Dealing with False Dichotomies: "Don't go to church, be the church"

Have you heard this one before?
It's pretty popular these days to have people say, "Don't go to church.  Be the church!"

As if the two were mutually exclusive.

As with many false dichotomies, this one comes from a place of good intentions.  Saying "be the church," is a way of pushing back against the false idea that merely going to church on Sunday is what it means to be a follower of Christ.

Now, there is absolutely a sense in which we are called to "be the church."  For instance,
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:9-10)

However, Scripture also speaks of church as the local assembly of believers who gather together around God's Word and sacraments and are under the care of a pastor. Matthew 18:17, Galatians 1:2, 1 Thessalonians 1:1, Revelation chapters 2 and 3, and Hebrews 10:25 are just a few examples.

To pit going to church and being the church against one another is simply silly.
It's both/and, not either/or.

Those who are in Christ will gather to receive Christ through His Word and through the Sacraments because they know they need what is given there.  They will "go to church" because God's Word commands it, because grace is given there, because there they receive support from and give support to fellow believers, because there they learn more, because the Holy Spirit is at work there through the means of grace, and for so many other reasons.

Those who are in Christ will also live as the church throughout the rest of the week too.  They will serve the Lord in their daily lives.  They will help their neighbors.  They will seek to share the gospel with others.  They will forgive others, love others, and pray for others.  They will do these things because they are the church.

So do go to church...and also be the church, because both are pleasing to the Lord. 


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