I’m not sure there is a way to discuss this without it becoming a polarizing issue except to NOT discuss it. I’m also aware that those who disagree will have much to say about it…and me…but it’s not the first time a post written with loving intentions had me certainly damned to hell by well-intentioned Christians.
Those who disagree are welcome here, too.
Enough about that. We’re here to discuss if church is essential. Many Christians says so. Savior Trump says so. Must be so.
Let me make a simple distinction at the get go. One that I think is wildly important.
There’s a difference between a church service/institution and THE CHURCH. I think we’d all agree with that, right? As Christians, we know we are THE CHURCH. The Body of Christ was put on this Earth to love and serve and bring His kingdom to others. (Which was, in fact, Jesus’ mission as well.)
I am THE CHURCH. You are THE CHURCH. God wants to use us. Desires to use us. Has gone so far as to commission us to BE His Church.
Still with me? Good. Cause here’s the part that I’m going to call into question.
Is a church service essential? Frankly, is the church as an institution essential? No. I don’t think so.
But Holly what about Hebrews 10:25??? What about Acts 2:42??? I’m very much aware of those references and am in no way suggesting anything that is contrary to those verses. What I am suggesting is that it doesn’t look like the Sunday morning service the masses are convinced are essential.
Throughout this season of social distancing and quarantine I have been bewildered by some Christians desires to “get back to normal”. As if normal has somehow been working for us. This could be it’s own blog post, but I wonder if God has been trying to use this time to shake the Church out of it’s stagnancy and CHANGE THINGS UP.
Whenever I have BIG questions like whether church is essential I go back to Jesus. I look at His life. How he was doing things during His time on Earth and then try and use that to answer my question.
If we were to go the traditional route, there are a few times in the Gospels where Jesus was explicitly at the temple in Jerusalem. The temple was the hub for Jewish teaching and was the center for celebrations and holidays. We know Jesus’ family visited the Jewish temple and participated in these holy days. In Luke 2, we read about how as a boy Jesus got left behind at the temple because He was busy listening to the teachers and asking questions.
Jesus also tore up the joint (John 2, Matthew 21) because the temple had become a place of profit. Hmm. I’ll leave that one alone.
We also know Jesus taught in the synagogues “as was his custom” (Luke 4:16). One of my favorite examples of this can be found in Luke 4 where He stands up and reads from Isaiah 61, rolls up the scroll and goes to sit back down. All eyes are on Him at this point because they realize what He’s just alluded to and then plainly states– that He IS the Messiah. Uh, mic drop.
So, what if the temple had been closed for two months? Would this have halted Jesus? Would He have been in an uproar to get the doors re-opened?
I want to take us back to the story of Mary and Martha. Not so we can look at my woman of faith doppleganger, Martha, but Mary. We are told in Luke 10 that Mary was found at the feet of Jesus listening to His teaching. Mary wasn’t the only one in the room. Yes, Martha was pissed off in the kitchen prepping for dinner, but the rest of the family (neighbors, friends) were listening to Jesus, too.
It’s kinda what Jesus did. To echo 12-year old Jesus’ words, “Didn’t you know I must be about my Father’s business?”
He went from place to place hanging out with people. Eating meals with them and giving them the literal Word of God while He lingered there. He did this with Zacchaeus and even big time Pharisees and Jewish leaders, too.
It was this meeting people along the way kind of ministry. The kind of ministry that met people at water holes, along roadsides, in cemetaries (hello, demon possessed naked man!) and in open fields.
He was not shackled to a building, but rather a mission.
And I get it, we’ve tied the mission of God to a building for so long it’s been uncomfortable and shaky for many when that building (crutch?) has been taken away.
In a very real way, I understand that meeting together can be encouraging. How praying with one another and worshiping together can usher in the presence of God. I would never deny that, but maybe our church buildings have become precious little idols.
I wonder that because when it’s taken away (even temporarily) a spirit of fear rose up. “They’re denying us our freedom!” “We’re being persecuted!” In Sunday School, we are taught early on that an idol is anything that takes our focus off of God and onto something or someone else. So, again, I just wonder if a building/service/institution has become our focus.
I often wonder if Jesus would be impressed at our big fancy buildings that take up city blocks or old strip mall plazas or would He remind us that it is just a tool. One of many that can be used for His glory. If it gets taken away tomorrow His mission doesn’t and will not end because He’s bigger than that.
Please hear me. I am not trying to be edgy, clickbaity or controversial. I’m just like you– trying to figure out the heart of God in a world that is constantly changing. I don’t want to miss something He has for me, or US, because I was so busy focusing on one thing when He had something better and BIGGER in mind.