By James C. Sprouse, Senior Pastor
The Greek word used in the New Testament for church means called out. The church is a community of people who are called out of the world to be God’s people.
The church is a community of people, not a building. It is hard for us to grasp this, because we think of the church as centered in a building that stands in the neighborhood where its members live. But it has not always been so. For the first few centuries Christians met together in homes or in places where their secular occupations brought them together. Later, when buildings were built they were not built in local neighborhoods but at the crossroads of life – in the market towns or places near the central government. It wasn’t until the Middle Ages (400s to 1,400s) that the kind of parish church we know came into being.
It is important in our time to understand that the church doesn’t depend on a church building. In removing churches from homes and from centers of business and government where secular life brings Christians of all races and classes together, have we come to think that Christian faith and life have to do only with what goes on in a building on Sunday and a few times during the week when people of the same socio-economic groups come together?
As our society and world change, our lives are less and less centered in the neighborhood where we live. Many people find their friends, do their business, take their leisure and spend most of their lives outside the neighborhood where their homes are. If the church of God is wherever and whenever Christians come together for worship, study and service in the name of Christ, do we not just as surely go to church when we meet during lunch, when we join together during service projects away from our church building, when we meet for prayer or study in someone’s house?
My point is not to deny that the local church building is still very, very important. It is to emphasize that as our society and world continue to evolve and the neighborhood becomes less important in many person’s lives, the church doesn’t have to be less important. We are free and open to experiment with new forms of church, because the church is not a building. It is God’s people, whenever, wherever, and however we come together. When I think of Trinity Church, I don’t think only of 1205 Dolley Madison Blvd., McLean, VA … that is an address. The church I think of is called, Molly, Eileen, Keith, Janey, Harriet, Michelle, Jerry, Peggy, Ray, William, Wayne, Reba, Jim, Leslie, Jose, Karen, Diane, Sandy, Margie, Dan, Philip, Joey, and so on — everyone at Trinity. God has strategically positioned our building address of Trinity Church in beautiful McLean, VA. One thing this means is that God needs you and me to be about the ministry of Jesus Christ, right here, right now, in this time and in this place. This is our mission post – from which all our missions and ministries flow. The people of God called Trinity Church assemble together to praise and worship God at a specific address every week. Here, we are equipped for mission and ministry. We then leave our church home address and return to our homes, our places of work and the market place. It is there we live out our faith in relationships among all the other churches we discover we are also members of.
Shalom, Jim Sprouse