I am the church!
You are the church!
We are the church together!
All who follow Jesus, all around the world!
Yes, we're the church together!
So goes the chorus hymn 558 in the United Methodist Hymnal, We Are the Church.
I first learned this one when I was leading the children's choirs at my home church, my first ministry gig out of college while I was in seminary. I hadn't heard it before, but I was looking in the index of the hymnal for children's choir suggestions, and there it was.
Written in 1972 by clergy and musician team Richard K. Avery and Donald S. March, We Are the Church is a hymn written to be led by children, a lesson to be passed on by children.
The first stanza goes like this:
The church is not a building.I find these words especially poignant in today's church when we seem to get so hung-up on building these wonderful facilities. Don't get me wrong, I love the beautiful sancturary I have the privilege to lead worship in. Hearing the choirs and bands and singing with the congregation is amazing. The house was built to the glory of God, there's no doubt about it.
The church is not a steeple.
The church is not a resting place.
The church is a people!
But then we call it "The Church". When in fact, it's we, the Body of Christ, who are the church.
It seems like a semantic argument, but it's an important one. Our buildings and sanctuaries are important, but that's just where the church gathers. How many churches have you seen meet in school auditoriums? Or storefronts? Or people's homes? There's even a UMC community that meets in, of all places, local bars. You don't need a steeple to gather as the church.
How do we make sure that the ministry of Christ is defining the church, and not the buildings we build?