You see, as I've stopped to ask this question over the last couple of years, the Lord has been blowing up my nice Christian boxes. My former definition (as expressed through my language and how I lived my life): church is the gathering of believers on Sunday mornings. My new definition: "Where two or three are gathered in His name, there He is (Matthew 18:20)."
If you've been around Sunday gatherings for awhile you've heard this story come out of the preacher's mouth:
"On Sunday mornings everyone hops into the car, the husband,
wife and children have been fighting, but the minute they enter
church on goes the happy faces."
We sit in the pews, chuckle and nod with a knowing expression. We know that it is easy to smile at the pastor on Sunday and it's easy to love people that we only rub shoulders with for 2 hours once a week. But it is an entirely different story, to live with the concept that where two or three are gathered in His name, there He is. If you will allow this to be the definition of church then when does church primarily happen? For most, the answer will be, in our families. Would you have treated your kids and husband that same way in the front of "the church"? If your answer is no, my next question would be, why not? Is it because you are seeking the approval of man or that your accountable to God when you enter the building because that is where His presence is? Because it's not as if God is sitting in the "church building" on Sunday waiting for you to show up and put on your "everything is great smile." He LIVES in you 24/7 by the way. So when you are at home, with your family, sitting around the dinner table, not in your Sunday best, there He is. You are having church.
Just this week, I had "church" at a waterpark. Perhaps you think I'm being slightly sacrilegious when I say that it was one of the best "church" experiences I've had in a long time. But floating down the lazy river, we were sharing our hearts, our struggles, encouraging one another in the faith and giving each other the hope to carry on. Sitting in a pew Sunday after Sunday, shoulder to shoulder does not create osmosis of the Spirit. How am I to know my neighbor's marriage is falling apart or that a mother is at her wits end and REALLY needs help through a smile and ashake of each other's hands 3 seconds before the sermon?
I would like to leave you with this quote from Erwin, (People mistake Sunday gatherings to be a place where we) "Come to meet God INSTEAD of coming WITH God to meet each other. (In addition), many come to worship God instead of coming worshipping."
For myself personally, during this time of transitional thinking, I am being very intentional about my words. For me it is a distinction that I need to make in order to bring what I believe in mind and heart out into how I live my life. When I use the word, "CHURCH" it will be referring to every believer living life with each other any day of the week. "Sunday gatherings" is my terminology for the traditional gathering of believers on Sunday mornings in a building.