After bible study this week, we had a brief discussion about some of the repairs and “fixes” that we needed to do here during our upcoming work-day. Jeff, Dave and I walked out and inspected the ramp out front, discussing its future. We also talked a little electrical, some window repair, and the possibilities of making the building more accessible and usable. Basically, we were talking facelift work.
I know I spend a lot of time up here talking about how great this church is when compared to so many other churches. We are strong, healthy, financially stable, and alive with the spirit. What I don’t often point out, that I’m going to do today, is point out how great we have it with Jeff and the other trustees. These guys work their tails off on this building week after week and do so much work that goes unnoticed. Having good stewards of this building, people dedicated to making sure that it survives and thrives for another 100 years is so important to the life of older buildings like this.
Today I want to talk about the church with you. Let’s turn to Ephesians 4:11-16.
11 The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. 14 We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. 15 But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.
So let’s talk about this word “church” this morning. I did some research and the original Hebrew word that we are translating is Qahal (ke-hel). This is the old testament word from around 250 B.C.. In the new testament, the Greek word that translated Qahal became Ekklesia (ek-koh-les-e-a). Both of these words refer to an assembly of people. They became used, most often as religious terms for people gathered to worship, but truly could be any group assembled for a common purpose. Ekklesia forms the root for the word that we translate to the title for the book of Ecclesiastes.
There is not a single place in the bible in which a building or a gathering place is referred to by these terms. It is only ever the people that are gathered there that makes these words get used. In other words, as we translate to English, no where in scripture is the word ‘Church’ used to describe a place. The ‘church’ in scripture is always referring to the people.
So why do we put such an emphasis on the buildings in which we meet.
Again, I want to compliment our trustees for the work they do here, as well as those of you that have contributed to making this church look like it does over the past decades. I know that this type of work is done by many hands over a long period of time and can never be duplicated. However, it is important to remember that when we stress and worry about our building, that it is not what the church is. It is merely the building that currently contains the church.
We are the Church. Each and everyone one of us is stitched together into the greater body of believers that is the Church. We are all a part of that Church regardless of denomination, or race, or income, or what we look like. We are the body of people that worship the power of God and the love of Jesus Christ. We are all on the same team. The team for Christ. The team that is trying to transform this world for God. The team that knows that Love is the greatest commandment. The team that puts people above all else.
So this is just a building. This is just made of wood. This carpet isn’t special carpet, clearly. Most importantly the things that we do to maintain this building are not maintaining the Church. They are simply maintaining the church. My ex-pastor used to use the terms “Big C” and “Small C” when talking about church. This building is the Small C church. The people that are here are a part of the Big C Church.
Christ is the head of the Big C Church. If you want to help picture it as the parts of a human body, then quite literally, Jesus is the head. He is the one that drives the boat, if you will. But a head cannot live on its own. In the same way, Jesus could not have established the Big C Church without others. On the day of Pentecost, when 3000 disciples were made, the rest of the body came together. Today that body consists of between 375,000-400,000 churches in the United States and over 34 Million in the world. Those buildings house an approximate number of 240 million people in America identifying as Christian and 2.2 billion people in the world. That’s a pretty Big C Church!
And yet, despite the fact that we make up nearly a third of the World’s population, we are under attack in every corner of the globe. Whether we are mocked in the media or in the entertainment world, or whether we are hiding our bibles in the floor to protect our very lives, we are under attack. The body needs each and every one of us to play its role to keep the whole body functioning properly.
Who here has ever gotten an ingrown toe-nail? I used to get them all of the time when I was in college. I’d have 2-3 of them nearly all of the time. I remember one winter walking to class in sandals through snow drifts because I couldn’t get my feet into shoes, they hurt so bad. I had a couple of procedures by a doctor to supposedly help (they didn’t) and at one of these procedures I honest talked to him about taking off one of my big toes. I told him it has become more problem than it was worth and I wanted it gone. Thankfully, the doctor didn’t take my toe. He did explain to me that if I didn’t have my big toe I wouldn’t be able to stand up. That toe is key to balance and without it, I would never walk normally again.
It was just a toe. But I learned that it played a vital role to my entire body. When it was infected, that one toe could cause me unending pain. Walking with it caused back pain. I fell horribly out of shape because I couldn’t exercise. I was fairly miserable to be around because of the constant pain. All from that one toe. Yet without it, I wouldn’t be any better off.
The body of believers that we are a part of contains so many people, yet each and every one of them is vital to the continuance and overall health of the entire being. You are vital to the mission of God in this world today.
That mission isn’t contained by any walls or doors like the ones we have here. These pews are not where ministry ends, nor where it begins. What we have here, all around us, is simply a tool that God has granted that we use to spread the mission and extend the body. People we have been given a mighty gift here. This is a tool that people recognize and come to. People beyond these walls know what a Little C church is and they recognize it when they drive by. What we do in here on Sundays is a tool for ourselves and others to expand the Kingdom of Christ.
We must be good stewards with what God has granted us. So we will paint the walls. We will fix the steps. We will upgrade when we should. We do those things because we are thankful for the gifts and the tools that God has given us. That is what the verse in Ephesians is telling us to do. We are to equip the saints for ministry. We are to grow in our faith, out of a childlike sense of wonder, to a relationship with God. So we do our best to grow. We do our best to make this Little C church the best it can be. Yet we also know that this is just a building. This is just a service. God is all around us wherever we may meet and wherever we may worship. We know that because we are a part of the Big C Church as well. We know that when we are a part of the Big C Church, we are all working together, across the world, to spread God’s mission to the lost people. And it is through this work, and from within this body, that we can truly make a lasting change in the world today.