I've said that church is more than an institution, that its a living, breathing, active community of Christians. That being a Christian is being an activist, is living out a radical new way of life each day wherever we are. A re-ordering of our lives around Jesus' values.
But once you understand that church is more than just an institution, more than a building, and that Christianity is about a way of life, then going to church is more than just Sundays. Going to church is a journey.
Its a way of life.
Going to church can be anything we do as part of living out our faith, in particular in our local community. It doesn't have to be an official church-sponsored event.
It doesn't have to just involve people from our church community. If 'the church' is bigger than one local community, and applies to the entire body of Christ over the world, anything you do with another Christian is going to church. Anything you do as a Christian with one other Christian is essentially 'going to church', if you think of church as a community of Christians, and the world church being all Christians.
So that means that everything you with other Christians is ultimately 'going to church'.
Everything we do with fellow beleivers is also part of our relationship with God, everything we do viewed by people outside the Christian faith as what 'church' is like. When people know we're Christians they will look at us and examine us. How they view us will be how they view Jesus and ultimately how they view the church.
Because we are all part of this body. This community.
The church is local.
The church is global.
The church is infinite and boundless.
We are the body of Christ.
So when we talk about us 'going to church' we can start to look at it in a new light. When we go to work, we are the living embodiment of the gospel to the non-Christians where we are. God has trusted us with this responsibility.
Church doesn't end on Sunday, it goes on every single day of our lives.
We are the church.
Wherever we are, people will be seeing us and seeing the church. Lets never forget that. The only way we are going to grow this community is by being Jesus to people.
Remembering that whenever people see us they are seeing Jesus and how they see us is how they will see the church.
The values we stand for.
The choices we make.
The things we don't do that everyone else does.
The things we do that nobody else does.
The way we treat people.
The things we say, or don't say.
Church doesn't begin and end on Sunday.
'Going to church' never really ends. We're always going to church. We are always on the journey of faith. We are always representing the community of Christians from all over the world.
But that doesn't have to be a burden for us.
Because the way of life we're living allows room for us to fail. Jesus knows we are going to screw up. We know that ultimately at some point we will screw up.
But the response to that is merely to say - that's why I need Jesus in my life.
He loves me despite all that.
He accepts me despite that.
I'm free of that.
My past, my mistakes don't have to haunt me and I don't need to go on a guilt trip. I merely need to ask Jesus to help turn away from it better than I have been. If I screw up along the way, Jesus is by my side to help me up.
If I'm in pain, then He can carry me.
If I'm happy then I'm thankful and I remember that without Him it wouldn't be possible.
I am free from the shame, guilt, stress and pain.
I don't have to let that rule my life.
I've given myself to a better way.
I say no to things because I've said yes to something better, something true, something good, something pure. Something which doesn't make me perfect, but makes me better. Not a religion but a way of life.
Church is merely the community of people who live this way of life, and we need to show the world. Show them that the church isn't a religious ritual, a guilt trip, an institution, a group of people who judge and condemn and sit on a perfect moral set of values and proclaim themselves perfect.
But that the church is full of broken, hurting people who need a saviour and have given themselves to a new, better way of living, and orientate themselves around something else.
Then people can relate.
Then the church can grow, because all of us, deep down, have these insecurities, have this brokenness, have need of the love of Christ. Its not even a burden.
Because we need Jesus as much as anyone else does and He's taken that burden for us. The more people understand that Christians aren't perfect, that they're just as screwed up as others, the more their faith becomes the way they re-orientate their lives, a better way of living, a way of dealing with the problems of everyday life.
Instead of a set of rules and regulations it becomes a way of living life.
Suddenly the 'Christians are all hypocrytes' idea takes on a whole new meaning, becuase people see that none of us can practice what we preach all the time. They start to see the real reasons we beleive.
Then it becomes real.
Then it starts to be a message of hope.
Of real salvation.
Not a religion, but a way to a better life and deal with the problems of life.
So the more broken we are, the more honest we are about the face we're not perfect, the more we admit our need for Jesus, the more attractive Jesus becomes and ultimately the more kingdom will grow.
So let us all be honest about our need for Jesus.
Let us say to people who call us hypocrytes that we are, that we are all broken and messed up, and we beleive Jesus to be the only hope to make us better and give us a better way of living.
Let us say that its becuase we're hypocrytes that we need Jesus to change us into something and someone better.
The brokeness of Jesus made forgiveness possible.
Our honesty and brokeness makes people see the need for Jesus and the truth about Him, and ultimately can grow the church.