What about church?
When most people think about Jesus the first thing that comes to mind is “Church”. Maybe you’ve done it all before, and don’t want anything to do with it. I actually understand that and have felt the same way, but please read a little further, because my perspective is a little different than what you might be used to when you think about “church”.
First, I want to know what the bible says about church; I want to see the church through God’s eyes. It might surprise you but the bible never talks about church being a building where people meet to have a “religious service”. Many of today’s concepts of the church are not found in the bible!
Most people think of church as a building you go to, or something you do. Nothing could be further from the truth. The meaning of church is actually, “the called out ones”. The church isn’t a building; it actually refers to the people called out by God, to leave the world’s ideas, ways, and practices, to be followers of Jesus.
So it all comes down to relationship; having a relationship with Jesus based on what He has said about Himself, and a relationship with each other as “the body of Christ”, which is the church, the “called out ones”.
The truth is, the church as “the called out ones” is God’s idea. It expresses God’s intention for us to belong to Him and each other. Therefore, instead of thinking of it as a building, think of church as the people who are “called out by God”. These people gather at homes, storefronts, church buildings, or even large settings like stadiums. The true church is the people- not the building or denominational name. You become part of the church by being “born from above“.
The church getting together
Though the bible doesn’t talk about church buildings or denominations, it does talk about Christians gathering together. One reason for this is actually quite obvious: When a person is “born from above” they become “a child of God” and a part of a great big family along with the rest of God’s children! What loving family doesn’t enjoy getting together? The church isn’t a “religious business” God started; we’re His family! No one has to tell me to go see my Mom, or call my sister, or force me to come to a family meal. I do it because I love my family and want to spend time with them. It’s the same with the church.
Some of the other reasons Christians gather is to encourage one another, learn more about God from the bible, and especially to worship Jesus. (Jesus said that whenever two or more would gather in His name He’d be there among them, so there’s something very special about getting together with other Christians.) This doesn’t have to be “churchy” at all!
Presently, my wife and I meet with other Christians who gather in a living room. We have a small group of people who love Jesus and want to live for Him and know Him better. The whole thing is very simple and non-religious; not at all what most people think of when they think of “church”!
On the other hand, I’ve been a part of groups that number in the thousands. These have been much more in the vain of what people think of as “traditional” churches. Do you think that these “churches” might seem more”religious”? I can see why people might think that, but I didn’t let that stop me from being a part of these groups. Why? Because I look for groups who are alive with a desire to know and live for Jesus and His truth, and I go where I can find that. I let God lead me, I use His discernment, and because of that I have been a part of many wonderful “traditional” churches as I’ve traveled over the years.
The church that meets at Steve’s house!
It sounds very unofficial doesn’t it? Yet, that’s the sort of thing you see when you read the bible’s accounts of the church! Can it really be that simple? Yes, it can!
I personally love the simple groups that meet in homes because I believe they best represent how the early church met. Without going into detail here, they allow for the intimacy, simplicity and personal spiritual growth that larger settings often do not. Home groups tend to lean towards everyone having an active role during the gathering, (compared to the Pastor doing most things in a traditional church gathering). I believe this participation is one of the most crucial aspects to spiritual growth. It is an aspect that most traditional churches almost completely lack with their structure, but is clearly talked about in God’s Word:
“What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these things must be done for the strengthening of the church.” (1 Corinthians 14.26)
For these reasons, and more, my wife and I are presently meeting with other Christians in a home. However, I have to say that meeting in a home is not the end all and be all… loving and following Jesus is. The truth is, it may be very hard for you to find a home group even if you want to! There is a return to these groups happening among Christians, but they are few in number compared to the regular traditional churches. (Not only that, but just because a group meets in simplicity at home doesn’t mean it’s necessarily good!) Home groups can be in error and teach false doctrine, just as traditional churches can. In fact, I have had a few close friends find out the hard way that just because it’s a “home church” doesn’t mean it’s a good church! Be forewarned!
Asking God to lead you
As I said earlier, I try to go where God leads me, and I test it by His Word. I do not see the church as being a denomination, a building, or a manmade organization. Since I know the church is “God’s called-out people”, I look for people who are walking in truth and loving Him, be it a home or “traditional” setting.
Don’t be alone
One thing that I don’t want to do is sit home alone. Remember, the bible teaches that gathering together is important because our spiritual life is part of a whole. I am just one small part of a larger body called the Ekklesia, “the church”. I need the other parts of the body, just as they need me. (What good is an eye disconnected from the body? Or a foot, without a leg?) That’s how God looks at us- we are part of a much larger whole, (the Body of Christ), with Jesus being the head.
To wrap this up about the church… it’s not something you go to if you’re a Christian, it’s something you are! Remember, the church is Christ’s body; don’t try to be a hand, or foot, out there all by yourself, it won’t work! Find Christians that you can gather together with and be part of the whole.