Quarantine has caused us to redefine many things. For example ‘social’ in the phrase “social distance” means something like “unsocial.” And the ‘distance’ in that same phrase means 6 feet. But there is one word that is close to my heart and close to my area of expertise that I have seen shifting over the years.
What does the word ‘church‘ mean?
I have seen people post pictures of the beach, the woods, and the road where they are out for a morning run and refer to all of these locations or “experiences” as ‘church.’ And I wouldn’t be quick to call them all wrong, except that they are. Even as we gathered with our families around our screens for a couple of months during quarantine and watched a sermon or a service produced by a pastor, church staff or volunteer, we didn’t “do church.”
The very root of the word church in the Greek language is a word that means assembly or gathering. Unfortunately, the roots of the English word come down from the building itself in Greek “house of the Lord.” But since the foundational principles of church come from the New Testament, using the Greek understanding of “ecclesia” which means assembly or gathering would make sense.
I do not believe that the calling for follower of Christ to gather is a small thing. So much of the New Testament is taken up with personal relationships within the gathering. We are made for relationships. We express our communication so much better when our arms are present to offer a hug. Our posture and our body language communicates. And our voices mingle together in worship when we are together. Further, there is something extremely beneficial when I sit in room full of other people who love Jesus. Many of us spend all week in a world that doesn’t love Jesus, and Sunday morning is a chance to remember that we are not alone!
I was motivated to write this blog defining the church because we are coming out of quarantine. And some may begin to slide away from the definition of church as an assembly or gathering. We have had a season of being accustomed to watching something online and believing it was church. I have had multiple conversations with people who have taken the opportunity to listen in to other churches during this quarantine – other local churches as well as churches outside their community, even in other states. And I would never discourage that. I have my list of favorites I listen to on my phone. But they are not my church. They are not going to call me back if I wander away. They are not going to provide meals if I go in for surgery. They will not put their arms around me and comfort me in grief.
Jesus has called his people into gathering because we NEED each other. We need the challenge that comes from loving one another. We need the accountability that keeps us walking with God. We need the reminder that we are not alone. And we need the flesh and blood encouragement that comes through physical presence. I love the church! I need the church! And further the church needs me. Everyone has some gift or ability for the building up of their local gathering.
Without the local gathering together, we will miss out on the challenge, encouragement, and patience that God wants to work into our hearts. ReCAST Church was not online during this quarantine. We only posted some “Sunday Services.” ReCAST Church was longing for and anticipating the return to the assembly of His people. We looked forward to the face to face gathering of our family. The church was dispersed for a season. But the church is never fully the church until we gather in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.
With two Sunday gatherings together post-quarantine, my heart is rejoicing! It has been so good to be back together. Without gathering together we would cease to remain a church. But in gathering, we come together under Christ our head and we form a body that works together under His leadership. I find challenge and beauty in this gathering. I hope that you are committed to the local gathering of your church.
Church isn’t your trip to the beach. Church isn’t time alone in the woods. Church isn’t a run out on the open road. Church isn’t an online experience. If you look around you and you don’t see anyone to challenge you, anyone to hug you in your pain, anyone who you can serve . . . Then you are not at church.