What is church?
Not a building or a service or a day or a time. It is a collection of people gathering together to worship God and develop relationships with Him and one another. The biblical stories and letters and poems and prophecies and prayers come in various styles while having this in common: most are written to groups of people, not just one person living in isolation.
The buildings and the services and the days and the times exist to help create and construct community. People together. Loving, accepting, forgiving. Listening, learning, encouraging. Giving, grieving, celebrating. Waiting together, eating together, worshipping together.
Our modern church model of bright lights and loud sounds and big stages tend to draw crowds. But do they build community? Do they establish an atmosphere of togetherness, of each-person-is-important?
Yes, I love attending gatherings where multitudes of people sing and worship together, learn and pray together, laugh and cry together. I think of a large youth festival I annually attend—I smile and cry with joy as I stand in a convention center watching teenagers from around the world committing themselves to Jesus. That is a reminder of kingdom coming, of His will being done.
I am, however, concerned about that large crowd being the end of the story. Is the attendance number what goes on the stat sheet and the media blitz? Is the size what equals success? Turnout is good, but it must be one part of a larger story. It must be an entrance into deep conversations. It must be an opening into a family where struggles are addressed, sins are forgiven, communities are served, and the Lord is celebrated.
If you are wired to prefer aloneness, do not rush past this chapter. Begin moving toward following the right leaders, walking beside fellow travelers, and leading those willing to learn.
Ask yourself questions. How are you doing with relationships? How have hurts from past relationships harmed you? How do they control your decisions? Embrace an equilibrium where your own feelings don’t control all your decisions.
Have a friend who will ask, “So, you feel a call to be a missionary?” And follow that by saying, “You might be just running away from people you need to be close to.” Have a pastor ask, “How are you really doing?” then waiting and paying attention as you slowly answer. Have a fellow traveler ask, “How often can we meet together and discuss the deep issues of life?”
It takes time.
It takes time to sit together.
It takes time to learn together.
It takes time to become transformed together.