Picture a church in your mind. What does it look like? Is it a small white building with a wooden door and a cross on top? A large stone structure with a steeple? Those aren’t churches. Those are just buildings of a certain architecture that, in some cultures, hold church gatherings. But a church is not a building. A church is not even a meeting. We need to stop going to church. Instead, we need to be the church.
The English word “church” is a translation of the Greek word “ekklesia.” Even before Jesus came onto the scene, this was an existing Greek word used to refer to an assembly or a gathering. The word was first given special meaning in the New Testament in Matthew 16:18. After Peter confesses that Jesus was the Christ, Jesus says, “On this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail.” Literally, the Greek word “ekklesia” means something like the “called out ones.” See church is not a building, or a meeting, it is a community, an identity – the ones that have been called out of the world, gathering to Christ as his body, his disciples, his community, his family, his Bride. We don’t go to church, we are the church.
In the book “Total Church,” Tim Chester and Steve Timmis say:
“We are not saved individually and then choose to join the church as if it were some club or support group. Christ died for his people, and we are saved when by faith we become part of the people for whom Christ died … Our identity as human beings is found in community. Our identity as Christians is found in Christ’s new community.”Steve Timmis, “Total Church” pp. 39, 50
Church is not something you do once a week. It is not one important activity on our busy schedule. There is a personal aspect to our faith in Christ, but our inclusion as part of Christ’s people must be a priority. Our calling and identity as God’s people should be a comprehensive lifestyle. We have been given a mission. God’s church is his agent on earth. To be the church means living with a mission.
If you want to get a picture of what this looks like, go read about the church in Antioch in Acts 11:19-30. In Antioch, we see this diverse, growing, humble, bold, Christ-centered community. They gathered together, exhorted one another, matured in the faith, shared the Gospel with their city, and sent out resources and people. This church lived on mission and made an impact on their city. In fact, what God did in Antioch was so profound, the rest of the city didn’t know what to call this community of people. So, they came up with a name – they called them Christians (v. 26).
So let’s stop going to church, and let’s be the church. Of course we’ll still gather on Sunday mornings – we need to – but let’s call that our Community Worship or Sunday Gathering. And the rest of the week, let’s live on mission together as a dedicated community of Christians – a church.
Listen to a recent sermon related to this blog: Missional Church Life