Every week ministers speak before congregations throughout the world. I am one of them. Each week people assemble to worship God in churches by listening to scripture, singing and hearing a sermon. We come to find help and strength in our daily lives. But what happens on Sunday can be so misunderstood.
- First we come together not to the church, but as the church. People interacting in relationships centered around Christ is what is central, not a building. Why is this so difficult for us to grasp? We have inherited a churched social understanding. What I mean is that we can fall into the thinking that church is a place only. It is people who love God assembled to be encouraged, to grow in relationship with each other and God. We do need places that are sacred space for us. The idea of the church as a place in not all wrong. We just need to know what the Lord began when he called a few followers together, showed them who God is and then told them to be witnesses of what they experience. We are a community of people with a like-minded faith.
- Secondly, listening is not the only point of our worship. It is for our lives to be transformed by God. As we exist in relationship with others in the church our lives can be changed. It’s the relationships of love that are bonded to God that shape us.
- Lastly, communication is not merely a message given and a message received. We are social creatures. Each person in a congregation does not come as an individual; we come with all of our present and previous relationships that have shaped us. We come from a local community and larger society that impinges its values on us. We come as social creatures above all else. The church is a social network.
When people step into a church building then, and hear a message that may be exactly what they need to apply to their lives, they filter that though their social experiences of the past. But people do not change and become healthy by just thinking of biblical truth. They need a social environment that encourages, nurtures and holds them accountable to it. Without that they will not live Christian lives. We need more than a place to sit and listen. We need each other to grow in God’s grace.