The Church is ___________ ?

When I have the opportunity to preach, I enjoy engaging the congregation. Sometimes, I’ll bring along a beach ball and play a game. I’ll pass the beach ball around the sanctuary and whoever catches it completes the sentence, “The church is _________.” I find this to be a fun way to get to hear all sorts of thoughts or images about the church before launching into my sermon.
I’d like to share with you a new way I’ve begun to think about the church: The church is more than a Sunday gathering. As the COVID-19 Pandemic systematically shuts down life in America as we know it, we are quickly having to adjust ministry in response to this new reality. I understand the frustrations that so many have, especially in remote small towns and rural places that feel so far removed from the problems of the more densely populated urban and suburban cities. You may be asking, “Why do we have to adjust our ministry when we feel safe?”
Regardless of our feelings about our need to adjust, I believe that this crisis has exposed our deeply rooted dependency on Sunday morning gatherings inside our church buildings. Many American churches have built their identity and purpose around Sunday morning worship, fellowship, and education … and not much else. So what is church if we can’t gather inside our beautiful buildings on Sunday mornings? My hope is that this crisis will help you and your congregation to think deeply about this question and reclaim your mission.
It is important to remember that Jesus did not need a church building to do ministry.  And while it is true that sometimes Jesus preached to the crowd, most of his ministry was in small groups and gatherings in homes or out in public places. In Acts we discover that the early church multiplied disciples for generations without any church buildings to meet in. How can we in the 21st century reclaim a faithful and effective disciple-making ministry without Sunday mornings inside our buildings?
I believe this just might be one of the Romans 8:28 ways that God brings about something good from this horrible situation: “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” I am hopeful (confidently expect) that God will bring about amazing transformation and refinement to His church through this crisis as congregations rediscover their true identity and purpose apart from Sunday morning gatherings in their beautiful buildings.
Pastor Bryce Formwalt is the Director of Mission Growth for LCMC Texas District and Program Director of Harvest Workers, an online ministry training program (learn more at Residing in Georgetown, Pastor Bryce is available to coach congregations on mission. Feel free to contact him with any questions or comments: 512-942-7776 or
© 2020 Bryce J. Formwalt, All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission.
April 2020