It is popular today for people to say, “Don’t go to church; BE the church.” Everybody nods their heads at this, but few actually know what it means or how to truly “be the church.” With this post, Sam Riviera is starting a series of posts on how to be the church in your community. If you have ever wondered how to be the church in your community, you don’t want to miss a post. I will try to put one up each Monday for the next several weeks.
When most people in our culture think of church, what comes to mind?
Most people think of church as a location with buildings and property, or as an organization. When asked about our relationship with “church”, people usually ask us “Where do you go to church?”, “What church do you belong to?” or “Where is your church”?
While that understanding of church is common, my wife and I think of church as “those people who follow Jesus.” For some, that may include properties, buildings, programs, staff, and all the other accouterments that go with the organizational, institutional understanding of church. For some of us, it does not.
While we find it important to gather with other believers to share the common hope we have in Jesus, we do not limit that to the organizational, institutional scenario. We try to “be the church” in the community – every single day.
What Does It Look Like To “Be The Church In The Community”?
As we proceed through this series, I will give various examples of what this looks like for us and encourage you to share examples of what this looks like for you in your community. None of these examples are intended to be a model for you to follow. Instead, they are only instances that will not only help us to dream of what it looks like to be the church in our communities, but also help us to live out our calling to follow Jesus in our communities.
A Day in the Life of Being the Church
What does a typical day of “being the church in the community” look like for us? I doubt that there is such a thing for us as a typical day, but I will describe what it looked like for us today.
After spending the morning on jury duty, I came home and changed to go running. First, however, I watered plants and pulled weeds for a neighbor who is out of town. Then I talked with another neighbor whose wife recently left him. I invited him to our upcoming block party.
After running, I talked to another neighbor about some details for the upcoming block party that she is helping us organize, then greeted another neighbor, a widow who told me her phones had not worked for two days and she could not call anyone because she had also lost her cell phone. A couple of hours later, we had determined that there was a problem with her phone system, and had found her cell phone so she could report the problem with her landline to her landline provider.
After my wife came home from work we walked through our neighborhood before leaving for our evening class. We greeted several neighbors, then drove to class. After class, we discovered a backpack in the parking lot next to our car. We opened it (No, it didn’t explode) and found a driver’s license, credit card and other personal items for a person vacationing from out of the area. With the help of a friend who has a smart phone app that found a phone number for the address on the driver’s license, we reached the owner of the backpack and arranged for her to pick up her backpack.
It Takes Nothing Big to Be the Church.
As you can see, nothing about our day would be material for a book or a mini series. It would never be the sermon illustration for a mega-church sermon. Yet we see days like this as a somewhat typical day of being the church in the community.
To be the church, all we do is keep our eyes and ears open to the people around us, and try to show them love in whatever way we can.
In future posts we will look at various other ways we have sought to be the church in the community, will give examples of other people we know who are being the church in their communities, and will encourage you to give examples from your experience.
Be the Church in Your CommunityWant to be the church in your community but don't know? Here are some posts which not only explain what it means to be the church in your community, but also gives concrete, practical examples of what it looks like and how to be the church whatever you do and wherever you go. Remember, you ARE the church, and wherever you go, Jesus goes with you!
- How to Be the Church in Your Community
- The Tribe and the Church
- Church Tribes vs. the Jesus Tribe
- How to Preach the Gospel to your Neighbors
- Being the Church is Loving the Person in Front of You
- 4 Practical Suggestions for Being the Church in your Community
- Love Like Jesus by Listening to People
- Welcome New People to the Community
- Finding Jesus in Denver
- Loving Others at Walmart
Steve Edwards says
This is a great post. Definitely what Paul and Jesus meant by ‘church’. We are living stones. I believe in taking church to the people, too. I worship God on the dancefloors of nightclubs in the red light district of Phnom Penh, where I make friends with the local sex workers. It isn’t easy. It can be emotionally messy. These girls lead real lives, lives of pain, abuse, poverty, children, abortion and drugs.
Yet knowing these girls as friends is the greatest privilege. Seeing their inner beauty (and not their outer as their clients do) seeing them as God sees them, not as labelled ‘prostitutes’ but as ‘broken hearted girls’ (the Khmer word for prostitute is literally ‘broken girl’) is a true gift from God. Whether they want to change career and train as a beautician at the local NGO I take them to, or whether they just appreciate me for who I am, what matters most is the friendship.
