A statement that I have seen made throughout this pandemic is: The church is not a building. Sometimes people state it this way: A church is more than a building. While I agree with this statement, I also find it a bit concerning. Satan would love for us to think of the church without discerning a location. Allow me to share some thoughts regarding the church.
The church is not merely a group of people, it is an assembly of people. For there to be an assembly, there must be a location. I am not suggesting the place is necessarily sacred, but it is an integral part of the church. We are commanded to assemble and, in order to assemble, we must have a place or location to assemble.
God is not confined to a building. There are places in this world where Christians must assemble in secret. Christianity is deemed illegal, so assembling is a crime. The Book of Acts reminds us that the church grew in times of persecution. God’s Word is not bound. God’s Spirit is not bound. We applaud these Christians for obeying God instead of man by assembling in secret places. These Christians understand that assembling is an essential part of their Christian lives.
A home is more than a house; yet when I think of my home, I think of my family and our house. I think of the gathering at the end of the day. I think of the memories shared there. I think of the laughter and the tears that draw us closer. The house is the location where our family lives. The house is important to us. It provides shelter and a place for us to be a family. When I think of a church, I think of the place where the church family gathers. I think of the laughter and the tears. I think of the prayers offered and the Bible truths learned. It is people and the location where the people gather.
A church building becomes a familiar place for the church family to gather. Just as we make our homes suitable for our families, our churches become a proper place for us to assemble. Recently a church in Waverly, Tennessee, lost its building to a fire. The people grieved to lose their location. It is not just that they lost a place to meet. They lost their place to meet. When a house burns down, the family is grieved. They can find another house, but that house that burned down had become their home, filled with precious memories. A church building becomes our place of assembly and is unique to us.
We must not forsake the assembling of ourselves. In order not to forsake assembling, we must find a location where we can assemble. There are places where Christians must meet in homes because of the laws of their countries. While I certainly admire their dedication and courage, would we not agree that it would be better for them if they were able to have a building in which to assemble that was their church? We who have such a place should consider ourselves blessed. We should not take lightly the fact that we have a place for our churches to assemble.
Satan would love for us to diminish the importance of assembling. Some feel that this pandemic will get people out of the habit of going to church. Perhaps some will. I believe many will better appreciate their ability to assemble when this pandemic has ended. As a pastor, I must be careful not to diminish the importance of assembling during this time. While the online service is an alternative, it is not a permanent solution. It is NOT a church.
We must fight for the right to assemble. Some government officials are already usurping authority over the local church, which is frightening. I understand the need to be careful, but I also understand the need to protect the rights of the church to assemble. We must not be complacent. It is our duty as Christians to assemble, which means it is our responsibility to fight for the right to do so.
Yes, the church is more than a building. However, let us not disregard the importance of our church buildings where we assemble. Let us not take for granted the place where we meet together to study God’s Word and to equip ourselves to reach a lost and dying world.
by Pastor Greg Neal
In no way am I insinuating that we should not take seriously the warnings and recommendations concerning the Covid-19 virus. My desire is simply to share my thoughts on the importance of assembling. I have no opinion on how another church should or should not operate during this time. I leave that to God and to the shepherd of that local assembly. I have sought God’s wisdom on how to conduct our services with our church and have prayed for the brethren to have wisdom in how to conduct theirs. My prayer is that God’s people will draw closer to Him and to each other during this time, making us greater witnesses to a lost world.
Pastor Neal, through his preaching and his counseling, displays the compassionate heart of a pastor, follows the true leading of the Holy Spirit, and expresses a fervent desire to see lost souls come to know Christ. It is his ultimate desire to see the greater Jacksonville area reached for the cause of Christ and for revival to come to Northeast Florida.