It’s a question which many of us have asked or answered at some time or other. The premise behind the question is that church is something – a service, a building, a meeting – that you attend. You show up, as if to a performance, sit through the designated time slot, then return home to your life.
Somehow this doesn’t line up with how the Church is portrayed in the Bible. In his letter Peter describes his audience – the church – in this way:
“But you are a chosen people, a royal priest-hood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God;”
The church of God is not a building, but the whole community of believers in Jesus Christ, saved and redeemed. The vision for the Church is not to become a corporate institution, to form an organisation or provide a service. When believers gather together to worship, we are not an audience to a preacher, but the Body of Christ (1 Cor 12:12-26), Christ’s bride (Eph 5:25-27), a royal priest-hood (1 Peter 2:9)
It may be tempting on a Sunday morning to just roll over and go back to sleep. Or to hit the slopes. Or the beach on a summer’s day…. After all, going to church doesn’t make you a Christian, right, so what does it matter if you miss a service for a bit of a lie-in? Or maybe there’s a great sports game on TV you’d rather watch, or possibly you haven’t visited great-aunty Josie in a while, and Sunday morning’s the only time you have ‘free’…
There are countless things that call on our time, and sacrificing ‘going to church’ maybe the easy answer – if you see church as just something you attend, there when you want it, and easily given up when you don’t. But that doesn’t work if you see church not as somewhere we go – but as something we are.
The church on mission together
The vision of the church, the people of God, is to be a people mobilised, on mission together, running forward in the Gospel! Whether that is during a regular worship meeting, or gathering for LifeGroup together, or meeting with other believers over a coffee – together we build each other up, encourage one another, hold each other accountable in our ongoing discipleship and maturity in Christ. Together we both share the Gospel with our words and live it out in our lives. Together we fulfil the mandate that Christ gave to ‘take the Gospel to all nations’. We are to be a prophetic, kingly, priestly people at all times, in all situations – and we do this by being one body.
As the writer to the Hebrews encourages –
“Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”