We Are The Church!

We Are The Church!

Do you remember the song that was written by Donald Marsh and Richard Avery in 1972? It’s titled We Are The Church.[1] The words of the chorus and first verse are:

I am the church! You are the church! We are the church together! All who follow Jesus, all around the world! Yes, we're the church together! 1. The church is not a building; the church is not a steeple; the church is not a resting place; the church is a people.

Over the last 24 years I have seen people in churches resist any kind of change to the building that they have become so accustomed to. It is home to them, regardless of how ancient that building might be, or how inefficient the structure is for ministry. Any suggestion of remodeling or rebuilding was met with opposition often times. I get it. I experienced that same feeling about the farm house I grew up in. It was old when our family moved into it. My parents made many changes over the years, but basically it was not very different when it was sold about 55 years later. It didn’t matter that it needed much repair and that the propane was terribly expensive, or that my stepdad was there alone, dealing with it all. It was home. Of course, it did actually matter and we all encouraged him to sell it. We knew it was the best choice, but it was painful letting it go. For church people, those old buildings are home and it’s hard to let go of them too.

Now that we have had to “shelter in place” and most of us have not had our church buildings open, we are discovering that it is really true – the Church is not the building; the Church is the people.

I want to say that I appreciate our president declaring that the Church is essential. I know that there are some leaders who don’t believe it is and who perhaps do discriminate against all things religious. But I also want to say that I believe, whether someone declares the Church essential or not, truth is the Church has always been essential since it was first established! It may not be essential to non-believers but for those of us who are followers of Christ, it always has been! I know that is true for others who are of different faith’s as well but I write from a Christian viewpoint so that is my focus is here.

The apostle, Paul, wrote to the congregation in Corinth, who were arguing about what is lawful and what is not, “All things are lawful,” but not all things are beneficial. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up.”

Most of us who are missing the fellowship of other believers, the community of our church family, do understand and appreciate that not gathering right now is the most beneficial for us. It may be “lawful” now for us to gather, but in some areas, it is still not going to be beneficial because it is not safe at the moment. I have heard people say that God will protect them if they go ahead and meet. Maybe. But the truth is, some congregations that went against the mandate to not meet, ended up with many people infected with covid-19. God gave us free will but also brains to be smart and make good choices, not just for our own sakes but for others. Jesus said the first and most important commandment is to love God with all our hearts, souls and minds. And then he added a second: to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. (Matthew 22:37-39)

We practice safety rules in all of our lives, not only for ourselves but out of love for others. We don’t know who might be most vulnerable and apt to succumb to this virus. Oh, how I would regret going against the advice of experts and giving this to someone who ended up losing their life. I know people who have lost their beloved so suddenly due to this virus and who are devasted by it. I can wait a little longer to gather with the community of believers.

But here’s the thing … the Church has never been closed! In fact, I know many pastors who are working extra hard to preach the Good News to others. And many are able to watch through live stream or video who have not even been inside the church building for a long time. Some churches are finally catching up with technology because they are forced to do so. I know a pastor who tells me their giving is as good as ever right now, because the people are faithful givers. And the ministries are still ongoing, even though they are being creative in doing things in different ways at the moment.

The Church is still the Church! The Church is the Body of Christ around the world and is not dependent on the building! The Church is not closed. Our constitution is not violated, in my opinion. We have not been ordered to burn our bibles or banned from prayer and worship. We continue as the Church even though, for a time, we are not coming together. Of course, we long to be back in the sanctuary, back in the sweet fellowship of others. And we will, hopefully very soon. But just because it is lawful, does not mean it is the best thing for us right now. It might be okay in some areas, but in our state that has lost so many people to the virus, I believe it is a wise choice to wait. I respect our pastors and leaders who are making tough but thoughtful decisions for the safety of all. Those pastors are true shepherds watching over their sheep.

It is sad that something so devastating has become so political. Let us, the Body of Christ, continue to keep our focus on the One who is the Head of the Church … Jesus! I hope you will listen and be blessed by this beautiful song, “Give me Jesus,” sung by Cindy Powell.

[1] Words © 1972 Hope Publishing Company, 380 S Main Pl, Carol Stream, IL 60188

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