When one girl recently said to me ‘I used to see you as a (potential) customer, but now I see you as a friend, a good friend,’ (after knowing her for 2 years) it touched my heart. I have given up trying to save them. They know I am a follower of Jesus and that is why I don’t want to have sex with them. It’s a great privilege to be friends with the girls I’ve made friends with. I would have liked to have been there when Jesus was with his female friends, and seen how he was with them. I imagine his love for them must have shone from his heart and eyes.
Thank you Steve. I read some of your other comments, and I think you really do “get it”. We also do not attend traditional, institutional church. We follow Jesus into the neighborhood, in the inner city, among the homeless and other places. The people know we follow Jesus, and only occasionally do we have to tell them. Like you, we have discovered where Jesus hangs out.
Steve Edwards says
Awesome, Sam. It’s a wonderful way to live, isn’t it? True freedom.
Yes, it is! What a shame that so many Christians do not understand.
Crosspointe Church Yorba Linda says
Touching! Great to know your views and your perception. This is what we all should understand and preach as being a Church.
Michael Kampff says
Love the post. Some great examples of loving your neighbors. Your acts of service reflect the love of Christ, and I pray Christ works through you to bring others to Him. I have no doubt that’s happening.
I think it’s worth emphasizing that “being the church” takes many, many forms, especially in today’s world. Our “neighbors” are those who we interact with, can express Christ’s love with and who He can potentially influence through us. It could take the form of walking around the neighborhood (as you’ve illustrated), or taking time to share His love, wisdom, comfort, grace and mercy in a blog or Facebook post or comment (and many, many other ways). My point is that Christ works through each of us in different ways. I would challenge readers to seek His calling (His word, prayer, Christian counsel, etc) in how He would have them love their “neighbors”, in the ways most conducive to their strengths. Their strengths exist for His purpose – we should focus on channeling those strengths for His glory, rather than imitating anyone else’s strengths.
I agree that we must keep our eyes and ears open to people around us, and be a conduit for Christ’s love in whatever way we can (like the good Samaritan), but we must also keep our eyes fixed on His truth and our purpose centered on making disciples. Our love for our “neighbors” won’t do any good if they don’t end up in relationship with Him.
Love the blog. I pray that my comments add value.
Thanks for the great comment! Yes, we consider everyone who crosses our path our neighbors, and try to show Jesus’ love to them, even if in small ways.
So many people have seen “Christians” who don’t look anything like Jesus to them, so are genuinely surprised and often interested in finding out just why someone does treat others as Jesus did. True, we can’t convict or convert anyone (that’s the Spirit’s job) but we can show them Jesus’ love. As my long-deceased father said, “honey draws more flies than vinegar’. The love of Jesus freely shown to our neighbors leaves a pleasant after-taste, and some want to check out its source.
Southern NH, USA
Shawn Christopher Trumbo says
No offense friends but Jesus spent a lot of time telling people about His Father. He bragged on Him because He loved Him and because He was so great. It was His nature to do so. Of course He went about doing good. But out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. His disiples were no different.
Yes, this is a difficult concept to grasp, but loving neighbor, as Jesus commanded, most definitely does not preclude telling people about the Father. Loving others actually provides more opportunity to tell about the Father. And those who hear actually hear, since they know that you do not have other agendas in mind, as do so many religious people. This is about so much more than just going about doing good. Remember, the heart of the Father is love.
Thank you for Clarifying that term. A minister at Marble Collegiate church
Used that term many years ago. Looking back everyone there followed that idea. You were accepted no matter what your station in life happened to be. You were helped when you fell. You were free to be YOU.
NOW I know what church I am looking for.
Shelia Holmes says
Yes indeed! This is Gods truth right here. Thank you for the message sent from our father through you.
Carol Roberts says
So happy to find you and your web sites, Jeremy. I’ve signed up for your email. Insofar as the one on the 100 Top Christian Blogs goes, I’m not nearly there yet but I do love to write about life and faith. Maybe some day (I’m 74 though so I’d better hurry!). Loved this blog about being Church…I’ve actually been feeling guilty about being in church so much when I’m really needed in a few places where people are hurting. So thank you for confirming what the Spirit has already been saying.
Sam Riviera says
Carol, When I think about this series I’m reminded of the woman I knew who talked about “people who hide out in church,” by which she meant they go TO church (church services in a building) and veg out, but avoid going TO people who need them. When we were part of the institutional church, we knew many of the former and few of the latter. In the years since then, that has reversed itself. Hazard a guess as to which group of people we grew to know best and who knew/knows us best. Then hazard a guess as to which group knows their community best and their community knows best.
If this makes sense to you, follow your heart and go where you are most needed. I believe the Spirit will go with you.
