We have been a church for midtown Wichita for over 111 years. Generations have been faithful in sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ and the love of God with our neighbors. While our commitment to “Making Disciples, Making Peace” has not diminished, in light of a global pandemic the way we do this has changed forever. So many people througout our longing for a return to “normal” life. To interact face to face with friends, return to their pew, in their church building. For the time being that is not an option for so many; we are also included in that quarantined reality. Our building is not open for worship, for teaching, for assembly. We have to discover new ways to preach, to teach, to be church together.
Dear siblings in Christ, the church has left the building! The church has never just been about the building; about pews, hymnals, organs, and ceremonies. The church is the people who come to a building on Sunday mornings, Wednesday evenings, Saturday morning to serve others. The church is found in small groups gathered to read the Bible in assisted living centers, coffee shops, and living rooms. The church is reaching out to our neighbors in need, reaching out to one another with the love of God found in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The church is the body of Christ, YOU are the body of Christ in the world today, and we as the body of Christ continues onward boldly proclaiming Jesus Christ in the world.
Some pastors and religious leaders are calling Christians to show the world how strong God is, to defy the pleas from doctors, scientists, and public health officials, and to come together in a church building; to carry on with church the way we always have. There is comfort in just doing what we have always done; the familiar is reliable and safe. Pastor Tony Spell even promises, “if anyone in his congregation contracts COVID-19 he will heal them through God.”1 While I disagree with his proposition and his actions, I do agree it is time to show the world just how amazing God is. It is time to leave this comfortable routine, to leave the building and show the whole world just how deep and powerful the love of God is for all creation. To boldly preach and teach the grace of God found in Jesus Christ. I believe we are being called to once again be the church in the world, and to be the church for the world. For far too long Sunday morning worship has been the exemplar of Christian fellowship and faith. We gathered together in our boxes of stained glass, steel, stone, outfitted with padded pews and climate-controlled rooms. We have become comfortable in worshiping and serving Jesus in a neat and ordered manner. Martin Luther stated that sin is incurvatus in se, a turning inward to ourselves. The current global pandemic has forced us inward into our homes, but dramatically outward in our ministry, We are called to go beyond the walls of the church, beyond the borders, to become a truly global church.
At St.Paul’s Lutheran Church we can boldly say that the church has left the building. We are passionately living into the call of Jesus Christ to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”2 We are preaching and proclaiming the rock-solid truth that Jesus told us “I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”3
Once this pandemic is passed we will assemble together in our sanctuary, our Sunday school rooms will be busy teaching, our potlucks will resume. We will be a changed church forever; a church with a new global membership, a global commitment to preach and teach, a global sanctuary that is not defined by walls or borders. The church has left the building.
1 Pastor Tony Spell, Life Tabernacle Church https://wgntv.com/news/coronavirus/louisiana-church-hosts-more-than-1800-people-amid-covid-19-outbreak/
2 Matthew 28:19-20a
3 Matthew 28:20b