Why the Church Gathering Matters

I don’t know who wrote this but I’ve seen it pop up in my social media feed over and over and over these past few months: “I believe churches are meant for praising God, but so are 2 a.m. car rides, showers, coffee shops, the gym, conversations with friends, strangers, etc. Don’t let a building […]

I don’t know who wrote this but I’ve seen it pop up in my social media feed over and over and over these past few months:

“I believe churches are meant for praising God, but so are 2 a.m. car rides, showers, coffee shops, the gym, conversations with friends, strangers, etc. Don’t let a building confine your faith because we will never change the world by just going to church, we need to be the church.”

I get it. Worship is not an event that happens from 11 to 12 on Sunday mornings. It’s a lifestyle, a calling, a daily choice, a reclassifying of our moments from meaningless to miraculous. Every step; every second; every glance and giggle is a chance to praise God.

During this COVID season, as churches have not been gathering together, there’s been a renewed push to go “be the church.” “The church isn’t closed! You are the church!” pastors have said.

I get it. I just think we need to be careful.

Don’t get me wrong. We should go out and be the church. The pastors are right. I mean, what were they supposed to say? “Sorry, the church is closed. The Devil won.”? Of course not. They said the right thing.

We need to understand that the church is not a building. We need to act our faith out within our daily lives. It’s just that if we put “church” in a long list of places where God is praised (car, shower, coffee shop, gym, church), aren’t we kind of making the same mistake in a different way?

And if we say things like, “the church isn’t closed. YOU are the church! You don’t need to come here to be the church,” why would we come back at all (after COVID)?

Here’s the thing. In the quote above about 2 a.m. car rides, the goal seems to be to get people to understand that praising God happens at all times. But it still uses the word “church” as a place (a building) juxtaposed against other places (car, shower, gym, etc.).

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The church is the gathering of believers. It’s the community of faith. It’s not a building, but neither is it nothing. It’s not a building, but neither is it an individual believer.

Be careful. If the gathering of believers—committed to one another, accountable to one another, equipped by elders and pastors, following Jesus together, translated as “church” in the English Bible—wasn’t a vital part of God’s cosmic plan …

• Ephesians 1 wouldn’t say that it’s the fullness of Christ.
• Ephesians 2 wouldn’t say that it’s the temple of God.
• Ephesians 3 wouldn’t say that through it the manifold wisdom of God would be made known to the world.
• Ephesians 5 wouldn’t call it the bride of Christ.
• Hebrews 10 wouldn’t command us not to neglect it.

And I know that your mind will go straight to Matthew 18:20 (even if you don’t recall the address): “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

I get it. We can expect the presence of Jesus with us no matter how many are with us and where we are, but some use this to say we don’t need to gather with the church.

Be careful. Matthew 18 isn’t about the gathering of the church. It’s about confronting someone when they’ve sinned against you. Jesus is saying “if your brother sins against you, you should buck up and go talk to him. Scared? Don’t worry. I’ll be there with you.” It’s not about the gathering of the church, because Jesus is with us when we’re alone too.

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The quote said, “We will never change the world by just going to church, we need to be the church.” In an either/or culture that can’t fathom a balance or a both/and solution, I want to offer one:

Jesus will change us when we commit to, sacrifice for, and are equipped by the church.

AND

Jesus will change the world when we live like the church in our daily lives.

The church is the gathering of true believers; the community of faith; the family of God.

I am not the church. We are.

Can you worship Jesus anywhere? Yes. Is that the same as the church? No.

Is “the church” made up of people who follow Jesus? Yes. Are you “the church” as a single believer? No.

Be careful. The gathering matters. The community of faith matters. Sure, don’t just go to to church. Live your faith! But don’t stop gathering. Don’t replace it with some lesser alternative. It’s not either/or.

Gather with the church as soon as you’re able. Commit, sacrifice, submit, grow … belong. And change the world for Jesus.