Last week, I had a great conversation with a brother in Christ on Facebook. That conversation reminded me of another conversation.
A young man started gathering with us on Sunday mornings a few years ago. Soon, he completely understood what we were all about, and he was sharing his life with other people among the church. He began serving people with the many gifts and talents that God had given him. In spite of being part of churches (even famous churches) for many years, he loved and thrived in an environment of mutual edification and discipleship.
He began to explain our understanding of church to his friends. He would explain about sharing our lives with one another – spending time with one another throughout the week – hanging out with each other at coffee shops – going to dinner with one another – helping each other with service projects – and on and on.
Eventually, (he told me) his friends would always come to the same question: “Yes, but what do you do when you get together with the church on Sunday morning?”
He would tell them that we often pray together, sing together, study Scripture together, eat together. They would tell him that they do the same things with the church on Sunday mornings (except eat together). He would try to explain that he’s not talking about the things we do when we gather together; he’s talking about a shared life in Jesus Christ, with a planned gathering as only one aspect of that life.
But, as much as he would try to explain it to them, they would always return to this: “But, we do the same things when we gather with the church.”
See, the thing is, my friend had learned that church is not about the things you do when you get together with other believers. Instead, the fellowship and shared lives is more important than any particular activity. Oh, there will be certain activities. You will want to pray for one another, and you will want to sing along when God has placed a song on someone’s heart, and you will want to understand Scripture, and you will want to eat together…
However, the activities are not the point. In fact, the activities should flow out of our shared lives together. The activities are not a beginning or an end in themselves.
But, until someone understand the importance of fellowship in Jesus Christ – actually sharing lives with one another, not just attending a meeting together – then the activities have to take central stage. (And, thus, we have fights and wars over exactly how to do those activities…)
When fellowship in Jesus Christ becomes central – because Jesus Christ is central – then the activities (and exactly how to do the activities) become less important.
So, “what do we do when we get together with the church?” We share our lives with one another… “No, I mean, what do you DO? What activities?” Whatever is necessary to help one another grow in Jesus Christ.