When will they come to proper church? Phrased in different ways that is a question that perpetuates. I’ve heard it at St Paul’s and in other settings. It is an important question to answer, but, for some, the answer may not be the one you expect!
At the root of this question is normally an assumption that ‘prosper church’ happens in a Victorian building that we call ‘church’ on a Sunday morning, lasts about an hour and then is over until the next Sunday. That may be the reality as some see it, but it isn’t God’s reality. The answer to the question is that many who are coming to faith in Jesus today, and we pray the many, many more who will do so in the coming weeks, months and years may never attend a service in a church building on a Sunday morning. They are however just as much part of St Paul’s, and of God’s wider church, as those who have been attending services on Sunday mornings for decades.
Unfortunately we have inherited a very institutional understanding of church, one that is based on services, events, meetings and hierarchy. That isn’t the understanding of church we read about in the New Testament. The word ‘church’ is the way translators for centuries have chosen to translate the Greek word ‘Ekklesia’ however a better translation would be ‘gathering’ or ‘assembly.’ Church is simply when Christians assemble or gather together for worship, encouragement, sharing and mutual support. It is more akin to family than it is to an institution.
So ‘proper church’ happens at 4pm twice a month when the Tea Service happens, it happens weekly in homes when small groups meet, it happens when two or three gather together to pray together. Many who are part of the expression of church that we know as St Paul’s may never come on a Sunday morning, and I have no expectation that they ever will, but are as much part of the church as those who do.
When does church happen for you?