Going to Church or Being the Church
There is a distinct difference between "going to church" and "being the church." In fact, I believe that this difference has contributed to many of the problems and decline of current mainline churches. Instead of being the powerful Bride of Jesus Christ, we have become an impotent substitution: church-goers.
In fact, I believe that "going to church" has even inoculated many against "being the church." Don't get me wrong; I am a pastor and I believe strongly that our weekly meetings are not only Biblically-based, but are profitable for spiritual growth, encouragement, evangelism, and for learning. At our best, church services provide insightful, challenging messages, Spirit-filled prayer time, opportunities to truly Commune with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, encouraging and heart-felt worship music, and at least some fellowship.
But when we base our Christianity fully upon a once-a-week gathering, we are selling ourselves short.
What do I mean by that?
Well, often "worship" is something we do when we "go to church," and instead of living a lifestyle of worship, we reduce it to something we do for an hour on Sunday. Or worse, something that is done for us by the professionals.
Often we let the "pros" do the teaching, and no matter how inspiring the message is, by the time we've determined where we're going for lunch, we've already forgotten that inspiration, let alone transformation.
We let the pastor or the leader lead prayers and we pray the Lord's Prayer, but our own prayer lives are miserably inadequate. And what's more, we don't know that they are.
The big difference between "going to church" and "being the church" is in our interaction with others. We can go to church and put on our best clothes and look like we've got our act together - like our families are perfect and our marriages are perfect and we're sinless and struggle-free and nobody knows the "real me." Meaning that nobody holds the "real me" accountable to live a Christian life. Meaning that many people don't spend their time encouraging one another outside the church walls - in fact, they don't know each other well enough to even think of interacting outside their experience in "going to church."
There's more: when we simply "go to church" we can become really inward focused. Our spiritual lives focus on that one hour of that one day and upon what happens there, and that is disastrous to "being the church." Because we're supposed to "be the church" to the "least and the lost." Which means being Jesus Christ's hands and feet.
And we miss out on the blessings God has in store for us throughout the week when we simply "go to church."