The Third Place of Worship
Let’s think about this for a minute, please. If you and I and a handful of others are gathered in a church on a Sunday morning, or a home group on a Thursday night, then we’d expect the presence of God with us, on the basis of this verse, wouldn’t we? We’re gathered together in His name, after all.
But if I walk to the far side of the room, or step outside the front door, is His presence still with us? How about if I walk across the street? Or down the block? What kind of distance does “together” encompass? If I fly to Djibouti and you remain at home praying for me, is His presence somehow removed because we’re not “together”?
My point is that it doesn’t make sense for us to interpret “together” as primarily a function of physical location. I can see two hindrances to a physical interpretation: a) if we’re defining “together” as “within physical proximity,” then there comes a point when nothing has changed except physical distance, and now God’s presence is no longer with us, and this isn’t particularly consistent with scripture, and b) this passage is talking about a spiritual principle (unity), but “distance” and “location” are physical descriptors, not spiritual ones: feet and inches don’t have significance in the realm of the spirit.
Or another application: what would happen if you and I met at Safeway? Does that qualify as “gathered together”? Do we still qualify as “in His name”? Is His presence still with us in something approximating the way it is on Thursday night at home group?
Here’s where I’m going: I think that “gathered together in My name” should perhaps be defined as a state of covenant relationship existing between us. After all, His presence among us doesn’t begin when the meeting starts any more than it somehow vanishes when the pastor says, “
If you and I are in a covenant relationship, then certainly we will meet together sometimes. We might meet at the same church, the same home group. We might meet at Starbucks (I have a friend who calls it “
OK, if all that’s true – if being “together” speaks of relationship more than location – then God’s presence is in our midst, even when “our midst” is on opposite sides of the city, or the world. If that’s the case, then the necessity of our Sunday Mornings together is reduced: if God is really with us when we are united in heart, then you and I “going to church” will happen whenever or wherever we are “being the church.”
There are some very significant implications from this:
· I can be refreshed, strengthened and equipped by God anywhere, anytime.
· I don’t need to invite people to church in order to introduce them to
· I can pray for the sick, or share communion, or instruct people in the Word in the mall or in the church building with equal effectiveness.
· I can count on the guidance and instruction of the Holy Spirit pretty much anywhere I go.
· Wherever I am,
So does any of this suggest that gathering on Sunday mornings (or Thursday nights) is irrelevant or unnecessary? May it never Be! The Book encourages to gather together “all the more” as time goes by: My responsibility to be the Church is increased, not decreased, by this.
So it’s valuable, it’s important and even necessary that we gather together as believers. But the time and place are maybe not so important. And wherever I am, whenever it is, I am a representative of