Come and, like living stones, be yourselves built into a spiritual house...
– 1 Peter 2.5
The idea of church has always fascinated me. We’ve created such a definitive image of what It looks like (presentations in a building with songs and speaking), but it’s clear that we haven't fully appreciated Its reality. As Shawna and I have moved more times than I like to count, we’ve found and participated in many, many different expressions of the same thing. It’s been an education!
What I’ve discovered is people who go to church are often there for the exact same reason that people go to the bar: Acceptance, security, and ultimately, intimacy. Those are all things that I believe don’t exist without the presence of Christ.
Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above; it comes down from the Father of lights [the Creator and Sustainer of the heavens], in whom there is no variation [no rising or setting] or shadow cast by His turning [for He is perfect and never changes].
– James 1.17
We do not have to acknowledge the presence of Christ (at all, let alone correctly) in order for that presence to be actively dynamic. The reality is that nothing exists without that very presence.
All things were made and came into existence through Him; and without Him not even one thing was made that has come into being.
– John 1.3
Christ is present and people flock to where they get the greatest sense of Him. It’s why we gather in coffee shops, bars, barbershops, homes, theaters, concerts, and churches. There is an experience of acceptance, security, and ultimately, intimacy. Most wouldn’t name that sensation “Christ,” but it is my conviction and observation that it is not, nor could not be, anything less.
On the other hand, when we find less than acceptance, security, and ultimately, intimacy in any one of those places we will typically demonize them. It’s why people also avoid churches and others avoid bars. They’ve sensed that “that” presence is not there. While their experience is valid, it is incorrect. Jesus teaches us to wake up, see beyond our sight, with faith. With the eyes of Christ we see that there is no absence.
Peter’s encouragement to, “Come and, like living stones, be yourselves built into a spiritual house,” really blows up our contemporary construct of what church is. A house is a place of refuge, rest, acceptance, security, and ultimately, intimacy. We can do that anywhere, anytime, literally. “Like living stones.” We can be a part of building an atmosphere of acceptance, security, and ultimately, intimacy in the streets, coffee shops, bars, barbershops, homes, theaters, concerts, and church buildings. It should be the emphasis of everything that happens within church buildings.
Having been a part of church my whole life and now working in a pub, I see wonderful people coming into both places who have the same motivation. Everyone is looking for God. Everyone is looking for refuge; which is God. We confuse it for more alcohol, sex, church service, affirmation, popularity, and money, but there’s a reason the people who get those things never have enough: it was never what they were really looking for in the first place.
Now, while that sounds nice and easy, I never want to make is sound like this is just something we do on our own strength and creativity. We must be people who are accepted, secure, and intimate in order to provide space where people can find acceptance, security, and ultimately, intimacy. That takes strong and courageous people. It takes time, perseverance, commitment, consistency, faith, hope, and love. It takes being present to this Presence at all times and in all places, not only at some times, in some places.
Come to Me, all who are weary and heavily burdened [by religious rituals that provide no peace], and I will give you rest [refreshing your souls with salvation]. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me [following Me as My disciple], for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest (renewal, blessed quiet) for your souls. For My yoke is easy [to bear] and My burden is light.
– Jesus, Matthew 11.28-30 (Amplified Bible Translation)