The Rev. David Meyers
1200 Post Dr., Belmont, MI 49306
Stephanie Paulsell wrote in the Christian Century, “We need places to pray as if someone were listening, to study as if we might learn something worth writing on our hearts, to join with others in service as if the world might be transformed. Churches are places to learn to practice, with others, a continual conversion of life, a permanent openness to change.” I love this quote for all the powerful verbs Ms. Paulsell includes: pray, listen, study, join, practice, converse, change, and transform. As a result, of those actions, there should be something life-changing in our faith communities, something worth writing on our hearts.
If that is not being experienced, those of us who have been given some kind of responsibility in the church need to assess what is happening. The Northern Kent County/Montcalm Yellow Pages lists over 175 churches. But those listings are only places—places needed to stage the real action of the Christian life. That action is ministry. In the Bible lessons for the first weeks after Pentecost, Jesus is continually giving his disciples his last minute instructions. He told them to do what he had told them to do, go into the world, teach as he had taught them, invite all people into the Kingdom of God, be one with the Father as He was with the Father. He did not tell them to go and erect buildings.
That concept came much later when groups needed more space to gather for their ministries. Recognition of that fact is a very important revelation. The church is not a place; it is a bunch of people doing what Jesus told them to do. Some people get confused on this point. They see their ministry to other people as a means of growing and supporting their individual church buildings. That type of effort leaves people hollow and spiritually starving. In reality, the buildings we call churches are only refueling stations. Their purpose is to support the workers for ministry.
The Communion of Believers must maintain its purpose as a mission and not a place. When that occurs, all sorts of good things happen. People understand the authenticity of faith, they are attracted to the God who wants all good things for them, and lives are transformed.