
  • We would become more focused on our gatherings than on our daily lives.

To be honest, people being the Church carried our family through this past week. We have memories of friends’ kindnesses and sacrifices that we will cherish for years. Makes me wonder if in our apparently-justified pursuit of church growth whether or not we’re chasing connections such as these–what the Church is truly meant to be? I even wonder if some of our churches have become these places of relational beauty while we as leaders have been hoping for something else.

Love–the centerpiece of our primary agenda–accomplishes much. It covers, it forgives, it cleanses, and it strengthens a family who must face one of life’s hardest moments. This week, love did just that. AND, two congregations plateaued in their numbers proved unequivocally that they are just what Jesus had in mind.

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