What would it look like if we stopped viewing the institution/organization/building as church and began viewing people as “the” church? What would it look like if instead of viewing our participation in the institution as doing church we would view our interaction with relationships as doing (more appropriately “being”) church?
These are the questions I’ve found myself asking in this period of searching for church. There are several observations I would like to share with you.
Church is defined by many within the context of participation and/or physical establishment. Church is something one does. Go to worship services, Sunday school, Bible studies, volunteer in youth ministry…These activities are the core of what they mean whenever they speak about church. They live out church by getting more involved.
Their priorities and attention shifted from people to activities. As long as Christians perform in the institution, they are doing church. For some believers, church is performance. Because performance is king, relationships are left in the margins. There’s no time to relationally invest in community. Intimate conversations with relationships are rare occasions. Quality time with fellow believers revolve around tight schedules.
These observations have prompted me to reevaluate my perceptions of what church is. Biblically, church is never referred to as an institution or building or temple. It is certainly never referred to as something you do or go to. The Bible identifies church as a people. I knew that. Many believers know that. But to make it a paradigm is difficult, and it is a difficulty we must overcome if we want to truly live the reality of church.
Everything changes when we view people as church. Relationships begin to matter. Attending Sunday services, Bible studies or whatever else we do means nothing if we do not prioritize our relationships. I am reminded by some profound words of Jesus: “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” Many of Jesus’ teachings elevated relationship over ritualistic practices. In this excerpt, Jesus tells his listeners that one should not worship God if he does not reconcile with his brother… I don’t think the pious law-abiding leaders liked the sound of that. Our service (participation) means nothing if we don’t care about our relationships.
Believers, we do not live church by performing, we live it by being. This “being” comes through our relationships with people. If you find that you do not have time for relationships, you need to seriously reevaluate your paradigms about church; because not having time for relationships is not having time for church. Jesus cares more about your relationship with His children than about your gifts to Him.
O Lord, may I not miss the point. May I never substitute people with my need to perform and achieve. May I never ignore my relationships—my church.