the weblog of Alan Knox

Hanging with friends at the beach… but how can I call this church

Posted by on Jun 17, 2013 in definition, gathering | 11 comments

Hanging with friends at the beach… but how can I call this church

As I mentioned last week in my post “Gathering with the church at the beach again,” instead of gathering as we normally do on Sunday, we spent yesterday at Wrightsville Beach, NC (near Wilmington, NC).

Most of the people were from this area and meet with us regularly. One family moved from here to the Atlanta area about three years ago. A couple of families spent Saturday night in Wilmington. Most of us drove to the beach Sunday morning. Some began arriving around 9:00 a.m., while the others arrived between then and about 1:00 p.m.

We helped each other carry coolers, and chairs, and boogie boards, and other assorted stuff from cars to the beach, and we helped each other find parking places. (Parking was awful!) We hung out in the shade of a pier, played volleyball, and played in the surf and sand. (Okay, full disclosure: I hurt my knee running a half marathon a couple of week ago, so I didn’t play volleyball or play in the surf or sand. I just hung out under pier.)

There was no sermon. No one gave a formal “teaching.” We didn’t sing any songs. We didn’t stop to take prayer requests. We didn’t pass an offering plate.

So, how can I call this “church”?

Well, it’s “church” because we are all brothers and sisters in Christ (children of God) and we were gathered together. That is “church” – based on the Greek term “ekklesia” associated with followers of Jesus Christ.

Being “church” (ekklesia) is not about what we do or don’t do – although some things may help us grow in maturity in Jesus Christ more than other things. Being “church” (ekklesia) is about who we are together in Jesus Christ.

We started disbanding around 2:00 p.m. Others stayed until after 6:00 p.m. Some came back home to the Wake Forest / Youngsville area; others drove to Myrtle Beach or the Outer Banks; still others stayed in the Wilmington area. And, of course, our friends who moved away three years ago drove back toward Atlanta.

While we’re separated, we remain children of God and followers of Jesus Christ. But, when we come together (anytime we’re together with any other brothers and sisters in Christ), we become “ekklesia” (church) in Jesus Christ – wherever we are and whatever we’re doing.


11 Comments

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  1. 6-17-2013

    I call my random gatherings with other saints church when the Holy Spirit shows up. No one needs to get slain in the spirit, break out in tongues or even preach a sermon. It can be much more “ordinary” and subtle.

    At my first home church gathering someone I did not know prayed over me. I was a little surprised since I had not held out that I had any prayer requests nor did I feel like there was one I was holding back.

    However when I arrived home I found out some things had been going on with my family. I and the other person that had been referenced in the prayer had needed spiritual protection at the time and the Holy Spirit had been faithful to have that take place.

    “Where two or three are gathered…” we are not alone. We have His presence and His presence is active and powerful. Amen

  2. 6-17-2013

    My thoughts are all over the place regarding this post. I have to admit, it doesn’t sit well with me, for a number of reasons. On the positive side, we can relax together as a body of believers in doing a variety of activities. I suppose going to “the beach” qualifies. In fact, I like going to the beach, to relax in the sun and swim in the water.

    But if I were to put a “spiritual scale” against this activity, as a ‘church activity,’ I would have to rate it a ‘0’ as compared to a Sunday School picnic say, which I would rate a ‘5’. In fact, some men I know would rate ‘going to the beach’ a -10 on a scale of 0 to 10. I think the reasons for that are more than obvious. Having just sat and listened to yet another testimony of a brother who has stumbled (and fallen, enduring a marriage breakdown in the process) because of porn may be a factor in my thoughts today.

    A few things came to mind as I meditated on the concept of a church gathering at the beach… when we gather as a local church (assembly, ekklesia), the word ‘local’ comes to mind. Driving 2.5 hours (for some) to the beach doesn’t constitute ‘local,’ does it? The testimony is removed from it’s normal locality. So, a gathering of the local church this is not.

    Second, when we gather as an assembly, it is to the Lord Jesus we gather. He is the gathering center, and it is the Holy Spirit who gathers us together. And the purpose again is also obvious (or should be). He (the Holy Spirit) leads us into all truth, and specifically, truth about the Lord Jesus. Our spiritual gifts are evident at meetings of the assembly (or should be) and we need to remember these are gifts of the Holy Spirit. He is in control of what happens at gatherings of the Lord’s people (or He should be).

    Does the Holy Spirit know how to play volleyball in the sand? Perhaps, but then I think, does He even care? I don’t think so.

    What He does care about is our Spiritual growth. “Let all things be done unto edifying.” I think if we really met at the beach as an assembly… it would soon empty the beach of on-lookers! Either that or we would be driven away. The world has no appetite for the things of God. Unless of course, we are indistinguishable from the rest.

    I see this “gathering at the beach” as simply a reaction to the mundane, orthodox, unScriptural meetings of many churches today. A ‘teeter-totter’ reaction which has swung entirely in the opposite direction to what people see and experience in the churches today.

    There is a middle ground, and this is not it. For some, there’s nothing wrong with it. For others, everything is wrong with it — especially as an assembly activity.

