Is the church essential?
Is “the church” essential? This is a hot topic here in Kentucky these days amongst the COVID-19 crisis. Apparently, as it is, “the church” in Kentucky has been deemed as “non-essential” and has been among the many corona shut downs in the state over the last couple months. Governor Beshear encouraged churches to meet virtually or hold drive-in style services where people stayed in their cars and avoided contact with others. In the year 2020, this wasn’t difficult to do. Anyone with a cellphone and Wi-Fi can stream a message on Facebook Live, right? Or use a Zoom Conference to meet virtually for a Bible Study. Even my own laryngectomy support group has been meeting through zoom each month during this COVID crisis.
As simple as these suggestions seemed, there was one church in Nicholsville, KY who did not agree. They filed a law suit against the Governor and our Attorney General recently joined them saying that closing churches violates the First Amendment of the US Constitution.
I’m not writing this to debate Constitutional Law. I would never qualify myself as adept enough to have that debate with someone. So, for the sake of today’s message, let’s all set aside our thoughts on the meaning of the First Amendment and the practicality of closing gatherings to prevent the spread of COVID-19. I know this is hard to do. Many of us feel very strongly on the topic. However, for sake of today’s word, let’s set it all aside and listen with open minds.
What is the Church?
“Here is the church. Here is the steeple. Open the doors and here’s all the people.”
This children’s nursery rhyme echos in my mind every time I ask this question. What is the church? What makes something “a church”? Is it the building? Is it the steeple on the top?? Is it the programs or “ministries” they offer? Is it the pastor? What exactly makes something “a church”?
I’ve written before about Jesus on the road with his disciples. You can read what I say about that here. I look at Matthew 16:13-20. Jesus says to his disciples, “Who do men say that I am?” They respond that he is a prophet or maybe Elijah reincarnated. Then Jesus gets personal. He says, “Who do YOU say that I am?” Peter quickly responds with “You are the Christ, the son of the living God.” Then Jesus, very impressed, confirmed this to be true. Peter could only know this from revelation from God and “upon this rock I will build MY CHURCH (emphasis added).”
This is one of the times in the New Testament that we hear Jesus talk about “his church”. I think there are some important things to note here.
What is “this rock”? Is it literally Peter? The Catholics think so. They made him the first pope and literally built their Vatican City upon his burial spot. It’s the center of their faith. But I don’t think Jesus meant Peter literally. I believe Jesus meant that “the rock” was the revelation Peter had. The revelation that can only come from God. It was the belief that Jesus was the Messiah. The Christ. The Son of the Living God. THIS is what God built his church upon.
So, if I were to answer, “What is the church”, I would have to say that “the church” is any one who has had this revelation. All Believers (those who believe Jesus is the Christ) are “the church”.
So, contrary to the cute little nursery rhyme, the church is not the building. The church is not the steeple. You can’t make a building into “a church” by adding a steeple. You make a church by gathering like-minded people who BELIEVE that Jesus is the Christ the Son of the Living God. Period.
This may take form in a “church building”. But what truly makes the church is the people.
Again, is “the church” essential?
So, let me ask again. Now that we know what “the church” is, is “the church” essential?
It should be. But unfortunately, it is not always being essential.
I listened to a message by Kris Vallotton recently where he talked about Bethel Church’s desire to impact their city. While I listened to that, I heard the Lord speak to me.
“My church should be so essential to the city in which I have planted it, that shutting it down would harm that city greatly. It’s not just about being essential for an individual and their faith (although that is certainly part of it). I want my church to be so essential to their community that the government would never dream of closing it down. Doing so would cause more harm to the community than good.”
I’ve been meditating on what this looks like. What does an essential church look like? What comes from a body of Believers operating by the power and will of the Holy Spirit that would deem it as “essential” to the community? I don’t have a clear and full picture yet of what this looks like. But I know the Lord will bring me there eventually and I’m excited to see it.
The biggest thing I want the body of Christ to hear is this:
We can’t claim the First Amendment and seek to claim our stake as “essential” by the Constitution. Yes, we have been given freedom to meet and choose our religion. But if the world sees us as nothing more than a social club or support group and thereby deems us an non-essential, something very important is missing. We would be much better off to claim our “essential” standing in another way than boasting about the freedom of the Constitution. There is something that surpasses even the 1787 ratification of our nation’s constitution. (gasp!!)
“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.” 1 Corinthians 4:20
I propose, if we as “the church” want to be seen as “essential” and “unclosable”, we as individual Believers NEED to be walking in the power and authority given to us at Pentacost. We MUST be walking 21st century Ark of the Covenants hosting the presence of the Holy Spirit in us well with power and obedience and surrender.
If all the world sees is talk, then I suppose we will continue to be seen as “non-essential”.
But if we, as Believers, are walking in the POWER of the Holy Spirit, following the Lord’s lead to benefit and bless our communities, it would be really hard for them to deem us as non-essential, wouldn’t it?? In fact, this image brings a huge smile to my face. This is power. This is awesome.
So, I guess that’s what I want “the church” to hear. I cringe when I see Believers standing on the Constitution with fists raised in entitlement. Our desire to be considered “essential” should not come from the First Amendment. It comes from the POWER and the unity the world sees us operating in when we are hosting the presence of God. It really is quite simple, yet brilliantly complex.
God is… I Am.
So, if you as ” the church” want to be seen as essential, consider taking some time to get personal with the Lord today.
Lord, I believe Jesus is the Christ the son of the Living God. This makes me “the church”. And Lord, I want your church to be considered essential. Not because the Constitution makes it so, but because the POWER of Christ through me the hope of glory makes it so. I acknowledge today, the power of your Spirit indwelling in me. I acknowledge you are in me for my benefit and upon me for the benefit of others. I ask that you would fall upon me like Isaiah and anoint me to help those around me. Help me to hear you and follow you as your prompt me throughout the day to “be your church.” Thank you for the cross, the resurrection and His stripes. Thank you for the power of the Holy Spirit you have left with me and the supernatural peace you have given. Thank you for the fruits of the Spirit. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self control. Lord, live your life through me. Amen.
Copyright © 2020 Dacian Keaton Ministries. All rights reserved.
PS. If you have no understanding of what it means to be living a life of POWER with the Holy Spirit, please contact me through my blog. I’d love to help you find some resources to learn what this means!
Is “the church” essential?