“Do you go to church?”
It’s a question I, along with many others, have been asked many times. For a long time, it’s a question I spent little to no thought dwelling over. I would just reply with the church I attend and quickly inquire if they were looking for a “church home” to join. These conversations felt as common as “What’s your favorite restaurant?” or “Have you seen any good movies lately?”, and it was a mindset I lived in for a very long time. It wasn’t until my freshman year in college that I was challenged in my thinking of the word “church.”
I was looking for a new church in a new town, and at the one I chose the pastor was talking about the “Church.” Something was off, as what he was talking about wasn’t the building we were all sitting in, but he was talking about himself, his staff, and every person sitting in that room there to listen to him. He said, “We are the Church and we exist for the world.”
From my early childhood all the way until I was 18 years old I had always viewed church as a place you go — similar to the gym, the movie theater, or even a restaurant, so this really shifted my thinking. As I was praying — and simultaneously searching the web for Bible verses about the Church — I stumbled across this verse:
Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.
Hebrews 10:24–25 NLT
It was in that moment it all hit me. I was entering a building for one hour a week (which is less than 1% of the time I’m given during a week) and thinking I had done my part as a Christian. I wasn’t living out a single truth in the verse. For me, I was having a great week with God if I listened to a worship song or two on my drive to work. I knew something had to change.
I was physically going to church, but that was it. After becoming aware of this, I started serving alongside the guest services ministry, leading a small group, and I began to invest in relationships with the people around me.
These people were motivating me, pushing me to grow in my faith and as a leader, and loved me through some of the hardest times of my life. I never felt more connected to a group of people that weren’t blood-related in my life. I wanted more of it. This is Church. A body of Christ-followers doing life together — whether it’s serving the poor, serving one another, or even mourning with one another. This is the Church Jesus talked about when he came to this earth. This verse is used a lot when discussing how husbands are to love their wives, but there’s something in this verse that cannot go unnoticed:
For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up His life for her. Ephesians 5:25 NLT
Notice how the verse says He gave up his life for her and not for it. God’s design for church wasn’t that we would walk into a building for one hour a week, listen to somebody tell us about Jesus, and get home just in time to catch the game. Somebody once told me attending church to listen to the pastor and do nothing is like going to the gym and taking notes on your personal trainer’s workout while doing nothing yourself.
I stopped simply going to church, and I think you should, too — God calls us to something much better.
He doesn’t want you to go to church, but He desires for you to be the church. He desires us to love and spurn one another on for the Great Commission He’s called us to. It’s not just about going to a building on a certain day; it’s about going on the greatest journey with other people pursuing Jesus and sharing their love with those far from Him.