This morning we took a break from Romans to look at the nature of the Church. We saw from 1 Peter 2:9 that the church is a people, not a place. The church is “a people belonging to God,” those he has called to himself from among both the religious and the irreligious (Romans 9:24). In this new people, there are no racial, clerical, or national boundaries. These human divisions are superceded as we find our common identity in being Christ’s Church, the people who belong to him.
If you would rather read than listen, the essence of the sermon in essay form can be found here: The Nature of the Church
When we engage this conversation, the question often arises: what is the interaction of people and place? Granted, the church is a people and not a place. But people congregate at places. And people live in places. And places shape people. Evan asked this morning: should I be inviting people to come to church (the place) with me, or is that the wrong approach?
My answer is that this is essentially a means-and-ends question. Church (the place) is a means toward the end of shaping the church (the people) in obedience to God. We gather each week to renew our covenant with God and with each other – to be reminded of who we are and whose we are. If inviting people to church (better: the church gathering) on Sunday is an end in itself, that’s bad. But if it’s a means toward the greater end of seeing them embrace the gospel and join the people of God, great! That’s exactly what we’re trusting Jesus to do: to use our feeble, sinful, humble efforts to glorify his name and build his kingdom and gather his people. For, in Omaha as in Corinth, God has “many people [yet to be converted] in this city” (Acts 18:10).