    My thoughts go to the persecuted church…I wonder if we don’t need a good dose of persecution to bring some reality into our so-called Christian lives? I believe that would find us gathering together in forests and basements instead of “at the beach” in our swimming trunks, bikinis and kayaks. And it would drive us to the Word… not to the waves.

    I realize this is a very negative reaction to something that sounds very innocent. But that is exactly the allure of the world, and we are not of the world any longer. In it, yes, but not of it. Or are we?

  3. 6-17-2013

    We were supposed to come to Wrightsville Beach yesterday to join Alan & Church but didn’t because of many reasons. We instead went to the beach that our family & Church go to regularly.

    My husband & I have been called to disciple 3 people – ages 6 3 and 1 right now.

    My son, age 6 – upon pulling into the parking lot – asked which part of the Church family we were going to meet today – people he already knows or new Church family? Should he expect to play first or talk first? This is a normal question & conversation we have with him – anywhere we go… knowing we can meet with the Church anywhere, anytime.

    It ended up just being our family of 5 and my mom. We didn’t read our Bibles or sing together as a group. But my son & I took a long walk and we saw dolphins and talked about how amazing God is to give us creatures like dolphins to enjoy and watch. My daughter & I sat together and sang praise songs as she fell asleep on my lap for her nap. My husband & I were able to have a time of solitude together to just sit and be together without distraction since my mom offered to watch the kiddos for a minute. I spent a lot of time praising the Lord on another walk I got to have all by myself just me and the Lord — which was a very soul stirring, precious time for a Mommy of 3 children.

    In a world of extreme busy ness and extreme rhythms of life that really distract from and fight against the peace & Sabbath Jesus calls us into, I am so thankful I have time with my disciples like this.

    To not separate out for them when we are Church and when we are not. But instead, to show them the Lord is everywhere…and we are the Church everywhere….to show them what a trip to the beach (park, neighborhood, anywhere) under the Lord’s reign could look like.

    Imagine if all parents and teachers understood how to do this for their disciples? It reminds me of Jesus walking through a wheat field, talking.

    Was I being the Church with my closest Church family yesterday? or were we just being a family? What’s the difference?

    What amount of fun is allowable to no longer be called the Church but only “family”?

    In a world of much discipline & strain & stress & work….. I am so thankful that Jesus allows us to literally rest together as part of our discipleship.

    If we went to the beach each week and got drunk, ignored each other, grumbled about everything, and didn’t think about the Lord at all —I don’t think we would be built up in Christ.

    But if a people go – and build great memories together – spend time learning about each other – build a closer closer relationship… and are focused on the Lord together… beautiful!! God-glorifying. Edifying!

  4. 6-17-2013

    P.S. Just another after thought…. if I believed I wasn’t going to see the Church except one hour a week, I would probably have more activity crunched into a smaller time…..

    BUT if you know you are going to be with the Church many many more hours this week – many different forms, places, times – then you really can just spend time enjoying each other in many informal ways… even by simply enjoying this beautiful earth God created one morning a week or more.

    If one only sees their Church family for 1 hour a week…. they probably do have a lot more determination to fit in a certain amount of activity….And the activity they do will probably be the traditional ways we know the Church to gather (read scripture, praise in song, meal, the Lords supper) to make sure they get the most activity out of their time.

    So it’s just a totally different perspective/mindset of what Church is & could be & could look like.

  5. 6-17-2013

    Allan and Randi: You could be building the church on a sand foundation by meeting at the beach. Watch out for large waves of judgment. If you see any large flat rocks protruding from the sand, near the water of course, Id suggest you gather there.
    That way you’ll be scriptural. :-)
    blessings
    Greg

  6. 6-17-2013

    ToscaSac,

    When we gather with our brothers and sisters in Christ, the Holy Spirit always shows up, and we are always the church. Of course, that doesn’t mean that we always allow the Spirit to work as he desires, but that has nothing to do with location.

    Ron,

    I’m honestly surprised at your “spiritual scale,” given that I didn’t say and you didn’t ask what we actually did while we were gathered at the beach and given that you didn’t say what was done or said during a “Sunday School picnic.” It seems you’ve made a judgment just based on the location (beach) and/or the type of gathering (Sunday School picnic) instead of what actually happened during those gatherings.

    Concerning “local church,” I think the modern notion of “local church” does not align with the scriptural description of “church in a locale.” While at the beach, we were certainly a visible expression of the church while we were “the church that gathered under Oceanic Pier in Wrightsville Beach, NC.” Perhaps this question would help explain my position: what “local church” was Paul and his apostolic companions part of when they gathered with believers in Phillipi, or Corinith, or Antioch, or Jerusalem? I’d suggest that they were part of the church in each locale while they were in that locale.

