"This is church," I heard God say to me. It was in the middle of a ministry board meeting. It was a lovely fall day, so I decided to have our bi-monthly meeting outside on our family deck. It was interesting to hear those words, as I was not part of an organized church at that time. Later, when I pondered God's words, I noted that we were a small group of Believers who prayed, worshipped God in song and fellowshipped with one another. This was in addition to the business portion of the meeting, but even this was done unto the Lord. I heard those same 3 words once again while praying and worshipping God with a handful of people at our state house capital building. In these 2 circumstances, I was gathered with God-fearing, Holy Spirit-filled people and everything we did or said was unto Him. "This is church."
I've heard pastors highlight to their congregations the need for people to "go to the house of the Lord," (Psalm 122:1), but those words were from the Old Testament. After Jesus ascended into heaven, He sent His Holy Spirit to fill our bodies, and so when a person is filled with or baptized by the power of the Holy Spirit, they become the temple of the Holy Spirit. Paul tells the church in Corinth, "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?" (1 Corinthians 6:19). The truth is, "WE ARE THE CHURCH." WE (Believers or Christ-followers) make up the church. Paul stated to the believers in Ephesus, "So then you...are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets; Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone; in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit" (Ephesians 2:19-22).
While attending one church, I was worshipping God and had a vision. I saw the church building from inside the walls, but the walls looked like a cardboard box. I watched the walls of the box collapse down and out. I then walked out of the "box" and into the street, where I saw a person whose hands were bound with handcuffs. I walked up to the person with a set of keys and unlocked the handcuffs. I spent a lot of my time in that church building. I spent hours there on Sunday mornings and then Sunday nights. I went there for the seasonal conferences, monthly women's breakfasts, weekly classes and all of the social gatherings such as the Christmas potluck. One day while in prayer, I heard God say to me, "Holly, I don't want you to camp out in the church building. I'm calling you to go outside the church building." I wept when I told my pastors what God had said to me because I loved them and was loyal to assisting them with the needs of their "church."
I agree with Paul's words in the book of Hebrews, "Let’s consider how to encourage one another in love...not abandoning our own meeting together, as is the habit of some people, but encouraging one another" (Hebrews 10:24-25). We need to fellowship with like-minded people where we encourage and exhort one another. King Solomon, known for his wisdom said, "For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up!...And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart" (Ecclesiastes 4:10, 12). Whether I am part of an organized church or not, I make it a point to connect on a regular basis with my Christian brothers and sisters (and spiritual mothers and fathers), whether it be through texting, emailing, conference calls or meeting in person. I enjoy doing this not only on Sunday or the Sabbath day, but on every day of the week. I enjoy praying, worshipping, serving, fellowshipping and learning more about God, every single day of the year.
I've had church in places such as a strip club, a parking lot where homosexual men meet, Dunkin Donuts, a park where drug dealers work, and my local grocery store. When California's governor mandated that churches could not gather and worship God, worship leader Sean Feucht called "the church" to gather and worship on the Golden Gate Bridge. Hundreds of Christ-followers had church on a bridge! Sean wrote about it in a Facebook post and entitled it, "THE CHURCH HAS LEFT THE BUILDING." Sean continued to have church outdoors in cities across the nation in the following months and I was blessed to take part in the Boston, Connecticut and Washington, D.C. gatherings. I loved worshipping God freely under the open sky in the Boston Common; a park where non-church goers also gathered and so could hear the Gospel message and feel the tangible presence of God. I've asked myself, "If all believers in Christ hang out with each other in a church building, then how will unbelievers outside of the building hear about the love of Jesus and be saved?" Most believers spend all their time and energy tending to their families, going to work, and lastly, in the church building. It leaves little or no time to reach out to people who would never step foot in a church building.
Many people have been wounded while attending the organized church or Christian-based school. Some were victims of abuse from pastors, priests, worship leaders, and teachers. These people are not likely to walk into a church building. So I ask myself, "How will they hear the Gospel message and be saved?" Many people look at themselves and feel that they will not be accepted if they were to walk into a church building because they do not look, talk or smell as good as those inside. Even if they were welcomed, they still may feel that they do not belong. "Who will go to share the love of Jesus with these ones?" Another question that I ask myself.
Ok God. I hear you. "Here am I. Send me" (Isaiah 6:8).
Lord prepare me
To be a sanctuary
Pure and holy
Tried and true
I'll be a living Sanctuary
Oh for You
*Song by Marantha Music
**Sanctuary refers to a temple or church