My friend Megan is a couple years older than I am. When I was a freshman in college, she was a junior, and many weeks I rode with her to her church. I always enjoyed visiting there-the music is good, the people are friendly, and the pastor gives sermons that take your mind for a ride. But I could never bring myself to make it MY church because I could not get over one thing-this church does not have its own building. Instead, it meets in the auditorium of the county’s high school. They have the resources to get a building, if they desire, but they don’t feel that it is necessary. As a freshman, I did not understand that. I had this idea that not having a building or place to call their own meant they simply ceased to exist during the other six days.
Fast forward to now. I’m about to be a junior, and I’ve become very active in a different local church. And though it is a church that has its own 150-year-old building, it is the church that has challenged my every thought on the word “church”.
We all know the rhyme that goes “here is the church, here is the steeple; open the doors, and see all the people.” Everyone’s heard that, everyone knows the motions-hands in fists, index fingers up, thumbs out, then flip it all upside down. It’s fun, catchy, easy to learn, pretty well-known.
But it’s also wrong.
That fun little rhyme, it mentions the church first, and keeps the people inside it. As a now-junior, I’m seeing why my friend Megan’s church had the mentality that it did. It is the people that should come first in the rhyme, a church without people is just a building. The term church, it refers to fellowship of brothers and sisters, not four walls and a steeple. It refers to a joint abandonment of this world, a group effort to keep minds and hearts pointed to Christ. It can happen anywhere-in a home, on a mountain, and as I’ve recently discovered, in two languages at once. Here is the church should not mean “here” as in a contained set of coordinates on a map, but “here” as in the space you and I and God are currently existing in.
I’ll say it once more-here is the church.