Where Does the Church Go Now?

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On a late May morning, my son was exploring Liverpool, England, and sent us a short video of the inside of a cathedral. The immense arches draw one's eyes upward to heaven, where the colored light of stained glass windows dances on the ceiling.

Not five minutes later, my daughter, a first-grade teacher, sent a picture of her students sitting on plastic crates in the grass behind the school building, gathered for worship under gray skies.

There is beauty in both. There is a sense of God’s awesomeness and God’s presence in both. There is a pull in my heart to worship in both.

The church today needs both.

Fresh Expressions, a Resonate partner, says: We need a “mixed ecology” of churches. I’ve written about this before, in particular while churches were exploring new forms of worship during the Covid-19 pandemic. But now, as some churches are wondering if they should stop online worship to encourage people back into a building, or if their Sunday morning attendance will ever grow again, I believe we still need to embrace this concept of “mixed ecology.”

At its heart, the church is not a building. It is not a place. The church is a people—the people of God, filled with the Spirit, called to be the presence of God in the world. The church "is a gathering of forgiven sinners, called to be holy, dedicated to service (Contemporary Testimony 42)."

This gathering can happen in vast cathedrals or under open skies. It can happen on smooth wooden benches or on plastic crates. And for the church to be missional today, it must happen in different places, in different ways. My neighbors who are not part of a community of faith are unlikely to enter a church building, but they might gather around the fire pit in my backyard. 

At Resonate, we’re beginning to see leaders and churches embrace this mixed ecology, and through it, find new avenues for the church to grow. We’re walking alongside microchurches and other fresh expressions of church as they bring the church out of the building and into the community. If you’d like to join us on this journey, let's talk. I’d love to hear from you.

Amy Schenkel is Resonate Global Mission’s Regional Mission Leader for the Great Lakes region

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Thank you for the reminder that the Church is the people! Often we talk about "going to church" when we are actually going to participate in a communal worship service conducted by the church. The Church is more than its worship, even as the worship of the Church is important.