Apr 2, 2020

Reflections on: What is the church?

I love how much I learn from the Sunday messages. I’m a born-and-raised Marylander and I love the summers, not just because of the sunny days and everything associated with that (though those are great), but because it means it’s crab season! But let me tell you, I had NO idea that a crab goes through the process of shedding its shell. 

If you missed this past Sunday’s message (watch it here), then you might think this is a very weird thing to be writing about… but it all made sense in the context of having to adapt and change, otherwise you die. For us as a church, we are also faced with the adaptive challenge – and opportunity – to pivot, change, and adapt in the midst of this Corona Wilderness.

This is a time to consider who we are, and how to respond to the challenges of social distancing, and our current economic, educational, and social predicaments. Times like these make you strip everything back and re-examine what is most essential.

So when we do this for the church, we have to ask – who are we as the church? And it’s not about going to church, or attending church… how are we being the church? 

To answer that question, we went to Acts 2:42-47 to get a beautiful, simple picture of the church. 

Devotion

(teaching + life on life + remembrance + prayers

+

Action 

(generosity + worship + eating

=

Church

Let’s break it down. 

DEVOTION (v. 42): 

  • They were devoted to the apostle’s teaching – a constant reminder of the One Story that we belong to.
  • They were devoted to fellowship – The Christian faith is not a solo sport. Do you feel that aching as each week passes and we can’t be together? It’s because we belong to one another and there is something amiss when we can’t be in fellowship
  • They were devoted to breaking of bread (remembrance) – Given the context, this phrase probably means the important practice of remembering Jesus in the way he commanded them. By breaking bread, they devoted themselves to the act that defined them as a community – Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross.
  • They were devoted to prayer – The regular, communal act of going before God and asking for their daily bread, their act of submission, the way they related to God. Talking to, and communing with God in prayer together.

Devotion is a matter of persevering commitment, not letting up, a continual re-upping. It requires constant diligence, almost like a stubborn commitment. Are you devoted to the teachings, prayers, fellowship and remembrance of Jesus? 

ACTION (v. 45-46):

  • They gave generously and radically – They sold their possessions and distributed to all; their life together was characterized by incredible generosity towards one another
  • They worshiped together, they broke bread together – They came together in worship, and they came together to eat in each other’s homes, with gladness and generosity. (This part is the hardest for us right now, but can’t wait for us to be able to do this again!)

And ultimately, this leads to a growing family, a growing church: “the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” (v. 47)

Something about the community was so enticing. Even as the church faced persecution and other adaptive challenges, it grew. That is our opportunity! As we live in this new space, one that’s uncertain, disorienting, and scary, we have the opportunity to be communitas – a community with a sense of belonging that takes on a new gravity or importance, usually brought about by having to rely on each other in order to survive. 

We are the church. Let’s not think of it as a set of programs, or an activity to add to our list. It is who we are. We are part of the Greatest Story – a story that enfolds our individual stories and our church story into something of eternal and cosmic importance. 

This Great Story has knit our lives together. This story forms us – across our socioeconomic, geographic, ethnic, generational divides: we all needed saving and Jesus did that for us. 

Let’s be real, it’s hard work living in this story. But, no good story is easy. There are no shortcuts. It’s demanding and there’s a cost. We need this more than ever because we live in a culture where so many competing stories are thrown at us. 

Devotion + Action. Let’s ask God to help us figure out how to be the church in the midst of these difficult and unprecedented times. I think we’ll find that we will be the church in new innovative ways for God’s glory and for the good of the world. 


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