I’m sure this statement might seem odd at first glance, “If you go to church, you’re doing it wrong.”
Truth is, the “church” never has been and never will be a place or a thing. From the time Jesus instituted the church, it has always been a people. In fact, the original Greek word for church is “ekklesia”, and it means those who are called out, or an assembly or meeting of those who are called out. Most frequently in the New Testament the word is used to describe a gathering or group of people who have professed their belief in Jesus and are meeting together to worship him.
So, you and I (as followers of Jesus Christ) are the church. And, if you are a faithful follower, you are most assuredly actively practicing and growing in your faith as part of a local church somewhere relatively close to your home. To keep from getting into a whole universal church discussion, we’ll stick to the idea of a local church.
As part of a local church body of believers in Jesus Christ, you are the church no matter where you find yourself. When you gather together for meetings or services, you are the church. When you leave that gathering, and go your separate ways, you are still the church. Paul tells us that “we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us” in 2 Corinthians 5:20. God intends that his appeal, through our lives, will happen on a 365 day a year, 24 hours a day basis.
So, why is it necessarily doing it wrong if we simply “go to” church? It’s wrong, because you and I are truly the church, and because “church” is not a place we go or a thing we do. It is something we are, and there is no time-out or pause in God’s plan to use his church. When we say that we are “going to church” or we point at a building and say, “that’s the church we go to”, we minimize the universal importance of Jesus’ church.
Interestingly enough, this past weekend a popular pastor tweeted that church was “off to a good start this weekend.” While most pastors clearly know and understand that the people are the church, many still misappropriate the use of the word. My supposition here is that our personal vernacular plays an integral part in us living out what we believe. Our word choice and usage begin to shape or reshape our thinking, and our thinking leads to our practical living.
If we simply “go to” church, it becomes very easy for an unhealthy disconnect to develop in our beliefs and our practices in our daily lives. Unhealthy, because we tend to live a certain way when we are “at church”, and totally different when on our own. Placing your faith and trust in Jesus Christ, and inviting him to be Lord and Savior in your life is a complete takeover, with no room for disconnects in our faith & practice.
Try it out for yourself in the coming days. Use the phrases “church services, church family, and church building/campus” instead of the default “church”. See if it doesn’t begin to make you consider what you are saying, and build a growing understanding of what it is to be the church. Let your heart be overjoyed by the concept of “going to meet with the church” rather than simply going to church.
Remember, always, that you are the church, and make that amazing truth part of your life every single day.