Here’s something I bet you haven’t heard this week: “Remember, we’re going to cancel our building service, but the church cannot be canceled. Don’t forget that.” As we discussed our plans concerning COVID-19 last week, these wise words were said by Pastor Ron to his young elders. Although there are a host of different reactions to this COVID-19 pandemic, we all share at least one: confusion. You can hear it in questions like, “What is happening right now?” or “Why is all the bread and toilet paper gone?” To be honest, I’m just another man in the mix as far as the world around me goes, being tossed around and told what to do; however, as a Christian, I am as solid and grounded in my faith as ever because I haven’t forgotten the truth I know. Let me share with you three truths that prove the church cannot be canceled.
Let’s begin where we should: Christ. Jesus Christ is the Founder of the church! In the Gospel of Matthew, Christ tells Peter, “upon this rock, I will build My church” (emphasis added). The Greek verb for ‘build’ is oikodomeō. This word is made up of two smaller Greek words: Oikos means house or building and dōma means roof or house top (think ‘dome’). It really does have the exact idea of a builder and a building, but it’s merely an image of the real thing! Christ follows that statement with “and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.” Let’s make this part very simple and clear: If this entity, the church, is founded by the Son of God, and He said it cannot be overpowered, that most certainly proves that no man or created being could cancel it. With that foundation laid, let’s talk about what the church is exactly…or better yet, who.
The believers themselves are the church. 1 Corinthians 3:11 says, “For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” This points to the fact that the church is not made of bricks and mortar, but of flesh and spirit (otherwise Christ would be a slab of concrete). Your church building was not built by Christ; it was built by the hands of men. The church, the believers, the “called out” ones, is who Christ uses to build His church. People cannot be canceled. Furthermore, this body (not building or services) cannot be overpowered because Christ is the foundation (Get the image?). The church shown in the New Testament is an image of a building with an immovable, unthwartable foundation, but the church is not an actual building or service; it’s a body! Ephesians 1:22-23 say, “…and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all” (emphasis added). *Repeat* “…the church, which is His body…” We know that we are part of the body of Christ when we believe in Jesus Christ. Paul says to believers in 1 Corinthians 12:27, “Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it.” You can lock the doors of a building and cancel a service, but you cannot cancel the church.
But aren’t we, in fact, canceling the church if we are forsaking our own assembling together? Hebrews 10:24-25 say, “and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” We tend to focus on the phrase “forsaking our own assembling together,” which takes the focus off the purpose of assembling which is to “stimulate one another to love and good deeds” and “encouraging one another”. Listen, there is absolutely no perfect substitute for the edification that occurs when we assemble together, this is why we’re commanded to assemble; however, gathering together is ultimately for the purpose of edification, and can we not still edify? Again, I don’t believe we can ever truly duplicate the power of gathering together because there is just no substitute for face to face human interaction and corporate worship; however, this time that we’re in is temporary, and you are not forsaking the assembly if your desire is to be with the church body. Let me explain: the English word forsake is egkataleipō in the Greek, which means to totally abandon, desert, or leave helpless. You get the idea. Just because you didn’t physically gather this week doesn’t mean that we have forsaken the assembly; we have not canceled church.
If Christ is the Founder and foundation of the church, certainly no created being could cancel or destroy what the Lord has built. Even if it was a physical building (which it is not), this would still be true because His Word is truth. The church is not built by believers, the church is built with believers with Christ Himself being the chief Cornerstone (Eph. 2:20), and just because you did not physically gather this week does not mean that church was canceled…it means a physical service was canceled. Don’t be confused. If your pastor preaches, if your elders pray, if your members stimulate one another to love and good deeds and encourage one another…church was not canceled. If you walked in the light this week as Christ is in the light, church was not canceled. If you prayed to God, worshiped Him, read His Word, and loved one another, church was not canceled. Believers, don’t be discouraged and remember that although the normal service was canceled this week, the church will never be canceled.