1. “IS CHURCH THE GOSPEL?”

Imagine a buffet. See the towering stacks of plates, the orange heat lamps, the steam rising. The freedom to pick and choose however much (or however little) you want. Now imagine modern Christianity. A choice between the many perceived in-roads to salvation. Pick one or a few based on culture, theology and denomination. Do these individual pieces make up the gospel? Absolutely. Can we choose a few and leave the rest? Absolutely not…

Church is perhaps the most inclusive segment of any gospel buffet. It’s not so much a single dish as it is an entire section—dessert. A variety that satisfies the senses. It’s where we spend most of our time. We find safety in visiting here because it gives us the high we’re all craving. If stripped of all else, we feel we could survive on what we get inside the four walls of the church.

But here’s the wrinkle: imagine a diet built on our sweet cravings. Feeling good is not knowing God. The dessert section fills the mind and body, but it’s only a matter of time before the emotions dry up and frustration sets in. Then we are left looking for the next slice of cheesecake. We either leave the church or accuse the church of having too many fakers. As unhealthy as eating only dessert would be (eventually leading to death), only attending church and believing we are Christ followers results in the exact same. Weekend church attendance, with little to know fellowship with God during the week, is like standing in a garage and thinking we are a car.

Here are some questions to ask ourselves: What defines my Christian identity? What is my relationship with God like Monday through Saturday? How would my Christian life look if I did not or could not attend church? Would we consider ourselves Christians if we didn’t attend a formal church? Where do people around us see Jesus reflected the most—when we’re inside the church or outside? When we reflect Jesus inside and ourselves outside, we live a deception derived from the gospel buffet. One where we think church attendance is the primary identifier of a Christian.

If church is just one segment of the gospel, what, then, is the church supposed to be? It begins with people. A group of them—two or more—coming together for the purpose of edification, correction and community. It starts at home, with the family and can happen anywhere. Regardless of buildings, memberships, money, timeframes, technology or programming. As a family, do we see our homes as churches? Because it doesn’t stop with regularly meeting together. It carries over, 24/7, in personal communion, communication and companionship with God. When what happens publicly during the weekend doesn’t influence us both privately and publicly during the week, we are deceived into thinking that we are walking a Christian walk.

If our walking like Jesus fails at home and at work but flourishes in church, we are living a deception called Segmented Gospel.