    There is great spiritual benefit in sharing our lives with one another – any part and every part of our lives. This is fellowship, and as John wrote, our fellowship with one another is fellowship with the father and with his son Jesus Christ. (1 John 1:3)

    The Holy Spirit was definitely present and working while we were hanging out under the pier, playing in the sand and surf, and even playing volleyball. During the 4 hours that I was at the beach, I personally witnessed the Spirit manifest himself in many ways (spiritual gifts), including teaching, shepherding, encouraging, giving, serving, administration, mercy, helps, wisdom, and discernment. (There may have been other manifestations that I did not personally witness.)

    And, yes, whenever we gather together, we should seek to build up one another – all of us working together to help each other grow in maturity in Jesus Christ. We even seek to do that when we are gathered at the beach (or driving to/from the beach).

    Since we do not gather like “the mundane, orthodox, unScriptural meetings of many churches today,” I can promise you that our gathering at the beach was not a reaction to the way any other church might or might not gather. Instead, it was a time for us to share our lives with one another, and in doing so also share the life of Jesus Christ with one another.

    Randi,

    We missed you, but I’m glad that you were able to spend time with your family. I also enjoyed the time I was able to spend with my son and daughter both at the beach and also while we were driving to the beach. It made Sunday a special Father’s Day for me.

    Greg,

    Oh, yes, we were definitely gathered on the rock, even while at the beach.

    -Alan

  7. 6-18-2013

    To Me this is great!! in the U.K. There are church’s that meet in skate parks pubs in coffee shops,these are various demoninations so called new expressions we live near the sea at times we baptize in the sea publicly we sing we eat we share the word of God, are we then not a church?.
    We at times conduct church meetings at starbucks costa coffee, share fish and chips, ice cream,give glory to God, yours in Christ Richard

  8. 6-18-2013

    Richard,

    Sounds great to me! Share life together as brothers and sisters in Christ wherever you go.

    -Alan

  9. 6-23-2013

    I do not think the BODY OF CHRIST is a group of people who gather on a saturday or sunday and ORALLY sing and praise God and Jes tus only , but its principally a group of people whose lives are given over to loving God through Living Christ and by so doing playing their part in establishing the Kingdom of God on earth. Hence at every meeting of the followers of Christ and for whatever reason , it will not be OUT OF PLACE to discuss and encourage each other in the principles of the Christ-Life ?, and what better day to do that than on a sabbath day?

  10. 6-23-2013

    Franklin,

    Yes, I agree that our goal should be to discuss and encourage one another to live in manner worthy of Jesus Christ and the gospel… any time of any day.

    -Alan

  11. 6-24-2013

    God is the Spirit of Love that exists for eternity. We don’t see God because we just don’t open our hearts to Him. The windows of our hearts are closed to God and we set out in search of love elsewhere in the world. We think that by gaining a lot of money we can get love for ourselves and be happier, but the richest man in the world still look out for love himself. We may think by being famous like a movie star, we may have love in plenty through the admiration of the crowd, but many celebrities find themselves very desperate for love. We may think by being powerful our life will be happier because others have to bow down at our presence, but the powerful rulers of the world are constantly hiring bodyguards for their own safety.

    Jesus said: “The Kingdom of Heaven” is close at hand” (Mathew 10:7); didn’t he reveal to us that God is very close to us, did he? Sometime our hearts vibrate intensely by an act of love from someone. Is that a glimpse of love from God that penetrate through the gaps of our heart’s windows, isn’t it? Just open widely our hearts to God, the Spirit of Love, and we will have His Light fills in our dark room. We will be able to enjoy life and our joy will be complete (John 16:24).

    Having God’s Light for our life we will be able to see clearly the purpose of our existence in the world, and we will know what to do with our life.

    When we have received the full light of God, then anything we think, or we say, or we do are under God’s guidance. Our journey is holy; our everyday activities are holy. From sweeping the floor to resting and contemplating the presence of God and His work around us. Our daily life is form by a chain of prayers without pronouncing a word.

    We are worshipping God in spirit and through our work (1 Thessalonians 1:3). There is not a moment that we are away from the presence of God. We are also gathering together within the ONE spirit, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God, the Spirit of LOVE (1John 4:8). We are born for one another needs; we are born for LOVE; we are in this world for serving LOVE in the most ordinary way and in the most humble work that God has assigned to us.

    Do we need to be in a sumptuous building with an organ, say long prayers, sing many hymns and listen to long homely to worship God? Can we just be together, for one another, loving one another in simplicity and sincerity to acknowledge the presence of God among us and within us?

    Jesus gave us a simple commandment: “Love one another as I have love you” (John 13:34-35). Did he imply we have to perform extraordinary ceremonies for worshipping God? Let’s not put God sitting high above in an altar, or in heaven for worshipping. Truly God wants to be within us and be worship constantly in our spirit and in truth (john 4:24) through our daily life.

    The Kingdom of Heaven is close at hand, or God is close at hand, or LOVE is close at hand, this means stop looking for God at the wrong place. Just open our hearts to God’s Spirit every morning and receive His Light for the full day.

    May your joy be full in God’s grace.

    Rom 8:9 You, however, are not under the control of the human nature but under the control of the Spirit, since God’s Spirit lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of the Messiah, he does not belong to him.