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Church: God's People Gatheredby Duane Mabee on August 25, 2022
What is the “church”? I doubt anyone at North River would say it is the building. Most of us would say something like, “the church is the people,” but Jesus promised to be with us whenever two or three are gathered in His Name, (Matt. 18:20). In 1 Corinthians 11:18, Paul gives instructions for “when you come together as a church,” These verses suggest that, in a sense, a church is not a church until it comes together (Hansen & Leeman).
In Rediscover Church, Hansen and Leeman write:
Sometimes people like to say that “a church is a people, not a place.” It’s slightly more accurate to say that a church is a people assembled in a place. Regularly assembling or gathering makes a church a church. This doesn’t mean a church stops being a church when the people aren’t gathered, any more than a soccer “team” stops being a team when the members are not playing. The point is, regularly gathering together is necessary for a church to be a church, just like a team has to gather to play in order to be a team.
One key purpose of the church is to demonstrate to the world the change being in Christ makes in relationships between people the world would expect to hate each other, (Eph. 2:11-22). That difference is most clearly observed in the interactions of diverse believers when they are together.
The church also exists to encourage and build each other up, (1 Thess. 5:11). We are to “consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near,” (Heb. 10:24-25 ESV). How can we think carefully about motivating someone we don’t really know and aren’t around them enough to see what they are or aren’t doing?
Many New Testament instructions cannot be obeyed outside of the context of gathered relationships. How can you be patient with someone you are not around enough to be irritated by? How can you forgive someone you’re not close enough to, to be hurt by? How can you help someone bear his burdens, if you don’t have any idea what those burdens might be?
Gathering isn’t always convenient, but it is necessary to fulfilling our purpose. In-person relationships can be messy, but a mutual commitment to work together to clean up the mess glorifies God. Gathering isn’t optional. You have to show up and get to know each other well enough to show out to the world Who Christ is and the difference He makes in relationships.