What does the phrase “go to church” really mean?
Some people automatically picture entering a building. Then they do a course correction. The building is only the exterior structure that holds the church.
Others might think of the programs that occur inside that building, particularly what is called the worship service that occurs either Saturday night or Sunday morning. Many people view attending church as participating in the music section of the worship service. A close second, much to the chagrin of most ministers, is listening to powerful preaching.
Some go a little deeper, appealing to a Biblical description. They count off on their fingers the four elements of Acts 2:42. If you have experienced biblical teaching, fellowship of some kind, Communion, and a pastoral prayer, you’ve done church.
Last Sunday morning, church contained these things but was none of these things.
What defined Church for me?
Sharing an app for a Bible devotional on my Ipad with a sister in Christ who now plans to download it for herself.
Telling a teenager who has had life slap her in the face that she will get through this and even overcome – it won’t be easy, but she will get through.
Hearing the sound of several babies cooing and talking – and knowing that this body of believers has life for another generation.
Hearing a couple sing a duet at the beginning of the service, an old song I’d never heard before. But the wife, housebound for almost two years due to frail health, has been so discouraged that she has not been able to serve her Lord like she used to. Her presence represented a come-back, a victory. We rejoiced that God saw fit to bring Konnie back to us. What a rich testimony of her faith as she sang, “Jesus is the sweetest name I know.”
Hearing Harry, the worship leader, say with confidence, “You know, Jesus is coming back again” with such conviction, it would be hard for anyone to doubt. Later, he prayed that during the service, we might see Jesus and see Him only.
As I zoned out of the service to ponder these special moments of my morning, Acts 2:42 came to mind. The four functions of the Church – preaching, fellowship, Communion, and prayer – are merely pillars of what the Church does. It’s how the Church prays, fellowships, approaches Communion and interacts with the teaching of the faith that makes a particular group vibrate with life.
At that same moment, I became aware that the words of Acts 2:42 were being spoken outside my brain. How strange! The voice of Elder Jim brought me back to reality and I realized he was saying at that very moment the words of Acts 2:42, using that verse as his text for his Communion meditation.
Then Jim built upon my own thoughts. Take the fellowship of the church, for example, Jim told us. Fellowship is more than shaking hands and sharing a meal. It’s communicating with each other, sharing our love for Jesus with each other, encouraging and comforting each other as we work at living out our lives as God intended.
What did the disciples do with those pillars of Church activity? They devoted themselves to making church happen. Just as the building is the external representation of the church, the activities of the church and the presence of the people are merely outward expressions of what the Church is really about. It’s not what you do but how you do it that makes the Church vibrant and relevant.
So many times, my husband and I have told each other when we arrive home Sunday afternoon, the music and the preaching is merely window dressing for what really goes on in a church body. Church is so much more than just a polished music program or dynamic preaching. Church is life. Church is connection – with each other and with the Spirit of Christ.
That’s what made Jim’s Communion meditation so special. Church is more than just a community gathering together. If you want that, join a civic club. Church is where you see God’s Spirit orchestrating the church programs and activities in unexpected, unplanned ways. Jim had no idea what was going on in my brain, nor did I have any clue of what his meditation would cover. But God knew. He made the connection. That couldn’t have been merely serendipitous circumstance. Only the Holy Spirit of God could do that.
Church has happened when you break away from The Gathering, singing in your soul, “Surely the Presence of the Lord is in this place/I can feel His mighty power and His grace.”
It gives me goosebumps!
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