I recently landed a part-time job at a hardware store. Like most retail businesses, sales volume is heaviest when customers are off work, on weekends and holidays .
Due to low wages and part-time shifts offering no benefits, most retail workers have other part-time jobs. That’s the case with me. My searching for a suitable full-time job came up empty so I pursued a couple of part-time opportunities that surfaced along the way.
In case you are wondering, the income math doesn’t add up but I’m relying on God’s formulas instead of my own. Along that line, I made clear before being hired that I would not work on Sunday until after our church services conclude. By way of explanation to my new boss, I simply said, “I go to church” but I wish I’d said, “I am the church,”
If saying “I am the church” sounds boastfully audacious if not borderline heretical to you, bear with me a minute. Going to church, as in a place is NOT, as far as I can tell, even close to what Jesus had in mind when we declared to Peter, “Upon this rock I will build my church.” (Matthew 16:18).
All through the biblical record, church is a people. God’s people don’t go to church, they are the church.
If your experience of church is going to a service attended by hundreds if not thousands of people, grasping the concept of being the church may not come easily.
I grew up in such a large church, not only featuring lots of people but part of a worldwide network of like churches where even the Sunday service format is identical everywhere.
Not exactly New Testament as in Paul’s Epistles, letters to various groups of believers, or “churches” in that time. Not only were churches people but each group was quite unique even though they had in common similar practices like sharing and teaching the gospel, baptizing new believers, re-enacting the Lord’s bread and wine, body and blood offering at his last supper, and serving each other and their communities.
In the little church our family belongs to, being church is easier to grasp because less than 100 people attend our Sunday services and our total 5-person staff adds up to just over 2 full-time equivalents. Whatever is going on with our church is pretty much us the church doing with our beings and our money.
Not too long ago, one of our members, Dave, died unexpectedly. Even though Dave was a quiet man, not well-known by many of us, Dave was the equivalent of five or six people in terms of the what he was involved with among us. Likewise with people who leave our church to attend other churches, often much larger ones. If they don’t reconnect in their new, larger church they essentially moved from being the church to merely going to church.
Being the church is a privilege that many people consider too much of a burden to fit into their already over-busy lives. While that’s understandable, we all have the same 24 hour days to work with so how our time plays out is a direct factor of our choices.
Also consider that declining to be the church is contrary to what Jesus calls us into when we accept his invitation to join his rank of believers. Reflect on what Paul is saying in this part of his letter to the Philippian believers. Regarding Jesus,
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.
Do everything without grumbling or arguing, … (Philippians 2:9-14, NIV)
“Work it out together…with fear and trembling, without grumbling or arguing….”
Paul is onto them and us about what’s involved but also extends the promise God offered his people down through the ages – When we are the church, His people, and work life out together that way, He (God) wills and acts to fulfill “His good” purposes.
That’s why I am dedicated to protecting the day and time that “my” people convene each week – to be the church alongside my faith family, a tiny little group of people known as Grace Chapel.
I don’t just “go” to church, I “AM” the church.