They say touch leaves a memory — I think the church shines best when it’s reaching people at their point of need, connecting with hurt and hardship — where life happens in our everyday ordinary.
I am so glad I found this webpage. I was feeling discouraged, but this helped me stay focused. I have a festival to do in a few days and this will be the first time my church has an opportunity to reach out to the community. I feel alone but I know what God wants me to do. So I will keep pushing. I like that saying, Don’t go to church be the church.
Thank you so Much
Edna Davidsen says
I just finished reading your blog post “How to Be the Church In Your Community”.
Here’s my comment.
The topic you bring to our attention in this blog post is interesting.
Your initial sentence “Don’t go to church: BE the church.” Got me thinking about the following:
Faith comes to us from outside (Romans 10:17).
Perhaps we should also realise that the physical surroundings play a more significant role than we Christians often tend to believe.
Well, back to the post . . .
You wrote: “my wife and I think of church as “those people who follow Jesus.”
Perhaps we can say the church has an inherent duality.
The building is somehow just a building, but we all know that it’s also more.
There’s a spiritual dimension as well.
We can ‘be the church’ in many ways.
The Faith, though, has to come from what we ‘hear’ and ‘see’, e.g. through our senses.
You have a legitimate point, as Christians there no typical days.
A day is a never returning occurrence; and as Christians, we should spend it being grateful and sharing the good news about Gods glory.
What your examples from a day show, is that the Christian church/faith isn’t disconnected from culture and daily life.
They’re much more connected than many Christians are aware of.
Many churches tend to isolate themselves from the real world.
The ten posts suggested for ‘Learning more’ were beautiful.
My favourite was number two ‘The Tribe and the Church’.
Steve Edwards said in a comment:
“I believe in taking church to the people, too”.
That’s central for modern people.
If people don’t attend the worship, we have to meet them where they are.
As Michael Kampff said in his comment:
“. . . being the church” takes many, many forms, especially in today’s world.”
We have so many functions to fulfil in the service of Christ that there should be enough for all of us to do in the future.
We sure live in a fascinating time where Religion (a positive word, meaning ‘to bind’) plays a more significant role than ever before in History.
PS: I’ll share on my Facebook Page and Twitter.
Bearded Bible Thumper says
It’s so very important for all of us to be the church and be the instrument of Christ in our communities. This world need so much more Christ-like people to reach out and truly be the church.
My wife and I recently rewatched the show 7th Heaven and I am always amazed at how the family takes in just about anybody and reaches out to anyone and everyone that needs help; even those actively trying to hurt them. To me, that’s what being the church is.
The church has never been a building or location. Remember, early Christians practiced their faith anywhere they could, often in secret due to fear of being killed.
Southern NH, USA
Thanks to all your for your great comments too!
Southern NH, USA
Randell Monaghan says
I love this post. it’s right on point.
“While we find it important to gather with other believers to share the common hope we have in Jesus, we do not limit that to the organizational, institutional scenario. We try to “be the church” in the community – every single day.”
so well put, my wife and i think the same and so do many of the people we call friends. before we married we lived with friends from our church they put us up in their home and helped us so we could have the best start in our married life.
we are apart of a tight nit community in a small country town. The town has about 7 churches but often we gather at the river and have get together’s. I feel how we do things here far exceed what is achieved in your standard church. passers by get to join in, people that may have never wanted to go to a formal church.
Some of these people later find god and feel comfortable enough to start talking with him.
Jacob Agoot says
I do agree with the massage in the bible that says, Church is not about building and gathering of many people. it is a way that you associate yourself with what Jesus wants you to be.it mean love a closer person and other people around you, be kind, honest helpful to them if they need something from you. if you keep doing that way, then you build a church in you.
Solomon Olorundahun says
How can I register with you as a member
Pastor Jeanette Auteri says
I went to a small church, that was held in a gym. The pastor was a small town boy. He had pastored a small church in CA before coming to Montana. His church grew and grew until we rarely saw him. One day he announced he was going back to CA to a small church. I see so many ‘going’ to church, and not being the church. Church to me can be helping my neighbor on Sunday or any day. Serving a neighbor. I have been convicted lately that sitting in a pew is not ‘honoring God or loving on my neighbor’. God led me to see your site this morning. I couldn’t sleep for the Holy Spirit kept saying “You are the Church”.
Great Post on how to be a Church.
I would love to share the gospel here in my area but, there are so many regulations and laws. It intimidates me and I know that I need to be bold and start working for the Lord. How can I start?