I think over the years we have come to better understand what the church is and more importantly, what it isn’t. I remember a children playing, “Here is the church, here is the steeple, open the doors and see all the people,” as they’d put their hands together. I’m not sure what it was supposed to teach, in fact, I’m still not sure as I think about it. I did get the idea that people gathered together in the church. A similar concept are words that we stopped using as a family when our kids were young just to get a point across: “Let’s go to church.” Again, that phrase conveys a similar concept--we go to church and it is a building.
As we know the church isn’t a building though that concept still is prevalent today. The beauty of the architecture, the tall steeples, --and we must not overlook the awe inspiring stained glass windows some have-- are not the church. On a personal note, I love stained glass windows, though I’m not sure God does. Think about the cost and care that is put into them as well as the ornate buildings that are erected in the name of worshiping God when we know that it is just a building and true worship can take place anywhere at anytime. We know these things, but still we have a hard time getting away from calling and seeing the building as the church.
Our understanding has gotten better as to what the church isn’t, but if we’re not careful we don’t go forward with our discovery of what it is. In the Greek (a phrase that always makes you sound scholarly) the word we translate church is ekklhsia. The word was used to indicate a gathering of people called out of their homes. It came to mean in a Christian sense “those called out of the world to be God’s people.”
The book of the Bible we call Acts, is sometimes called the Acts of the Apostles, or the Acts of the Early Church. It is this second concept that inspired us to choose the license plate we did several years ago, BACTS29. Now if you look at the chapters assigned to the book of Acts you will notice it only has 28 chapters. So, why 29? Because the actions, the living out, the progression of the church did not stop at the end of the 28th chapter of Acts. We are that continuing story of God’s love being spread to the world around us. We are the church.
So, how do we be the church? How do we live out Acts 29? We do it by realizing that we aren’t just called out of our homes on a Sunday morning to gather at a building in our community. We are called out of our earthly existence, daily, to show the world how much God loves them, to explain what Jesus did for them as He was tortured and painfully placed on that cross. We do it by taking the time to stop and care. We do it by thinking of others and not just what the day or the event will bring for us. We do it by having the same irresistible love for others that Jesus has for us. We do it by being the 29th chapter of Acts. We do it by being God’s called out--out of the world, within the world.
So as you drive by a church building this week, and they’re pretty noticeable, think about being the church. Not a building where you see all the people, but instead that group of people. We are His church. Jesus tells Peter in Matthew 16, that the gates of Hades will not be able to overcome His church. Think about that power that is backing you up as you share God’s love with those around you!
Being what I need to be,