That’s right. I said it. What!? A pastor telling me to stop going to church? Yep, you guessed it. If there was anything our Lord would not have wanted of us, it is to GO to church.
Have I got your attention now? That’s right. We Christians get all huddled together IN a place called “church.” There we get most of the “church” out of us. We sing “Just As I AM” then often leave just as we were.
Why doesn’t the church make a bigger impact on its community? Because we tend to huddle all together only inside the building we affectionately call, “OUR church.” Brothers and sisters in Christ, we don’t HAVE a church, and there is no church that is “ours.” Or … if there were, then we are worshiping ourselves.
The unintentional co-founder of the branch of the church that set me apart for ministry, left the building, just like Jesus left the synagogue, under great scrutiny as back then, and still today through much of the UK, the church literally is the building. He left to bring the gospel out of “sacred buildings” and into highways and byways. 4K miles a year on horse or feet. Billy Graham, whose loss we have been mourning, led communities and even countries to the cross, and rarely from inside a church building.
Wesley joined Whitfield in preaching outdoors under GREAT scrutiny. “You can’t do that!” they were ordered. There is a sense in which “going” to church is exactly opposite to where we should be going: to the people, to the world, the needy, the orphan, the widowed, the homeless, the lost, the hopeless.
Going “to” church, connotes that we can leave the church, or that the worship is done IN the church. You know this.
Of course I wouldn’t mind at all if any of you chose to come by the building that serves as MY “lighthouse” or post for ministry. But, I’d be most proud if when you did, you were impassioned to leave it to transform your world. For many years I served as an “extension minister,” extended from the church to serve airmen and their families around the world. Aren’t we all to be extensions of the ministry of Christ where we live, work, play, sleep. Always. Everywhere? We gather AS the church, then dispatch AS the church to give hope to our hurting world.
Check it. IN the 3 times or so the word “church” is spoken by Jesus’ and the 100 or so by his disciples, you’d be hard pressed to show that a single time they are referring to a building.
Let’s join Marsh and Avery (1972) in singing: “The church is not a building. The church is not a steeple. The church is not a resting place. The church is a people… I am the church. YOU are the church. WE are the church together. All who follow Jesus! All around the world! Yes, we’re the church together!”