What Makes a Church?

Last weekend we had the opportunity to visit Europe’s largest shopping mall, Newcastle: a city of importance in the mission of the early Methodist movement, and to visit with some new friends here in Durham.  On Sunday, we worshipped with the saints who gather each week at Carrville Methodist Church on High Street in the Belmont community of Durham.

Our walk to church is just under a mile.  The skies were overcast and a light rain was falling.  The forecast was for a gale-force wind to come through sometime during the day.  We left a few minutes later than we wanted.  We headed down the footpath (translation: Sidewalk) with a quick step.

Arriving at the church, we were immediately received with a warm smile and handshake.  The service was just beginning, but the people were happy to receive us, though we were a little frazzled and a little damp.

On this particular Sunday, they were celebrating with a multi-generational worship service.  People of all ages participated in some way or another in the service.  They even have a small table near the front of the sanctuary with a few chairs.  It is just the perfect size for preschoolers to sit and color during the service.  Their families sit on the front pew nearby.

After worship we were welcomed to tea, coffee, and cookies in the gathering room just off the sanctuary.  Several people introduced themselves and welcomed us into the community of faith.  I felt a little like I was meeting my long-lost relatives.

But the thing that really struck me was when we were headed for the door.  A congregation member was showing us around and telling us the history of the buildings.  The congregation is over 150 years old, but the buildings are relatively new.  They raised over £90,000  to reconstruct the facilities.  You could tell that they are very proud of them.  But then she said, “But none of that matters.  The building does not make the church.  The Church is the people of God gathered together and His Spirit working in them.”  True, indeed.

Beautiful churches cover Britain.  Yet fewer than 10% regularly attend worship.  Most Britons are very quiet and reserved.  Your “hellos” are rarely acknowledged on the street.  Yet in the congregation we found a group of some of the most outgoing, hospitable people I have seen.  Truly, God is at work in the folks we met on Sunday.

There’s an old saying: “When the buildings burn down and the preacher leaves town, what you have left is the church.”  The Spirit of God working in the lives of His people to bring light and hope to a people that have forgotten their way.  That’s what makes the Church.  In what ways have you seen the Church?

We pass this monument on the way to church.   There are many WWI monuments here.

We pass this monument on the way to church. There are many WWI monuments here.

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One response to “What Makes a Church?

  1. Rob and family–thanks for the inspirational messages. Please keep sending pictures of Durham and surroundings–blessings–Barry Nowlin

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