Lately I’ve been struck with the consistent answers I’ve been receiving from friends when I ask them, “How’s your faith?” What I’ve heard is, “Oh man, I haven’t been to church in weeks,” or, “I haven’t been to church in months,” or, “I didn’t go last week.” I started thinking, “I couldn’t care less about the last time you went to church! I care how you are doing with Jesus and your relationship with Him!”
Why did my question immediately get mistaken for an inquiry of their frequent or infrequent church attendance? Why do we often equate our faith with church? For most of us, going to a building for church each week has very little to do with the Great Commission. Church is a place where we as believers can get little nuggets of information about the Bible that we might not get on our own. It’s a place where we can be recharged. If we understand that we are in a spiritual war, we can see church as our war planning room. We meet there in groups in order to get charged up to then go out and do the work we’re called to do.
It’s the work we do after we leave the building that I’m asking about. It’s the mindset of asking the Lord, “Show me opportunities today. Help me not to fall into the world’s traps but to instead go against the traffic and be a light for Your Kingdom.” I don’t think I’d get the same answer from Christians in other countries about church attendance equaling faith. In fact, I don’t think they’d even mention Sunday mornings.
Likewise, if you asked me how my relationship with Jen, my wife, is, I could tell you about how great our Wednesday night dates are. But if that’s the only time we interact, that would make marriage impossible. It’s the same with our relationship with Christ, which is often likened to a marriage. It’s not a once-a-week thing, it’s a full-time commitment that brings new life and new identity to who we are.
Don’t get me wrong, church is not irrelevant. But I think we might have it a little mixed up today. Church isn’t faith, our relationship with Christ is what brings about faith. Church is a small, but important, piece of that walk. I don’t think when any of us get to Heaven that Jesus will be standing there with an attendance chart, calculating how many Sundays we missed. But if we never go, He’s going to say, “You have no idea what you missed out on — so many groups of believers who were meeting every week in My name!”
Church isn’t restricted to a building. In fact, in Matthew 18:20, Jesus said, “Where two or three gather in My name, there am I with them.” Guys automatically start feeling depressed or guilty when they think about how many Sundays they’ve missed, but I like to tell them that we are able to do Church right here, right now!
Don’t confuse God’s version of Church with a certain day of the week, in a certain place, where you wear certain attire, where you listen to someone on stage. That’s awesome, and we will grow there in ways we may not be able to on our own, but that’s not the extent of Church. Doing “Church” with a few guys around a campfire, talking about Jesus, is every bit as much of Church as it was with Jesus a few thousand years ago. Whether it’s with a couple people or a couple thousand, when we sit around and discuss God and His Word, fellowshipping in His name, we’re doing Church.
Do we need to change what the identity of Church looks like to others? Church is where we recharge to then go out into the trenches of war. We may be able to resist temptations and put on a mask for a few hours on Sunday morning, but how is your walk with Christ going?
“You are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the chief cornerstone. In Him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in Him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit.” — Ephesians 2:19-22
— Adam LaRoche, former MLB player