When you hear the word, “church” what do you think of? Most people think of a building somewhere that has a steeple, stained glass and some dude walking around with a strange collar around his neck. It is really sad that this is how the word, church has digressed in meaning.
Church is not a place and it does a great disservice, not just to the term, but to the entire idea when it is used in reference to a place. So, then, what is the church? Literally, “church” is a gathering of people. But, more specifically, in the New Testament, it refers, not to just any people gathered, but to the followers of the risen Jesus. And they are not just gathering for any old reason. They are gathering to share time together focused on the events of Jesus’ life, death, resurrection and encourage one another in their shared mission of proclaiming God’s coming kingdom. Because of their shared mission, the term “church” also becomes a way to reference a group of Jesus’ followers even when they are not physically together. So, Jesus’ followers gather, not at the church, but as the church.
Church, then, is more like a football huddle than a building. In football, the players have a common mission- scoring more points than the opponent. They “huddle” somewhere on the field to get on the same page, call a play and decide how each person is to contribute to the goal based on each person’s position on the team. When they leave the huddle, they don’t go forgetting about their mission as if the mission was huddling. Quite to the contrary, it is when they leave the huddle that things really get going- they enact what they huddled about. It would make a very ineffective team if the players thought the huddle was the goal- that the team existed simply for huddling. Try and imagine players leaving a huddle and meandering about the field mowing the grass, picking up trash or painting the goalposts with the only goal of meeting up again in the huddle. They would get nowhere in the game of football. It seems only too obvious to say, that in order to achieve their goal, each player must understand that, while huddling plays an important role in fulfilling their goal, it is only worthwhile if the players remembers their goal and their specific role when they scatter across the field of play.
The gathering of the followers of Jesus is quite a bit like that (I say quite a bit because all analogies break down at some point). We gather somewhere as people with a common mission- proclaiming in word and deed the Kingdom of God and it’s King Jesus. We gather to find encouragement and direction for that mission from other believers and from the Triune God. When we scatter from the huddle, I mean gathering, we are not to forget about our mission as if it was fulfilled in gathering. Rather, we must live out what we talked about, worshiped about, and gathered about in the first place. The current ineffectiveness of the church is in large part explained by the loss of this perspective. We are at a juncture where people leave “church” and go their own way meandering about as if they do not have a mission or as though their mission is just to meet up again at “church.” While gathering plays an important role in our mission, it is only worthwhile if we remember our mission as we scatter. We must regain our focus!
So, this is what we are talking about Saturday night and I would love to see you there.
Be blessed, ~Cole