The church like a rocket



By Mark Vance, American Lutheran Church in Woodland

“This is the church. Here is the bell tower. Open the doors and see everyone. As a child, I was taught a finger exercise that was done to these words.

As an adult, I have learned that this particular finger exercise misrepresents the church in two ways. First, he equates “the church” to a building. In reality, the church is the people through whom God works. And, secondly, it suggests that people are the church primarily when they are inside the building. In reality, people are the church primarily when they are outside the church building to continue the work of teaching, healing, and service that Jesus began.

Yet even as adults we sometimes mix things up. We believe that coming together with other Christians to worship and study and experience fellowship with other believers and do various types of “church works” is the raison d’être of the Christian faith. Yet one observer put it well when he wrote: “You cannot become a Christian by sitting in a church, any more than you can become an automobile by sitting in a garage.

What happens inside a church building is important, of course. We need to worship, learn, and find strength and comfort in being with other believers. But none of these things are an end in themselves. Each of these things, rather, is the fuel that is needed to rocket us out of the church building and into the mission field which is the community around us.

A colleague of mine in the Sacramento area says he reminds his congregation at least once a month, “We are not a social club with a cross on top. We are the church that exists to serve the world. Are you and I doing this job well?


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