What is Church — Guest Post 4

Today’s post is written by Joshua Wilson.

Raised in Miami, Florida, Josh loves strong coffee and arepas. After moving to Gainesville in 2005, Josh fell in love with area but still roots for any and all Miami sports teams. He started to work with the Trinity UMC Youth Group in 2008 and loves it. His favorite things are hanging out with his sons, painting, and practicing to qualify for the US Olympic curling team (if there’s one thing he can do, it’s sweep).

What is Church?

“Home is people. Not a place. If you go back there after the people are gone, then all you can see is what is not there anymore.” ~ the internet

I recently visited the church I grew up in…or maybe I didn’t.

I started attending Sunday Services when I was in sixth grade. My dad wasn’t into religion but said “you gotta have morals” so every Sunday morning, he would drop me off at the church down the street from our house. I sat with Mrs. Horton, a little old lady who taught English at my school. She called me her “church child.”

I eventually started to go to youth group, not because I really wanted to go but because a friend practically twisted my arm. Doug, the youth pastor, was an artistic, guitar playing, slightly ADD role model. Long hours talking about real life began a search that led me into ministry. He also turned me on to hair gel, bolo ties, and puffy shirts…not my finest look, but, hey, it was the 80’s.

At youth group, I met people who would have long and lasting effects on who I was. And this is where my concept of church was starting to be formed.

My history with this church continued on through adulthood, eventually working there as first a youth ministry intern and then Middle School Youth Director. I got married and had both of my children baptized there.

So when the Trinity Youth Group traveled down to the Keys for a weekend retreat, I contacted my home church and arranged for us to stay overnight in their youth building. The next morning, I woke up before everyone else and walked around the grounds that witnessed so much of my becoming who I am.

The buildings stood empty as I walked through them. Nothing had much changed but I couldn’t help but feel that the church I grew up in wasn’t there.

And maybe it was never there.

What is church?

The church is not a place. If anything, it is a people making a place. If you have ever played cowboys, astronaut or pirate or whatever else when you were a kid, then you understand the idea of making a place. No matter where you are, just a bit of imagination can transport you to your lonesome prairie, your rocket, your pirate ship or your deserted island.

So, church is a people, dreaming about a place, imaging a place into reality…a place where we are family in the truest sense, accepted and loved. We all yearn for a place of rest and hope, a place to know and be known by others…heaven on earth. So, the church is a people trying to make heaven a reality on earth.

Sometimes, we get it wrong. Well, a lot of the time we get it wrong. Maybe even most of the time. But at our best, the church is a cathedral made of people, a chapel of arms and hands, feet and heads, a people who together form a house in the shape of healing and grace that was first shown to them by God.

The church I grew up in wasn’t there on that morning in South Miami. That’s good news. Because when those buildings are long gone, the Church will still be standing. When Trinity UMC in Gainesville, Florida is long forgotten, the Church will still be standing.

Ephesians 2:19-22 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the  apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being  the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

 

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