Kind of ironic that I was tasked to write about community and Church (greek word for the assembly), at a time when our government has instructed us not to assemble. Or maybe, God wanted it just this way?
These past weeks have been painful for me. My son, his basketball team, and our Coach were not allowed to assemble and play the quarterfinals of the Oregon 6A State Basketball championship. This is a strong community that I have been a part of for over 35 years, and it came to a dramatic and halting stop.
These are historic times!
This community of basketball players and their parents is a large part of our life, and it has been stripped from us. It doesn’t feel good. It is disappointing. It leaves us with a bit of an empty feeling.
Frankly, it feels like people, myself included, don’t really know what to do without the inability to assemble. There was no March madness. There are no sports on TV. There is no school. You can really only go to the store and then come back home. Life has been taken back to where only essential services remain open.
I feel a deep longing in my soul to be with others. Cyber gatherings just aren’t the same for me, if I’m being honest. And I’m noticing that I’m feeling feelings I’ve never had before
I want to be together with my people!
Could God be doing something though? I know he is in my life.
When life slows down, it is when true reflection takes place.
Our current times are forcing me to do so right now.
When scarcity comes, value always rises.
The fact that I can’t meet with my church family actually increases its value.
But should it?
The truth is, the value of church is present whether we gather together in person or not.
I’ve been thinking about all the things I heard as a kid growing up in the church. Stuff like: “We will never do it perfectly, but we will always do it together.” Or “Figure out where God is going: and bet your life on it.” And another good one is our mission statement: “Learning TOGETHER (like, in person), to live like Christ, and reaching out in his name.”
Well, we see that God does not hide what is important to Him. The entire Bible, start to finish, is about God creating his people, walking with them, Tabernacling (dwelling) with them, and assembling with them.
And we see that when God speaks of eternity, He speaks of the great assembly of his people.
One time, Christ was asking His disciple Peter a question and we see how He viewed the church:
“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hadeswill not overcome it.Matthew 16:15-18
I like the imagery of the Rock. In construction, we use rocks for stability. It doesn’t collapse under pressure or wash away in the turbulence of life. It endures and holds up.
If I’m being honest, it is imagery that I need right now. God has been building and is still building something that will last. Something that is stable. A stable assembly of His people.
The word Jesus used to describe what He has and continues to build is Church. The actual Greek vocabulary word is Ekklesia. The people he was speaking to knew exactly what Ekklesia was.
“Ekklesia” is the word the Greeks used for the Assembly of People. This was where the city states were governed. The world had recently witnessed what Alexander the Great did through the assembly of large numbers and the military formation of the Phalanx. The world viewed had this assembly in mind as the launching pad for all the things Western civilization is known for: law, order, peace, the academy, education, philosophy, logic, reason, mathematics, development, and the arts.
This “Ekklesia” was used for God’s kingdom creation and advancement. The followers of Jesus had seen Greece use the power of assembly. They knew exactly what part the Ekklesia played in the development of Greece and Rome’s Kingdom. Jesus brilliantly and intentionally chose a word they would understand.
Christ’s kingdom was very very different though. It involved the assembly of people, but it was not political or militaristic. We see the upside-down nature of Christ’s economy: the last will be first and the first will be last (Mt. 20:16), and the encouragement to lay one’s life down for others (Jn. 15:13).
Christ’s Kingdom was different than expected.
We see in Scripture that the early church did many incredible things together. They were sharing, loving, and spreading the message of Jesus.
I don’t know about you, but I can’t help but see Christ’s handiwork in people. People created in His image, to reflect His majesty. And I see God’s majesty being played out in community. True community.
The best teams I have ever witnessed model what Christ taught––considering others better than themselves. It’s why these past few weeks have been so disappointing to me. I didn’t get to watch my son’s team compete. I didn’t get to watch them do what they had trained for years to do. I didn’t get to watch them battle together for a common goal. I didn’t get to be with their parents. We didn’t get to witness our boys working together.
But this is just a temporal disappointment. But this is just a mere reflection of what God is doing.
Watching teams play and work together for mutual good is powerful. But ultimately, it is only an imperfect reflection of Christ’s eternal assembly and community that HE continues to build.
Hell’s gates will not prevail against it!
So the invitation is there. For us to be a part of Christ’s Ekklesia. His assembly. But it is different than any other assembly. And it is the only one that will last. We have the opportunity to join His team. To work together for one common goal.
Bet your life on Christ’s Church.
And know that Christ’s church needs you. God has given you something that only you have.
I’d encourage you to get involved. Get in a growth group (over a zoom call). Join our online community. Get real about your gift and how they might help the church. Rely on the Church for the gifts you do not have. I am certain it is the only real effort that will last.
I pray that you will use this downtime to reflect on who God made you to be and how he wants to see your gifts used in concert with others in the assembly. It is a goal that will come true, to anyone who wants to join in on the mission.
God Bless Christ’s Church: His community. His assembly.