About Jesus     Steve Sweetman

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An Expression Of Church


Every Sunday, and often during the week, people go to church.  Some go because they want to.  Others go because that’s what they always do.  They’re afraid not to go lest they be stricken with a deadly case of guilt. 


I ask. “Do we really go to church when we go to church?”  That’s not a trick question.  I just wonder how we can go to church when we are the church.  How can you go someplace when you are that place?   


The church building you see on the street corner isn’t the church.  I know most of us know this, but if we really do know this, why do we continue to say “we’re going to church?”  You might say, “it’s only a matter of words, don’t worry about it.”  Well, I‘m not worrying about it, but it does concern me.  Jesus told us that what’s in our hearts, our mouths will speak.  If our hearts really understand the truth about church, why don’t our tongues speak the truth?  I don’t think we  understand the truth on this matter as well as we think we do. 


I’ve said this before.  I’m not really happy with the word “church” because it doesn’t express the intent of Biblical thinking on the subject.  Church consists of people who Jesus has called out of the world to be a living expression of who He is.  As Jesus was the exact representation of His Father while He was on earth, so we should be a close proximity of a representation of Jesus.  The building down the street that we call a church is no more an expression of who Jesus is than any other building in the neighbourhood.    


Every so often I walk down our street to talk with a Christian brother. He’s a school crossing guard.  Ironically enough, right across the street from where he helps the children cross the street is a church building.  I said we talk to one another, but really we end up preaching to each other.  Our time together on the street corner is an expression of church.  Yes, right there on the corner of Chatham and Victoria, we gather together in Jesus’ name for mutual encouragement.  We’re not a church, but we certainly are an expression of church. 


Each Tuesday night a few of us gather around a kitchen table to study the Bible.  Phrase by phrase, word by word, we systematically seek to understand what the Bible teaches.  We aren’t a church.  We’re an expression of church. 


From time to time myself and a few other men come together for prayer in my friend’s living room.  Again, we are not a church, but we are an expression of church.


When you come together in a church building each Sunday, you aren’t the church either, even though the sign out front says you are. You’re simply an expression of church.    


I’m using the term “expression of church” because it  more accurately reflects Biblical thinking than the phrase “going to church.”   When true believers come together to do anything in the service of the Lord, they are expressing an aspect of church.  It doesn’t matter how many people come together either, it’s still an expression of church.  Therefore, the crossing guard and I are just as much an expression of church on the street corner as the people who gather in the building across the street. And I dare say that we might well be a more vibrant expression of church than those gathered in the building. 


If you view church this way, then you view church much differently than the typical “church goer”.  The building, the scheduled meetings, the number of people gathered together, are not the important issues to you.  What is important to you is who you gather with, what you do when you’re together, and how you express the life of Jesus to others. 


In my thinking, whatever you do in the service of Jesus with other Christian brothers or sisters is an expression of church.  When Jesus spoke of two or three gathering together, He had no particular place or time in mind.  The issue for Him was being gathered together as His representatives, and serving Him in the process. 


Jesus said that when we come together as His representatives, He’d be with us.  I believe the reverse is also true.  If we gather together in our own name, or a organization’s name, I don’t think Jesus is obligated to be with us.  I think history confirms that. 


Therefore, it is important for us to understand church in the way Jesus understood it, not in the way our traditions have taught us.  Church is all about us being Jesus’ representatives on earth and doing what He wants us to do.  If you understand the word “representative”, you know that a representative of anything represents that thing to those who have no understanding of that thing. Simply put, we not only represent Jesus to fellow Christians, but also to the world around us.. I’d say it’s hard to represent Jesus to non-believers if most of our representation takes place in a church building where non-believers aren’t present. 


Whatever we do as an expression of church should be something Jesus gives us permission to do.  So my encouragement for us all is to not limit our expression to the traditions that have been passed down to us.  The only limitations should come from the lips of Jesus.  That being the case, we need to understand church as He understands it.

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