This is the first in a series of posts exploring the pictures/metaphors of the church that are used in the Bible. The New Testament was written in Greek and the word that is translated in English as church is ‘Ekklesia’ which literally means ‘a gathering of people’.
The dominant metaphor or description of the church in the Bible is that we are a group of people who are gathered together.
I was thinking about this picture of the church as ‘a gathering’ when I came across this picture of a crowd of people. The exhibit that the crowd is gathered around was called Holoscenes and it was part of Scotiabank Nuit Blanche (an all night art festival in Toronto) in 2014. A giant tank was repeatedly filled and emptied of water whilst the people within it tried to accomplish everyday tasks. As you can see from the picture, Holoscenes also used light in a clever way to highlight the artists who were in the aquarium.
The crowd in the photograph is made up of random people who are captivated and drawn together by something highly unusual and creative.
Holoscenes reminds us of the nature of a crowd or a ‘gathering of people’. People don’t just gather randomly, but they do congregate around an event or a person.
If the church is a gathering of people, then we need to be clear about who we are gathered around.
Our gatherings are with other people, but really they should be about God.
‘Where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them’ (Mathew 18.20)
I don’t think Jesus was saying that it takes two or three of us to make him turn up because he is everywhere already. Rather I think he was saying that he is there with us too and that he should be at the centre of our gatherings.
Is Jesus the centre and focus of our meetings?
I love the way that Holoscenes contrasted the light and darkness and how the light interacted and was magnified by the water. As I thought about the crowd and what they were drawn to, I was reminded that the church should be drawn to Jesus who is the light of the world and that Jesus came to give us living water.
The church should be all about Jesus, but it is all too easy to become consumed and obsessed by the mechanics of how the church works as an organisation.
We can focus more on how we worship than we do on the one who we are worshiping.
We can focus more on how we organize ourselves than we do on the one who we say we are following.
We can focus more on budgets and getting enough income than we do on the one who we say we are trusting in.
We can focus more on our own good works and the activities of the church than we do on discerning and joining in with what Jesus is doing.
We can focus more on getting people to come to our church than we do on leading them to the light of the world who can give them living water.
If the church is a gathering of people, who are we centered around?
Matt Redman’s song the heart of worship has had a profound impact on many of us. It’s a call to make our worship all about Jesus but if you substitute the word church for worship in the chorus then it echoes what our prayer should be for the church:
I’m coming back to the heart of church and it’s all about you, it’s all about you Lord Jesus.
I’m sorry Lord for the thing I’ve made it when it’s all about you, all about you Lord Jesus.
Part 2 in this series is the church is the Bride of Christ