Pastor Jerry Cook (Eastside Foursquare Church in Bothell, WA) helped me to realize a different way of answering the question: “Where is your church?” In his book, The Monday Morning Church, he tells the story of a conversation with Dr. Richard Halverson, formerly the chaplain of the United States Senate and the pastor of a large Presbyterian church in Washington, D.C. After speaking in a seminary chapel service, he engaged some of the students in conversation over coffee in the cafeteria. Cook relates the following
“We get together at a building on Fourth Street, but we don’t spend much time there. We’re mostly in the city.” One of the students asked, “Dr. Halverson, where is your church?” This seemed like a perfectly reasonable question to me, but Dr. Halverson looked quite perplexed and hesitated to answer. Then he glanced at his watch.
“Well, it’s three o’clock in Washington, D.C. The church I pastor is all over the city. It’s driving buses, serving meals in restaurants, having discussions in the Pentagon, deliberating in the Congress.” He knew exactly where his church was, and he went on and on with his lengthy listing. Then he added,
“Periodically, we get together at a building on Fourth Street, but we don’t spend much time there. We’re mostly in the city.”
A bomb went off in my head. All of my out-of-joint ideas about the church suddenly snapped into place. The church is people! (1)
It’s so natural to think of your church as a place. In fact, after all of the time and money that’s invested in buying land and building church buildings, it’s no surprise when you tell someone the location of your church buildings in answer to the question, “where is your church?”
However, if the church is viewed as a building at a specific location, then church is simply somewhere to go, rather than who we are in Christ.
For so long, I’ve told people that my church is up on the hill overlooking Castaic Lake.
However, I think I’m going to change how I answer this question in the future. In fact, I would hope every Christian could begin to view the church differently – as God’s missionary people who are everywhere engaged in the mission of Jesus.
If someone asks you, “Where’s your church?” – why not take that opportunity to help them view the church as people instead of a place? Of course, after a lengthy description of where your people are at any given time, you can always tell them that “periodically, we get together at a building on _____________, but we don’t spend much time there. We’re mostly in the city.”
So – where is your church? (please tell me)
(1) Jerry Cook, The Monday Morning Church, Howard Publishing Company, 2006, p. 12-13.
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