What does the world see of the church, the visible church? What is the extent of your church’s witness, visibility, and influence in the public’s eye? I have heard it said that we (as believers) gather together on Sundays to get equipped/energized so that we can then go out into the world to be a witness for Christ. And I agree with that. But, so often, once we depart from being together with our brothers and sisters within the confines of the four walls of the church building, we become soloists. Granted, when we go to work we are by ourselves, and unless we live next door to some of our fellow church members, we are also on our own when it comes to what our neighbors see of our church. In other words, the world doesn’t really see the church together, in public, interacting with one another.
I recall singing a hymn when I was younger called, They’ll Know We Are Christians By Our Love, but how will they know this by our love if they never see us together in public?
The Lord Jesus Christ said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another“, but how will all people know this if the only place you express love for your brothers and sisters is inside the walls of your church?
I fear that the visible church is only visible on Sundays and Wednesdays, and even then it is not the church which is visible, but rather just the gathering of cars in a parking lot!
Now, I don’t claim to have the perfect answer, or any grand words of wisdom or a deep, profound insight into how the visible church can actually become more visible to the world, but I do have one small suggestion:
- Do more things in public with your church body so that the world will see you together with one another.
How many church parties, Sunday School socials, and care group gatherings do we have each year? And how many of those are done in the privacy of someone’s home, completely shut off from the world, compared with those done in a public setting? How many Bible study groups do we have going on? And how many of those are done within the walls of the church, compared with those done in public? How many church-wide events do we have each year, and how many of those are done on church grounds compared to out in the world?
I am not saying every single thing we do should be done within the view of the world, but perhaps we could give the world a taste of our love for one another if we conduct at least some of our activities out in a public setting.
If your Sunday School class has regular get-togethers, schedule some of them at the local Chili’s or Golden Coral. Let the world see you having fun together and enjoying each others’ company.
If you have small Bible study groups which meet during the week at church or in homes, plan to have one or two of them a month at the local Starbuck’s or Atlanta Bread Company. Let the world see you opening the Word of God together and praying for one another.
If you have annual church-wide gatherings, schedule at least one of them a year in public. Have a church picnic at a public park or facility that can hold a larger group of people. Let the world see that your church loves being together.
They will know we are Christians by our love, but only if they actually see us together, loving one another in the world. They will not know anything about that love if we continue to stay holed up in the comfort of our buildings and homes.