Nowhere in the NT story do I find the church referred to as a place, a building. That suggests to me that it is not as accurate to say that we go to church as it is to say that we are the church. When the people of God arrive at the place of worship, the church meets there. But biblically the church is not a place where people meet, a church is the people who meet there…a group of people with a mission; a redeemed people with a Sovereign Leader, a supernatural assignment, and a celestial destiny.
We gather with other believers to worship, to fellowship, to pray, to study, to listen. Inside the building we are the church at worship; outside the building we are the church on mission. But the church is not the building. Whether we are inside the building or outside the building, we are still the church. When we leave the church building we are still the church, though we have left the premises to claim the promises.
What we do inside the building equips us for what we do outside the building. True worship reminds us of the compassion and greatness of the God we serve. Prayer helps to bring us in synch with His heart. Study helps us understand the God we represent. Fellowship helps us appreciate the team we’re part of. Listening helps us become sensitive to His leading. Inside we are helped to become the church. Then we go out to be the church and to do what He has called us to do.
I say all of that to say this: It’s extremely difficult to fulfill our assigned role unless we are part of a worshiping community. We need to gather when the church gathers, whether that’s in a grand auditorium with 10,000 or in “the church that meets in their house” with a few. (ICor 16:19) There is an edifying and energizing effect from genuine worship with the people of God, wherever it happens. It may be possible to journey as a solo Christian but it’s not possible to go alone where God sends His people – everywhere a church.
Paul used sports analogies, so I will, too. We gather in the huddle, arms around each other, and our Leader gives us our assignment. Games aren’t won in huddles; neither are they won without them.
-By Don Jacobsen