Thursday, August 18, 2011
You Can't Go to Church, Part One
Here's the picture--it's Sunday morning. Mom and Dad are getting dressed for church, she in a sweet chintz dress and he in a blue striped tie. The children line up for approval. Mom straightens the last cowlick and wipes a smudge off a patent leather shoe and they march first into the station wagon, then through the church door. There, they sit quiet and attentive in the pew: standing to sing, and sitting to listen, and kneeling to pray, satisfying and squeaky clean. They have gone to church. They are ready for another week.
OK, so that's a dated picture. Today, the family is more likely to show up in jeans or shorts, often to join in electronically enhanced worship, but the concept remains the same. When it's Sunday, we go to church. How did we get this idea? God sees things differently:
How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord Almighty! My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh cry out for the living God.--Psalm 84:1-2
Where are the pews? Where is the stained glass? Where is the choir? Instead, the psalmist paints a picture of longing, panting, yearning, not of pews standing in regimented order full of proper people who pray and sing and go home. God's church is a living thing, pulsing and full of vigor. His church is not a place, it is an entity, a phenomenon. It has blood and bone, soul and spirit.
From God's view, it is impossible to go to church. We cannot go to church any more than we can go to life. Wherever believers gather, we are in church. Whatever we do together is worship. Our Holy God does not live in a building made of human hands. His house does not have a door.
If you want to go to church, look in a mirror. If you want to find the house of God, look at the believing friends standing together with you in your photo album or on Facebook. God breathes through you every moment and His Spirit works with more power when an assembly gathers. You do not go to the church. The church, when God lives in you, goes with you.
Thought for today: What purposes do church buildings serve?