the shape of leadership

The House That Love Built

Going to church is not the same as being the Church

Michael Clarensau on June 8, 2018

When my father passed away, our family got an extraordinary look at the difference between going to church and truly being the Church. It’s evident that western Christianity has shifted with near full force toward the former, while the latter remains the biblical ideal.

As we walked the emotional path of burying my father, groups of folks who had surrounded my parents for more than 50 years came alongside us. One such group had worshipped with them for 45 years, while another had celebrated Christ at their side each Sunday for the past decade.

Sacrificial acts, genuine gestures of love, and expressions that conveyed real connection and friendship truly demonstrated the biblical concept of carrying one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2). It was a powerful reminder that family extends beyond genetics. It emerges anywhere one finds such compassionate love.

Being the Church is our greatest life assignment. Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34). It seems clear that He intended for us to do more than just go to church together.

We are to love our brothers and sisters in Christ in the same extravagant and sacrificial way our Savior revealed His love for us. Jesus knew where His disciples were heading, what they would face, and how desperately they would need one other’s genuine life engagement to continue in faith.

Love — the centerpiece of our primary agenda — accomplishes much.

Contrast that with the spectator sport church has become for many. Shuffling through crowded hallways until finding a desired seat, we often engage a platform, a quality performance and a life message that we’re on our own to apply.

Week after week, we may experience the house of God without making any sort of connection to the family of God. When that happens, something is tragically lost.

If the Church were simply a building to which we go and not a family to which we belong, think of the implications:

  • We would continue to go to God, when His Word reveals that He has come to us.
  • We would compartmentalize worship as a separate reality from life.
  • We would fall into rituals that can become lifeless.
  • We would become more focused on our gatherings than on our daily lives.

People being the Church carried our family through that difficult week. We have memories of the kindnesses and sacrifices of friends that we will cherish for years. As we pursue church growth, are we also pursuing connections such as these? Are we living as the family who God intended us to become? Is facilitating relational beauty at the top of our priority list?

Love — the centerpiece of our primary agenda — accomplishes much. It covers, it forgives, it cleanses, and it strengthens families, even in the midst of life’s hardest moments. That’s what love did for us — when two congregations, plateaued in their numbers, proved unequivocally that they are just what Jesus had in mind.


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