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Coming Back.

Posted by Gary Pauley on

It has been good to see some of our friends returning to church.

During the whole Covid ordeal there has been a lot of discussion about “doing church” without “going to church.” Frankly, those are both strange phrases. Biblically speaking, “church” is what we are as believers, not what we do. And one cannot really “go to” church. I understand that we use the word to refer to the local gathering, or even the building. But still, these ideas are a bit confused.

The question is hardly whether or not we do or go to church…the question has to do with what it means to be a church. Fellowship is very much at the heart of the answer. We tend to think of church fellowship in terms of casseroles and deserts, but certainly the biblical idea is more profound. Our English word “fellowship” translates a word in the NT that speaks of something held in common that binds people together. In our case, it is the gospel. The casseroles are just, well, a perk.

I think of my many church experiences and how they impacted my life. I quit going to Children’s Church during the worship service when I was about 12. We were in a large church and the Children’s Church experience was just out of control. So from a chaotic room of a couple of hundred kids I migrated to an adult worship service to hear the pastor preach each Sunday. He was amazing. Still among the more capable preachers I’ve ever known. I remember being dumbfounded by his ability to articulate and challenge the congregation. Still, I only remember a couple of snippets from sermons he gave over all those years.

But the fellowship throughout those years probably had a bigger impact on my life. By fellowship I mean the life-sharing and social dimension of church life where we spent time together bound by our common calling in Christ. The discussions around a table, in a classroom, in youth group, at a dinner, in a home…all contributed something to helping me formulate my Christian worldview. It wasn’t done in an hour Zoom once a week. It wasn’t accomplished by listening to podcasts or checking in on blogs. Fellowship was, over time, a discipling program.

And this is why I am glad to see friends returning. Church is not really a program, we have just come to see it that way. The impact of fellowship is really personal, spiritual, and durational. I am not writing this to pressure others into returning. If you have not returned yet, you will know the right time for that. But I think we all look forward to the ultimate return to face-to-face fellowship.

And I am personally excited about the return of church dinners, too!