I was invited to speak to a small church yesterday. It was a good day as we spent about 7 hours together discussing all kinds of things. I was supposed to talk about Church Planting and we did some, but much of the day was spent with their questions. They asked about everything from, 'who are those Sons of God things that come and breed with women in Genesis 6?' to 'If a guy becomes a believer but he has several wives what do we do?' It was some good discussion but the best part was definitely in talking about the true nature of the Church. They,like so many here, have been established by foreigners who built a building, registered an organization,and then declared it 'church'. It was great to see their faces light up when they found out that the Church is actually a community of the redeemed, that their love for one another is the very truest praise for our Father, and that Jesus Kingdom is not a meeting or a meeting place but the reign of God in our lives right now. Buildings and meetings are not good or bad, they are irrelevant to the love relationship we are to have with one another. It is remarkable to me how many people there are out here who have come to plant churches but have never really thought through- much less prayed through and did biblical study on- what a church is. Our working definition of a church is as follows:
A Church is a group of baptized believers who meet regularly together, to celebrate the Lord’s Supper and worship together, and are obedient to fulfilling the great commandment and the great commission together.
I like this because it uses the word 'together' several times. The Kingdom is all about relationships. When the lawyer came to Jesus and asked him what the greatest commandment was Jesus could not give just one answer. He told him that the greatest commandment was to love God but then he threw in a second which was to love our neighbor. I am convinced that Jesus gave just one answer. In the heart and mind of God these two things are the same thing. We are to love God and we are to love each other. In God's mind this is one and when we do this well I think we have achieved what He meant us to have all along: Church.
My challenge is to not grow weary of proclaiming this, to never take this for granted, and to be faithful to see churches planted and grow that never forget this.