I think we'd all agree that a hand is pretty useful, important body part. But that's only when it is attached to something. Alone and unconnected, your hand is pretty useless to you. It cannot fulfill it's purpose, and the rest of the body receives no benefit from it.
I'm sure you've probably heard this kind of analogy before and know where I'm going with it. The physical body as a metaphor for the body of Christ - it's a good one. Paul even used it. But it's pretty basic, Christianity 101.
Well, it should be. But why does it seem like the basics are the things that we forget. Is it because they get crowded out by all the religious stuff we add to Christianity?
Just think, if I said to anyone, Christian or not, the word 'church', what are they going to think. Probably a building, a place people go on Sunday morning. (Or Saturday). Or just at Easter and Christmas.
What's wrong with this picture?
When Jesus said he would raise the temple again in three days,* he didn't mean a new physical building to replace to an old one. He was talking about the new dwelling place of God, with us. In us.
This leads me to two conclusions:
1. The church building is NOT 'God's house'.
God doesn't live in a building. We aren't going to 'pay him a visit' when we go there Sundays.
He is with us always. Wherever we go, we are the church - just two or three together, there is God.*
Does that change the way you view your life and want to live your life if you think of yourself as the church? Whenever you are together with other believers, that is the church.
Could people tell that by our lives? Can they see God living in us when they look at us together?
And that brings me to the second conclusion...
2. You cannot be the church alone.
A hand detached from the physical body ceases to be of any use to itself or the body. A Christian detached from the body of Christ is doing no favours to themselves, and is being no benefit to the rest of the body.
We've go too many individual body parts floating around, disconnected from anyone else. No wonder people on the outside don't see a united Church when they look at us - just a bunch of dismembered people gathering in a building, pretending we aren't as handicapped as we actually are, while hoping we'll somehow get put back together just by being there.
Or not getting together at all, because we feel like there's no need or no point.
I don't actually blame you. I've known times where 'going to church' has been far more painful than beneficial. And sometimes it's even damaging. The church as a building is failing to live up to what the church is meant to be.
But the question of whether or not a Christian should attend church is missing the point. How often you go to a building and on what days is not the important thing.
The point is, if WE are the body, the needs to be a WE in some way. What that looks like shouldn't be defined by a building, but by the fruit.
For yourself - your life will be much more purposeful and fulfilled if you are connected and being part of what God designed you for.
For other Christians - we have all been giving different gifts for the edification of the body. When we are using those gifts, the whole body benefits. When we are disparate and disconnected, the whole body suffers.
For the glory of God - the early church grew rapidly and daily not because they saw a bunch of people going faithfully to a building once a week, but because they saw Jesus in his living body, the church, played out before them in the power of the Holy Spirit.
And that is my final point - God will build his church. It is not up to us to come up with the perfect model and mission statement. We've been trying that unsuccessfully for the entire history of the church.
God will build his church,* we just have to be there, joining with the body, willing and ready.
Even in a state of complete imperfection, even while we feel like we are not even close to functioning like we should be, I think it would make a huge difference if we just at least acted like we remembered this one simple truth - It's not about the building. Wherever we are, we are the church. God goes with us.
How will that change how you live?
How will that change how you live?
Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days." John 2:19
For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them. Matthew 18:20
...on this rock I will build my church... Matthew 16:18