In the March 24th edition of Ministry Matters, Rebekah Simon-Peter suggests that for Lent we give up going to church. She says, “The biggest reason I am suggesting to give up going to church has to do with the meaning of the word church. Church is drawn from the Latin ecclesia and the Greek ekklesia. It’s where we get the words ecclesiology and ecclesiastical.
Rather than refer to a building, biblically speaking, it means a called out people of God. Just as Jesus called Andrew and Peter, then James and John to follow him, so in a sense all followers of Jesus are called out too.
The point is, church is more about being a community of believers than it is about the building that people may meet in. It’s more about our way of being, than our location for meeting.
So we can’t very well go to church, when we are the church. In fact, that may be a cop out. A way of avoiding our own personal responsibility for letting the Light shine through us, or actually practicing our faith.
Maybe that’s why there’s such an emphasis these days on getting beyond the church walls to do mission and ministry. It’s the church in action, out in in the world, that makes a difference. Not necessarily the quality of the building.
Or maybe that’s why more people report feeling closer to God in nature than in a church building. The buildings themselves, notwithstanding the ancient churches of Europe, often aren’t inherently special. It’s we the people — alive with the Spirit — that can be something special.
This Lent, it’s time to give up going to church. Time to finally be church.”
She points to three ways to do that, as identified by Reggie McNeal in his book “Missional Renaissance.”
- Shift from an internal to an external focus. Look beyond organizational goals of the church to the needs of the community around you.
- Shift from program development to people development.
- Shift from church-based to Kingdom-based leadership. Free people up from club-based activities like chairing committees that don’t make much of a difference to reaching out to the world around you. This can be even at the simplest levels of praying for and blessing others. Or the level of abolishing hunger or homelessness in your town.
Jesus himself spent more time out and about proclaiming the Kingdom than he ever did in synagogue. His followers were with him every step of the way. That’s where he connected with people and brought the Kingdom to life. Isn’t it time we followed suit and did the same?
Don’t use this as an excuse to “forsake gathering together” but as a challenge to embrace being the church in our community. Find a place of service today, then gather with other Christians to share and celebrate what God is doing in the world and for further equipping of the saints to do even more.