Does going to church undo the Gospel?

I borrowed a lot of my speech last night from these two blog posts: Worship as transcendence, Why make a speech?. Here’s a summary of some theology about being the church:

The public meeting in Circle of Hope is an expression of our church. It isn’t church. You might notice that sometimes our leaders are holding back a cringe when someone says, “See you at church.” Or “Are you going to church?” That’s because we don’t want people to just come to church. We want to be the church. This is a really big deal. If we don’t emphasize this, and I’m not just being melodramatic, we undo, in our minds, what God did through the person of Jesus Christ and his death and resurrection.

In the Old Testament, God dwelled in a Temple. While the Israelites were wandering around the desert, God instructed them to make a portable dwelling place where he would reside: we call it a Tabernacle (which literally means “dwelling place”). This Tabernacle was eventually “superseded” by the First Temple of Jerusalem. It was destroyed, and Herod, the Roman puppet King of Judea, built the Second Temple, the great center of culture, worship, and identity for the Jewish people under Roman captivity. Herod didn’t resist the “Hellenization” of Jewish culture as much as the conservative Jews wanted him to, but he did give them a Temple (after taxing the heck out of them). That was a great source of pride and identity for this group of people.

Jesus’ life and death and resurrection brought a revolution to this whole Temple mentality. In one occasion, he was interfering with Temple business and the people around him weren’t taking to it too kindly. Jesus typically does this kind of thing, he makes large statements because he isn’t afraid of death and he has a mission. His detractors asked him what authority he had to do all of this. And he told them back: “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”

They replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?”

Jesus changes everything. The entire world of the Jewish people is altered by their Messiah. God no longer dwells in the Temple, he dwells in us. John writes, “The temple he spoke about was his Body!” Not just his physical body, which was indeed going to be resurrected, but the Body of Christ. That’s US! We are now the dwelling place of Jesus.

So, you can see why saying “Are you going to church?” is something I really want to teach against. We aren’t going to church. We are the church. We aren’t going to the dwelling place. We are the dwelling place.

 

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