I was talking with a friend recently about the people who are part of the church with us. If you remember, several people moved out of the area last summer. Also, there are several families who are looking for jobs or who are considering moving for other reasons.
My friend asked me if I was concerned that if more and more people move out of the area, then our church might cease to exist.
This questions took me by surprise, because I honestly had not even thought about it. Why? Because I don’t think about the church in that way anymore.
You see, if the people are not meeting together, then the church does cease to exist. Of course, organizationally, something called “Messiah Baptist Church” (what we all ourselves) might still exist, but the church – that is, the people who are meeting together – will not be meeting together any longer.
Let me give you an example. Let’s assume, for this example, that exactly 50 people and only those 50 people meet together. Let’s also assume that these people all themselves “Our Community Church.” Not, what happens if those 50 people all stop meeting together as the church (for various reasons), but 50 different people now meet together and continue to call themselves “Our Community Church.”
Even though the new group calls itself by the same name, it is a different group of believers. The church is different. It is not the same. In fact, since none of the same people remain in the second group, “Our Community Church” is now a completely different church.
However, many believers and churches are spending time, energy, and resources to make sure that the organization (whatever they call themselves, however they are organized, whatever their creed or confession, wherever they meet) continues after the people are gone. They are building into an organization.
Our focus should be building into the lives of people. Thus, as I see it, when those 50 people disperse, the church continues through the lives of those 50 people, not through the continuing organization.
Even now, there are people around the world who have spend time with me and my family, who have helped us grow in Christ, and who we have helped in turn. Dispersal of a group of people – while always painful if the people are truly a church in the scriptural sense – can be very good for the kingdom of God.
So, after thinking for a while, I told my friend, “No, I’m not concerned with whether or not ‘Messiah Baptist Church’ continues to exist if all the people move away. However, I am concerned that the people involved continue to proclaim the gospel, build up other believers, and serve people that God brings into their lives. In this sense, the church will continue, wherever we are and whatever we are doing.”