A sister church in our area has announced an initiative to "be the church" rather than "going to church." According to press coverage (which I always take with a grain of salt), the capstone of this initiative is the cancellation of all Sunday worship services for a given Sunday in favor of a number of community service projects.
First, I want to commend the concept of emphasizing "church" as someone who we are rather than someplace that we go. It is a needed and biblical correction in our day. And yet, having determined to be the church rather than to go to the church, I can't help but wonder whether a set of community service projects can constitute being the church in any New Testament sense.
In the New Testament, although I find the careful attention of the church to the needs of church members, I find it difficult to build an exegetical case for the policing of city park litter and the changing of old motor oil as the essence of ecclesiology. One might pretty easily argue that the New Testament church not only did none of those things, but further that they did nothing which might be construed as the first-century equivalent of them. Or perhaps I misread the scriptures.
The only hermeneutical basis I can conceive for defining the being of the church thusly is to exalt (a selective reading of) the Minor Prophets over the Pauline Epistles and to build more of an Old Testament social movement than a New Testament church. Starting off each morning with a daily passage of Rauschenbusch would go much further in building such a mindset than would a daily encounter with Acts.
Community service projects might be a great public-relations move for a church. They might present opportunities to share the gospel with new people for a church. I've led our church to participate in similar ventures. I do not write to express any personal opposition to the activities in and of themselves. Rather, I object to the labeling of community service projects as the church actually coming to be itself. The history of The Salvation Army has demonstrated, I believe, that warm-hearted and caring people can actually allow a passion for community service to get in the way of a church being a church as biblically defined.
When I think about FBC Farmersville coming to be the church rather than going to church, I think about the Church Covenant that I will be presenting to the congregation in May for a vote on it (along with our new Constitution & Bylaws) in July. It is as we two or three (or more) gather together in covenantal agreement in the name of Christ, worshipping Christ, with Him gathered with us, and we fulfill the "one anothers" of the New Testament that we are being the church which Christ founded.
Note: I comment on this matter because I believe that it addresses important questions that we can all benefit from considering. I neither name the church in question nor link to the mentioned press releases out of my fraternal love and respect for a sister congregation in our local area. Although we may answer these questions differently, and even if the topic merits our consideration, I have no desire to be gratuitously derogatory toward a sister church with whom we cooperate.