Thursday, 24 September 2009

What is Church?

As I walked home from ‘church’ the other day, considering my experiences in Nepal, what I missed from England and the home groups I had heard about, I began to re-assess my concept of church, what it means to be part of church, and the role of church in my life as a Christian.

The more time I spend in Nepal, the more I come to understand my motives for coming here- some of them conscious, but many of them unconscious. One reason, though I didn’t admit it even to myself at the time, was that I was running away. I felt a pressure to ‘conform’ to the Christianity around me; I was challenged by those running beside me as they pressed on towards the finish line (Phil 3:13-14) and I felt that I was limping behind. I felt like church demanded more of me than I was willing to give, and that never leads to life (Acts 5:1-12).

But here, I have come to realize and learned from the very inside out that Christianity is about relationship. First and foremost, it is a relationship with Jesus Christ, the Father who made us and the Spirit who lives in us (Eph 1:4-5). But secondly, it’s about our relationships with each other: sharing the life that is in us, learning from each others’ trials and triumphs and celebrating in the glory of our God (John 13:34-35). This is where church comes in.

Church is the collective name for a group of people who have become one (Eph 4:4-5). Church is those with whom we share life (Heb 10:24) Church happens in coffee shops all over the world where people meet to talk about what is happening in their lives and encourage each other with stories of God’s work. Church happens in the emails I send to my friends along a very similar theme (Acts 2:44-46). Church happens when the part of the body with a car helps the part without to move house (Eph 4:16). Church also happens in bible studies and small groups where people set aside structured time to learn about God togeher. Church is fun and friendship- it is also accountability and challenge.

On Sunday mornings, members of this body have formed a habit of meeting with a wider group (Heb 10:25)- people they would otherwise never cross paths with- from different demographic groups, of different social status, with opposite personalities and interests (1 Cor 12:12-13). They are united by one thing- their love for their Saviour, and they come together to celebrate this. From this mixing pot of people can spark new relationships, new opportunities to extend love, new chances to sow into and learn from others. And so as the church meets, the Church is born.

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