“What is the Church” is a question I have struggled with for a great long time. Is the church a building? Is it a group of people that meet in a building once a week? Does the church even need a building to be the church? As I write this, the NFL playoffs are going on. The Championship games were just played and the Super Bowl is set: The New England Patriots vs. The Los Angeles Rams. I bring this up because sports teams are somewhat comparable to the church (plus I like football). Are the Rams and Patriots only Rams and Patriots when they put their uniforms on? Are they only professional athletes during the game on Sundays or is there more to it? Are you tired of my questions yet?
Every year, the NFL celebrates greatness among their athletes. They have such awards as the Most Valuable Player, Offensive and Defensive Player of the Year, and Coach of the Year. These rewards all reflect the talents that players exhibit on the field throughout the season. They go to players who had the best statistics or made the greatest impact on the field during the year. However, there is another award that has absolutely nothing to do with statistics and everything to do with community action and is the most coveted of all the awards given. It is called the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award. This award is given to one player each year that exemplifies humility and service in order to help those in need in communities around the country. I think this answers at least one of my above questions. Are the Rams and Patriots only Rams and Patriots when they put their uniforms on or is there more to it? I think the answer to that is no. There is more to it. Curtis Martin, one of my favorite players of all time, a former running back for the New York Jets and 5th all time in career rushing yards, won this award during his famed career. It was because he took what God had given him and gave it to those that needed it. He used his prestige to the advantage of others; prestige that only came from being a professional football player.
My point in bringing this up is that it doesn’t completely matter if we go to church each Sunday. Do I think it’s important? Absolutely. It is how we grow in community and in our faith. There is a reason the author of Hebrews tells us to meet together regularly in Hebrews 10:24-25. In Acts 2, we see a community of believers gather and meet together and grow in their knowledge of God. Church is absolutely beneficial, but I’m all but positive that God would condemn what some call “Sunday Morning Christians” or “Holiday Christians.” What God is more interested in what we do OUTSIDE the church, Monday-Saturday. Are we restricting our time with Him to only Sunday morning or do we each have our own time each day to read the Bible and pray and spend time with God one-on-one? And further than that, are we, like the church in Acts 2, helping those in our community? Yes, helping at the soup kitchen or in a similar ministry once or twice a month is helpful and important, but what about that person stuck in the ditch? What about helping the neighbor with yard work or helping students with their schoolwork?
You see, being a Christian was never meant to be a Sunday morning only activity. Jesus calls us to take up our cross and follow him. He tells us that the least will be the greatest and the humble will be exalted. If you are a Christian only for the benefit of spending eternity with Jesus, and even for the peace and joy He gives you, I think you’ve missed a great part of the life that God expects from us. And I’ll be the first to admit that I am not perfect in this. There are times when I would prefer to stay at home or hang out with friends or do something other than help someone out. This world is hurting and God calls his people to shine a light into the darkness. How are you shining your light Monday thru Saturday?
I’ll finish with this. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day just passed. He exemplified service. He stood up for those less fortunate than himself and used what power he had, whether it was from the pulpit at his church or out in the streets or from a jail cell in Birmingham, to call this country to a higher standard, to bring peace and community between races. He used the gifts God had given him to help others and bring glory to God. Are we, as the church, as members of the same body as MLK Jr., doing the same? I just don’t want to be the reason someone thinks less of God or less of Christians because I ignored someone in need who could have used my help. The world is watching how Christians live. What are we telling it?