There has been a phrase I have heard in ministry for the past 25 years that has recently become extremely popular. With all the COVID issues and Churches unable to meet on Sundays, I see it on my social media posts almost daily. It is this: “The Church has left the building.”
In some places, there is an explanation about the Church being people and not a building. There is usually some spiritual lesson on the people of God taking the message of Jesus to the streets. While I understand the sentiment, I do find the concept flawed.
The Church I lead has two worship programs over three hours on Sunday morning. Some people come to serve in one and worship in the other. Other people have a small group time during one and worship during the other one. Another group serves both programs as part of our worship program. These groups are in the building for three hours total on Sunday. The vast majority come to one program and worship and then go home. They are giving a total of one hour in the Church building.
The community of believers has no problem going out into the world. Our most committed believers will spend 165 hours of their week out in the world. The average person will spend 167 hours outside of the building. The overwhelming majority of their time will be spent outside of the building. The issue has never been getting people to go out into the world.
The most difficult part of the Church is getting people to gather in the building together. The challenge is to get the people of God to leave the world and set aside time for corporate worship. The writer of Hebrews tells the people “not to give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing (Hebrews 10:25).” Missing worship is so easy; it can be habit-forming.
I agree that the Church is not a building, and living out your faith “in the real world” is essential. Don’t forget that one of the things God desires of us is to form a new community of faith with the people who follow Jesus. We are a “one another” people who spend time in worship as we invest, encourage, challenge, teach, rebuke, correct, love, and connect with each other.
My phrase of “The Church is meeting for worship, and you should be there” will never be as famous because it will require everyone to make an effort to be at worship. Just because it is not popular does not make it any less accurate.