I am concerned.
I understand that for some there is great fear still and a lot of unknowns.
I understand that there are two very strong differing opinions and it can be incredibly difficult to know who to trust and who to listen to. Which voice is right?
But I think it’s important to put those differences aside and talk about the bigger issue here. An issue that’s bigger than Corona.
One of the downsides to the English translation of Scripture is that sometimes words are mistranslated. For instance, the English word “church” comes from the Greek word “ekklesia.” But what that word actually means is “the assembly.” Every time you see the word “church” in your Bible, the Greek behind it is “ekklesia” which means ‘the assembly.’
This was a common way that the Jews in the 1st century, the time of Jesus and Paul, talked about themselves and their meetings. They were “the assembly” because they were ones who would assemble. During the feasts, on the Sabbath, for other important occasions, the Jewish people would gather together in a certain location, often a synagogue or the Temple, and worship God together. It was part of who they were as the people of God. It was part of their covenantal relationship with Him.
In fact, God commanded that a least three times every year, the men of Israel gather together in Jerusalem at the Temple and rejoice in His presence. Otherwise, weekly they would assemble in their own towns at their own synagogues.
Together. As an assembly. One place. One group with One heart and One mind. Encouraging, supporting, worshiping, learning, teaching, rejoicing together.
Community matters to God. The gathering of His people together matters to God.
Unfortunately today most American believers don’t seem to realize this.
How may times have we heard since the lockdowns began “The church is not the building.” And you know what, that is totally right. It is not the building we meet in. It is actually a misnomer to say ‘we are going to church.’ It would be good to begin to changing our mindset by changing the words we use. The Church, the Body of Christ, is a living thing. It is not a building where people meet.
But now we need to go back to the actual word used “ekklesia” or in English “the assembly.” Based on that word and its definition “the Church” is also not a single person, or a family, sitting in their home watching a video on the screen. If “the church” is actually “the assembly” then the Church must actually assemble to fit the Bible’s definition. The Church is the body of Christ gathering together, assembling, to worship God. Maybe we need to start scratching the word “church” out of our Bibles and rewriting in the word “assembly ” to remind us of this truth. The Church is partly the Church when she assembles, when she gathers together.
Maybe instead of saying ‘we are going to church,’ we need to say something like “we are meeting as the church,’ or ‘we are meeting with the church.’
Granted that doesn’t mean you need one hundred people gathering together to make it count. But it does mean you need more than just yourself and trusty laptop or ipad as you watch the Pastor over the wifi.
But we are afraid to gather together. We are afraid to assemble.
We may get sick. The government may come down hard on us. What will our neighbors think? What if the community has a spike and they blame it on us?
But not honest reasons to stop meeting with the Body of Christ.
What about the persecuted Church? The places where believers are actually told they cannot meet because it is against the government or the state or the culture? For the persecuted Church to meet the risks are extremely high. They are not simply worried about getting sick. They are worried about prison, torture, families being divided, and death. When the believers in those countries assemble they are putting their lives on the line every single time.
And yet they still do assemble. It is important to them to meet together, to worship together, to rejoice together, to encourage, teach, and learn together. With the threat as high as it is for them, they still choose to meet.
What’s our excuse again?
Or let me put it this way. Many Churches/assemblies are refusing to assemble because of the threat of getting sick. Many believers are staying home even if their congregations meet because of the threat of getting sick. If you are unable to meet with the Body because you may get sick, why do you think you will meet with the Body if the threat becomes something worse?
What if persecution does come?
What if the government and society declare that gatherings are illegal, especially for religious reasons?
If you are unable to stand up and meet with fellow believers today, why do you think you will stand up on that day?
Does that mean things need to look the same for every assembly? Nope. Maybe megachurches are a thing of the past. Maybe house churches come back into style. Several families getting together listening to the pastor’s message. A group of friends getting together every Sunday to listen over wifi. Maybe this is a chance to reevaluate what we do and why.
But that doesn’t mean we stop going all together. Or that we sit at home alone week after week.
The Church is not the building. But the Church is the body of Christ, a living organization that exists when she assembles. Believers today are of the Assembly that follow Jesus of Nazareth the Messiah.
After all, if we’re not willing today to meet because of a virus, why do we think we’ll meet when the threat becomes something greater?
And what really is the Church, the Assembly, when she refuses to assemble?