I hear a lot of talk about how to “do church.” There isn’t space to explore all the intricacies of this topic here. And the conversation often yields more questions than answers. What’s on my mind is John the Baptist and Jesus. John the Baptist was certainly cool. Here’s this shaggy guy ministering out in the desert, beyond the confines of religious structures, outside the box, off the grid. Surely, that’s the way to do church: chuck all the old forms, go back to formula, let the river of life find its own channels to run in. That sounds pretty good until you consider Jesus. He was less shaggy, attended synagogue each week, and observed events on the Jewish liturgical calendar (i.e. Passover, Tabernacles) (Luke 4:16; Matt. 26:17; John 5:1, 7:2-10). I know, I know…Jesus “broke” the Sabbath and things like that (Luke 6:1-11). But He also functioned quite comfortably within the religious structures of His day. So this puts me in a pickle if I’m trying to find the right way to “do church.” Do I disagree with Jesus? Or with John, whom Jesus said was the greatest prophet of all time (Luke 7:26-28)?
Thankfully, we don’t have to answer that question. Jesus talked about the differences between Him and John the Baptist. His conclusion? “[W]isdom is proved right by all her children” (Luke 7:35). In other words, “Yeah, John and I do things differently but we both love God and manifest His wisdom.” Maybe how we “do church” isn’t as important as we thought. When discussing differences in Samaritan and Jewish worship, Jesus said, “a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. […] Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth” (John 4:21-23). For Jesus, the question wasn’t “How?” or “Where?” but “Who?”
“Who” is more to the point. Church isn’t a place, an activity, or a thing. It’s a Person’s body—Jesus’s body. Do we function by a living connection with our Head? Do we draw experience-changing spiritual life from Him? Do we share that changed experience and life amongst ourselves and with the world? If we answer, “Yes,” then how we “do church” may not be that important. Life comes in many forms. Just look at the number of species on this planet! (The number of insect species alone makes my point!!). If we answer, “No,” to these questions, then, again, how we “do church” doesn’t really matter. Death, too, takes many forms.
What does matter? Jesus; knowing that it’s about His grace and not about doing it right (Eph. 2:8-9); trusting that we are God’s workmanship (Eph. 2:10); allowing Him to break the mold instead of trying to fit ourselves in one.