What is “the church” to you?

As we’re continuing through our sermon series in Galatians, I got to preach on Galatians 4:8-20 at our Wimbledon Venue.

It is a fascinating set of verses, that give us an insight into Paul’s relationship with the Galatians. He tells us of how they met (v13) and how kind and caring the Galatians were towards him (v14-15). But the passage is remarkable for the depth of emotion Paul expresses. He is clearly heartbroken at how things have developed since those early days.

This section crescendos in v19 where Paul states his desire for the Galatians: 19My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you…”

Paul’s desire is that these believers in Galatia would come in to a deeper and deeper understanding of what God has done for them and to allow that truth to ripple through the whole of their lives. Paul’s desire is set on the goal that these believers in Galatia would become more like Jesus.

And it got me thinking… do I carry this same passion for my church family?

As I concluded my sermon I asked three broad questions, with a few comments and probing questions that followed each.

I’ve copied these questions below. They’re not for the faint hearted. But my hope is that they’d help us honestly consider how we’re applying the gospel of grace to this area of our lives.

  1. What is the church to you?
  • What does “the church” mean to you?

The church literally means, ‘an assembly’. So, “I’m going to church” means “I’m going to the assembly”. Of whom? Of God’s people.

Sometimes we say, “I’m going to church…” where actually we mean “I’m going to service…”.  It’s certainly easier to criticise, “I wish the church would…”. It’s easier to criticise the faceless.

“What’s the churches position on?” I hear this one a lot. I will often respond… “I don’t know, when did we last do a poll of all of us? … Ohhhh, you mean the elders?” Wonderfully, the church is not just our leaders. The church is us. It’s who we are together.

  1. What is your engagement with church?
  • Why do you come to church?
    • For a singalong?
    • Just an event, to ease your troubled soul with a good work?
    • Just part of your weekly rhythm? Just something you just do?
    • Or is it something deeper?
    • Is this your family? Are these your brothers and sisters?
  • Right now, do you view yourself as part of an audience or a member of a congregation?
  • Sorry for this one… when this service is over, how quickly are you going to leave?
  • Do you make any time for this group of people outside of this service?
  1. Is this a genuine church family?
  • Who is speaking in to your life?
  • Whose life are you speaking in to?
  • How close are you to others in this church?
  • Have you ever committed to a Life Group?
  • When was the last time you shared your heart with someone? (Not just your desires for you, but your desires for them?)
  • When did you last seek out a conversation with the expressed purpose of encouraging the other person?
  • When was the last time you had a conversation with someone in church that was deeper than surface level?
  • When did you last deliberately stay a bit later in a service to chat with someone new to form a friendship? Or to deepen a friendship?
  • When did you last make a new friend here?

I appreciate these are hard questions.

Some will find them harder than others. Particularly if you’ve had a negative experience of a church community.

But I’m asking these questions to prompt us to think… what do we want our church family to be?

What values do we want to place at the heart of our community and our times together?

Do we carry the same passion Paul does for his brothers and sisters in Christ, that Christ would be formed in us?