The Church Has Left the Building

Lee MerckAll Enews, Planting Team

How often have we heard the expression, “The church is not the building?” While this statement is 100% theologically correct, it does not always translate into how we practice being the church. For many congregations, their identity is tied more closely to a location and a building rather than who God has created them to be in their community. When a church’s identity is found in their establishment, as opposed to their being a part of the gospel movement Jesus started over 2,000 years ago, they have certainly lost their way. This becomes most evident by examining the score card churches use to judge “success.” In many of these situations, money carries more weight than the Master. Filling pews outweighs filling the world with the gospel. Making decisions takes priority over making disciples. And what happens inside the church building creates a false sense of success, while a greater number of people are on the outside of our buildings; hurting, lost, dying, and hell bound.

The truth is that what happens in our buildings can be vitally important. Notice I said, “can be.” I would also argue that what happens inside of our church buildings should be vitally important. However, just because something happens inside a church building doesn’t mean it’s a powerful, spiritual, life transforming activity that leads people to share their faith and be on mission. We all need to be reminded that the great commission is not an invitation for people to come to our Sunday morning gathering, but a command for the church to go to where the people are and to bear witness of Jesus as the resurrected Son of God. “Go therefore…” are the words that we read in Matthew 28:19-20. And yes, go means go! On another occasion, when Jesus was speaking with a lawyer who was trying to justify himself by keeping the law, He told the parable of the Good Samaritan. While challenging the lawyer at the end of their conversation, Jesus said these words, “Go and do likewise.” Notice the emphasis again on going and doing. Just repeat that phrase a few times, “go and do, go and do, go and do.” The words spoken by Jesus in the parable, as well as just before His ascension, are not simply divine suggestions, but emphatic statements. They lead us to the conclusion that “the church” must work outside of the building to be obedient to Jesus and to fulfill her true calling. With hot hearts for Jesus, many of us desire to see a greater number of people saved. We desire to see our communities experience a healing touch from Jesus and for the Kingdom of God to advance.

I want to introduce you to a simple activity that will lead to a healthy conversation with your church family. It will cause your community to begin asking questions that may lead to gospel conversations. It’s called SERVE SUNDAY! For some of you, this might sound like a radical idea, but I hope you’ll give it prayerful consideration.

A SERVE SUNDAY is when the congregation forgoes the normal Sunday morning routine to serve others in the community. Recently, The Church at Four Corners in Bozeman participated in a SERVE SUNDAY. We met at the building for coffee and prayer, handed out assignments, and left the building to go and do ministry. After serving for several hours, we returned to the building for lunch, fellowship, and a time of sharing about our service opportunities. The Lord truly blessed our efforts, and The Church at Four Corners is now poised to participate in a SERVE SUNDAY every 5th Sunday. We had 50 people go out into the community and serve Jesus. We served at a local couple’s home, at The Warming Center of HRDC (homeless shelter) and began preparing for Operation Christmas Child. The love of God was on display on Sunday morning in the community, with people who would not otherwise have encountered the church. Outfitted with matching t-shirts and armed with the love of God, The Church at Four Corners left the building. You can do the same thing! You can get outside the walls of the church.

Can you imagine what might happen if 10, 20, 30, 50, 100 people showed up in the community, served people, and genuinely impacted their lives? God’s people would become known for something more than meeting in the building at the end of town. It’s just an idea! Why not give it a try? To have a conversation about planning a SERVE SUNDAY send an email to lmerck@mtsbc.org.

About the Author

Lee Merck

Lee Merck is the Lead Church Planting Catalyst for Montana and pastor of Church of the Rockies in Red Lodge. He is also the coordinator of the MTSBC Montana-Alberta Partnership.