When did the Christian Church officially begin?
Some would say with the 12 disciples and the others who followed Jesus during his ministry.
Others would say on the day of Pentecost when Holy Spirit was given to all who believe.
And still others would say in about 300AD when the first actual church building was built.
OK, no one would declare that last one out loud, but some within the Christian Church claim that as their truth in 2020.
What do I mean? Many pastors have heard the same thing more than once this year, “We should open the doors and open the church.”
Earlier this fall, a pastor shared these words on Facebook, “One of the saddest things I have heard, ‘For us the church is the building. Without it, we have nothing.’
Let me be abundantly clear:
- The building is not the church.
- We all miss being together but don’t forget, we have a parking lot worship every week.
The Christian Church didn’t miraculously begin in the year 300AD when the first Christian Church sanctuary was built in Aqaba, Jordan. No! The Church had been around for almost 260 years before the first actual church building was erected.
Our building is a beautiful venue in which to do ministry. It is the place where the church gathers but the structure itself is not the church.
Jesus uses the word “church” three times only in the gospel of Matthew (yep, that’s it!) and he is referring to the body of believers (us), not a place and definitely not a building. Somewhere down the road of history someone wrongly started using the word “church” as the place where people gather.
The root word of “church” in the Bible is ekklesia. From this word we get ecclesiastic and ecclesial. This word has everything to do with people and nothing to do with a building of any size. In all of the places that the Bible uses the word “church” it is always in relation to people and not a place.
We are the church, not 3720 E. Tropicana Ave. As much as we love our building (I do too), it is not the church.
I can’t speak for other congregations, but this is the most difficult trial we have ever faced at Community Lutheran Church in our 47-year history. No one could have predicted this season of exile that we are experiencing. Yet we are enduring! We are still the church and we aren’t going backwards!
Saint Peter in his letter to the church writes about difficult moments such as these. Peter writes, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” 1Peter 1:6-7
Our faith is being proved genuine in 2020! This season can serve to grow our trust in Christ. We will get through this… together. We are the church and “the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”
God bless you,