What is the church? Many people in our western culture may perceive it to be a building that they drive to on a Sunday morning, clutching a Bible in their hand; a building where there is good coffee, good music, and a preacher who talks at you about some guy named Jesus for forty (plus) minutes. But is that really all that church is? If so, I fear that our western culture is missing the point of what the church truly is and how it should fulfill its purpose by a wide margin.
My wife, Chloey, and I took a class together at the University of Northwestern a little over a year ago that was taught by one of their many ministry professors, Dr. Peter Kapsner. In his teaching, he utilizes a definition for the church that has changed how I view the church, its purpose, and its objective. The definition is as follows, quoted from his podcast called, Deeper Magic: “The people of God, following Jesus, indwelt by the Spirit to shine the light of His now and coming Kingdom into this broken and dark world so that all of the imagers may be brought peace and joy in the midst of their sorrow and ultimately brought safely home.”
I think the very first thing that is important to note about this definition is that the church is not a building, but rather a people. These people being those that follow Jesus Christ as their Lord and, therefore, have the Holy Spirit dwelling within them. Romans 12:4-5 talks about how those that follow Jesus are each a crucial part of one whole body - this body being a figure of the church. The purpose of this body of believers is to go out into the darkest and most broken parts of their world to show others the light and love of God, as each and every person is Imago Dei (meaning, everyone was created to bear the image of God, according to Genesis 1:27). We shine this light by being like Jesus to those around us; being loving, gentle, and humble in heart. By doing this, we bring peace and joy through the Holy Spirit to each and every person in this life so that, ultimately, God may bring each one that calls on His name into the safety of His embrace.
Now, this is not to suggest that we cannot experience such things in the organization of a Sunday morning service. God is certainly able and willing to use all things to edify His people and reconcile His creation. However, this does mean that we can experience church in all kinds of places, not just on Sunday mornings. We can experience it in our homes, places of work, restaurants, bars, schools, grocery stores; the never-ending list goes on. Even the most unlikely places are still places where God is more than able to thrive in and through His beloved people. This is because God will go above and beyond to ensure that His beloved Imago Dei are restored to Him. After all, God proved this by sending His only Son on the greatest rescue mission of all time. A mission to save His beloved from certain death and experience a truly abundant life. With this in mind, I implore you to not just go to church. I implore you to be the church. Rejoice that you, who know Christ, can experience joy and peace in the midst of sorrow and have been brought safely into the loving arms of your heavenly Father (arms that no power can take you from). And as you rejoice, go out into the dark and broken places around you, deeply loving those along the way so that they may experience a taste of the Lord’s love for them and those that call on the name of Jesus may be brought safely home into those same loving arms. This is, after all, the great commission (Matthew 28:19-20).
Note: If you love podcasts, go and listen to Dr. Peter Kapsner’s podcast Deeper Magic. It is, in all senses, life changing.