When I was four years old, we moved to Augusta, Georgia and attended Curtis Baptist Church. I loved going to church! It was actually while attending Curtis Baptist that I became a Christian and was baptized. I wish I could tell you that I loved church because of the stimulating sermons or the meaningful Sunday School class, but I think there were other reasons. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m sure the sermons were engaging for those who could sit still and listen to them, and Sunday School was probably an outstanding time of Bible study. I think, however, the coolest part for me as a young boy was playing in this wonderful place. It was like a huge playground. I remember climbing out on the roof while playing Zorro. Unfortunately someone saw me and reported me to my Dad, and Zorro was rather painfully retired. There was also a wonderful hallway that connected the old building with the new building that had a little slope in the floor and was real slick from the wax. It made a fun place to slide when you ran down the hall in sock feet. Needless to say, I was more than once corrected by adults and told not to run in God’s house. I grew up thinking I needed to treat the church building with respect because God lived there. While that might be an effective method to inspire proper behavior in young boys, it gave me a little twisted concept of the place where God lives. I must have wondered back in those early days if God was going to step out of one of those darkened hallways or sit in one of those chairs on the podium we called thrones. After all, it was “His house.”
I later learned the church building is no more God’s house than the house is that I live in. My house is His house because everything I have belongs to Him. Actually, I came to learn the church is not a physical building at all, but rather a group of people. The place where God lives is really in the hearts and lives of the people who call Him Lord. Paul told the church at Ephesus they were “being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit” (Ephesians 2:22). As a kid, I knew God lived in me once I became a Christian, but later I came to realize the significance of a collection of Christians called the church. Somehow God’s presence is magnified when Christians experience real community together, and somehow collectively we become the place where God lives. It is through this community of believers that Christians are encouraged and the world gets a glimpse of what God is like. I just heard someone say this morning while in the midst of a crisis, “I don’t know what we would do without our church family.” It is through the church, a group of Christians, that lives are blessed. It is through the church broken hearts can be mended because we are the place where God lives. God uses us to accomplish His purposes in the world. God uses us to communicate His love and grace to others. When unbelievers connect with a group of Christians, they are experiencing God up close because we are the place where God lives.
The question we must always answer is “are we allowing the presence of Christ to be seen through us as a body of believers?” If we are the place where God lives, then are we allowing the ministry of Christ to go out from us to encourage the struggling, heal the broken hearted, and save the lost? According to that Ephesians passage, this expression of God’s presence is a process because we are “being built…” As we journey along as Christians, let’s make sure that our attitudes and actions always reflect God’s presence to the world because we are the place where God lives.