With the rise of online gatherings, there’s no doubt you’ve heard someone say, “The church is not a building.” But if the church isn’t a building, then what is it? We live in a time with access to more churches, sermons, resources than ever before, so the question is, “Why church?” Why would someone physically go to a church building in 2021?
In this episode of Spirit In Motion, Church on the Move Lead Pastor Whit George and Kids Pastor Adam Bush, explore the statement “the church is not a building.” We like to call a statement like that a true lie. There’s a hint of truth to it, but ultimately the idea has resulted in a misunderstood, broken concept… a true lie.
“YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH THE CHURCH SHOULD BE COVENANTAL.”
What’s the depth of your relationship with your home church? Often, we treat our churches like we treat Apple. We’re big fans of Apple because their products work, but if we no longer like their product, we’d move on to the next best thing. There’s a commitment to the brand, but there isn’t a covenant. Our relationship with our church really comes down to how well the church can serve us or align with what we believe; it doesn’t take much to move from a fan to critic of the church.
Like marriage, the church is meant to be deeper than a consumer-style relationship that’s based on wants, needs, and expectations being met. Your relationship with the church should be covenantal—based on deep, lasting commitment. A covenantal relationship says, “for better or for worse, I’m here with you.”
The mass amounts of content options and church options have caused us to view the church as a buffet line—our level of commitment is up to us. We think, whoever is meeting my needs at the time, whichever church organization, spiritual advisor, YouTube prophet, whatever is meeting my needs, I listen to them and get what I feel like I need. The problem is you never really end up being shepherded, pastored, or led.
We tend to listen to what we want to hear, but a healthy relationship means hearing things that you don’t want to hear from time to time.
In Scripture, we see Paul talking about having “itching ears”. He says a time will come when people will run to teachers who soothe our ears. Simply put, we’ll only listen to people who say the things that we want to hear. That can be really dangerous because part of being in a healthy relationship is hearing things that you don’t want to hear.
Gathering with other believers is an essential part of following Jesus. Let’s be clear: the building is not special; the gathering is special. Throughout scripture, we see God constantly looking for His people, His congregants, the people gathered in His name.
God connects to us, not just as individuals but in a community. If you think about it from the very beginning, God tells Adam and Eve, “Be fruitful and multiply.” God tells Abraham, “I’m going to make you into a nation.” In other words, God is continually forming a group of people. The Old Testament story is God in search of a people—God looking for a nation. Israel becomes that people. The New Testament tells the story of a new people being brought into the body of Christ, becoming one body, one gathering, one group of people.
To say that you can connect to God without the church is to cut yourself off from the assembly or the people of God, which is something that God has desired from the very beginning. When you cut yourself off from the people of God, you work against God’s plan, God’s desire, and God’s design.
As a community, we grow so much more when we’re in deep relationships with one another. Being a Christ-follower is not just about taking in spiritual information; it’s about being connected to His body of believers, sharing stories, prayers, hope, and being challenged directly.
Think about this: your body has knowledge your brain does not have. Most of us can’t list the keys’ arrangement on the keyboard, but our fingers know where they are. You probably couldn’t tell someone all the streets in the neighborhood you grew up on, but you would know your way around again if you went back there. Your body has knowledge that your brain doesn’t have.
All the different things you participate in are shaping you more than you know. The act of getting out of bed, getting dressed, driving across town, walking into a room, sitting in silence for a moment, singing songs, standing up and sitting down, and all the different things that we participate in when we go to a physical church service are shaping us more than we know.
When we disconnect ourselves from community and physically being in church, we lose something more significant than we realize. We lose connection to the body.
The church is not a spectator sport. It’s not a big show to be entertained by the latest song, dance, and great sermon. It’s an invitation, not just to attend but to be a part of a community. Church is an invitation to a more profound commitment to Christ by spurring one another toward good works.
Listen to Episode One of Spirit in Motion, True Lies: “Christians should be ready to defend their beliefs.”