Tables and chairs were folded and put away; gear was stowed and supplies were packed in containers dripping with water.  The rainy space we occupied became a parking lot once again.  Believers who came together to serve for Moments of Hope, (a non-profit organization whose mission is to serve the homeless in the name of Christ), had just served food, smiles, and prayers.  Before we went our separate ways, we joined hands to thank God for the blessings we had experienced by serving others in Jesus’s name.

A man and woman walked across the parking lot towards us.  The woman was distraught with tears streaming down her face. Between sobs, she told us she needed prayer. Our circle folded around her.  We didn’t know her or her situation, but it didn’t matter.  God knew and had directed her to us.  We prayed for her. Jesus hugged her through our arms and reached out in compassion to her with our eyes.

“There was a wedding  today, but people are here every Saturday to provide a meal and pray with those who need prayer,” we told her.  “Please come back.”

“I didn’t know there was a wedding,” she said, “I just thought it was a church.”

She and her friend thanked us and walked away.  God created that moment of connection.  We may never see His purpose on this side of heaven, but you can be sure there was one.

The woman was right.  Our gathering was ‘church’ in the truest sense of the word.  Church is not defined by the walls and boundaries that are established by denomination and location.

Peter, one of Jesus’s disciples, teaches us that Jesus  is the cornerstone of our faithGod set that cornerstone  into place when He poured out His wrath onto His Son,   blending the penalty for our sin with the grace of His love.   Justice and mercy came together, forming an unshakable foundation that would rock the world.

1 Peter 2:6 (NIV)   italics – mine

“For in scripture it says, “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone (Jesus) and the one who trust in Him will never be put to shame.”

Jesus is the “Living Stone,” rejected by men but precious and chosen by God.  He is  the unwavering truth we build on, the sacrifice we count on, the eternity we hope for and the life that lives in us.

The stone that was rolled in front of the tomb could not contain the victorious life that walked out into the light of a new day.  That  lifeless stone  could not prevent the positioning of THE Living Stone that would change the structure of humanity!

Jesus changed that structure when He conquered sin, defeated satan and rose in victorious life by the power of God’s spirit.  That spirit is the same spirit that re-generates us from death to life when we believe!

Peter also says that believers ARE the “living” stones that make up the church.  once dead to sin, but now alive in Christ, a new creation, forgiven, chosen and redeemed!

1 Peter 2:4-5 (NIV)

“As you come to Him, the living Stone – rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to Him – you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”

Church IS the body of believers – the individuals who love and serve Jesus Christ with worshipful obedience, offered with gratitude to Him who brought us life!

It’s vitally important that we understand church isn’t just a location where you go to worship and be fed the word of God, although having a church building as “home base” is critically important.  We all need a close fellowship where we can learn to serve, grow and develop godly friendships.  But, true church extends beyond walls.  Walls create barriers and separate IF we allow them to.  They can divide and diminish.  Walls designate differences. They often keep people out.  They often keep people in. True ‘church’  is about community – believers working together to serve the Lord out of love.

Paul, who encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus, explains that the church is like the human body (1 Corinthians 12:12-27 and Ephesians 4:1-16), with Christ as the head.  Each believer is a part of that body, all designed by God to work together.

Both examples (the living stones and the body) are about community: believers working, loving, serving together, with differences of opinion and ways of doing things set aside, in order to reach a common goal: to bring God glory, so that all may see and come to know Jesus as Savior.

How can you go beyond the walls and bring church to those who might not come to you?  Seek to be part of something bigger than yourself.  Find a way to serve within the church building you call home AND a way to serve as THE church, the body of Christ, which extends outside perimeters established by human hands.

A hurting world in need of Christ is waiting.  God’s plan and purpose is for you to go, to love, to serve and to live for Jesus as part of the community of believers, who support, encourage and work together for a common goal that extends beyond walls.

The goal:  Celebrate His life, given for you, by living for Him with worshipful obedience! Live HIS story with your life!

J.S. Dalrymple

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