Image via WikipediaCredit where credit is due. My blog buddy Idaho Paul reminded me of that good puritan phrase, "the meeting house," recently and it was the very phrase for which I had been looking. I shared it with our late service crowd on Sunday and will share it with our church family at every opportunity over the next several months as we process this change of vocabulary.
When people speak of gathering together as the body of Christ they most often use the phrase (or one very similar), "We're going to church." They usually mean by this that they are going to the edifice designated as the meeting place for the church. Not a bad thing in and of itself except that over time the edifice comes to represent the embodiment of the church when nothing could be further from the truth. My own children are victims of this notion as they often speak of going "to the church."
A brief theology lesson is in order here. In the New Testament the term translated "church" is the Greek word, eklessia. It is important to note that this term never refers to a building; it always refers to the people who make up the body of Christ. The point being that when we say we are "going to church" it's not the building but the body, it's not the place but the people.
Why is this important? You see if we equate "the church" with a particular place made of sticks and stones then that is the only place "the church" exisits. As I write these words I look out my office window and see our particular place and it occurs to me that at this moment it is simply an empty building, it is not the church. The church is at this very moment teaching class at the school, running a piece of machinery at the local factory, dealing with issues of governance for our town and county, writing loan applications, cutting a neighbor's grass, washing another load of clothes, shopping for groceries, and a whole host of other activities which may seem anything but "churchy." But it is in these day-by-day activities God is at work through His body, the church, to bring reconciliation to this world.
So, in the coming days you'll not hear me say, "I'm going to the church." Rather you can expect to hear, "I'm going to the meeting house." Instead of "I hope to see you at church" you'll hear, "I hope to see you at the meeting house!" You see, the church gathers and scatters and gathers again. The meeting house stays put. Church family, be the church right where you are and let's gather together at the meeting house to celebrate all the marvelous things God is doing! I'll see you there.