Don’t Just Go to Church. Be the Church.
Often when people think of “going to church”, they think of going to a worship service on Sunday morning for an hour (or whatever amount of time the church commits to worship). This is the predominant form and experience of “church” for most people. And when we contemplate whether it is worth our time to go to “church”, we usually judge it by what we receive out of the service. Did I like the music? Did the pastor’s message connect with me? Did I enjoy myself? Were the people friendly? Was it worth my time on a Sunday morning when I could be doing other things (like sleeping in)?
However, “church” is not something we go to, it is who we are as children of God. The church is wherever the children of God gather together, particularly when we gather in his name. It can include worship, but it could also be a small group or Bible study, or a small gathering of Christian people for prayer or fellowship. Or just a couple of Christian friends hanging out together, having a cup of coffee. And “church” is not merely about what we receive when we gather, but also about what we give.
The author of Hebrews reminds us in Hebrews 10:24-25
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
The author was telling us to Be The Church. Not just by gathering for a worship service (as people often use this passage for, to guilt others into being present on Sunday mornings), but to gather together (whatever the reason or purpose) to “spur one another on toward love and good deeds”.
So my question today is, how are you being the church by getting together with other Christians so that you can spur them on to love and good deeds, and they you? Rather than considering what I am going to receive out of our time together, and whether it is worth my time, ask, “what can I do to encourage others, and let them know they are loved by God, so they can respond out of that love?” If we do not have other Christians to gather with, how will we be able to spur each another forward in love?
Be the Church, don’t just go to church, or play church, or sit at home, alone, thinking you don’t need other Christians. That is a lie. God designed us so we need other Christian believers to encourage each other and grow in love. We cannot do this spiritual journey without other Christians. As Jesus’ disciple John wrote in 1 John 4:12
“No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.”
Notice that God’s love cannot be made complete in us unless we are loving one another as God loves us. Loving one another requires being together, being the Church. While it has become more popular lately to gather digitally (social media, zoom, virtual church, etc.), and this form of gathering can be helpful, especially if we are unable to get out, but it cannot fully replace being together in person, connecting face to face, and heart to heart. Enough ink and words have already been spilled by others sharing the downsides of digital only relationships so I don’t feel I need to reference it (just Google it), but needless to say, the research is clear that it is not a substitute. After all the Son of God (Jesus) didn’t come to us digitally for a reason, he came in the flesh, so that we could know God and experience him first hand, just as we should be in the flesh to know each other.
Again, who are you gathering with on a regular basis, and not just to worship together with, but to spur on toward love and good deeds? Who is the iron that sharpens you, and you them (Proverbs 27:17)? Who are you showing God’s love to in person, so that both you and they will have God’s love become more complete within? If you are not, who will you gather with? This is God’s plan A for us to live into.