Connections are the ways in which people or objects are linked together. This is a term that can refer to electronic or technological means of communication, such as social media, email, or recently via video platforms, where individuals can transmit words and pictures back and forth between two or more parties.
The term connections can also imply the idea of relationships. In other words, people can be connected to each other because they are physically or socially related to each other — perhaps they are family members and share the commonality of being connected by “blood.”
Other people are connected because they live in somewhat close proximity, or maybe because they know each other somehow. Being connected indicates that different people have something in common with each other. It means they know each other, have something in common with each other, and usually involves a way to communicate.
The church was designed by God as a way for His people to be connected. The Bible explains exactly how this works in Ephesians 4:16, “…the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.”
Notice the terms the apostle used to teach the believers in the Ephesus church about the importance of being connected in God’s Work — the church. It is obvious here that the Ephesian church was comprised of a variety of different people because he uses phrases like “whole body,” “every joint,” and “every part.”
History reveals that the city of Ephesus was a port city and a major hub for trade and commerce. There is little doubt that the church there was comprised of people from a wide range of different geographical and social backgrounds.
There would have been a significant Jewish influence, plus it probably featured a large Gentile population including travelers, tourists, and settlers. Some Bible commentaries report on the significant influence of slavery in Ephesus, so there were undoubtedly slave owners as well as slaves there.
Plus, the city was home to the Temple of Artemis, which meant this was a center of pagan religious thought and practice as well. Supposedly, Ephesus was also known for the influence of prostitution and sexual immorality.
It is amazing, then, that this church had a reputation for its people working together for a common mission. Paul’s language in Chapter 4 makes it clear that this church was known for its effectiveness because everyone did their part.
Everyone fulfilled their role — and the church grew as a result. There’s little doubt that the Ephesian church, although quite diverse, was characterized by the connections among its people.
Do Connections Require a Building?
In modern times, perhaps most common in Western culture, it seems as if many believe that the church requires gathering together in one building and in one room to be connected. The recent history of the church is the account of local assemblies making the commitment to build large edifices as a gathering place.
Church cathedrals dot the landscape throughout Europe (although now many of these large facilities sit empty), while in America mega-churches obtained and occupy shopping centers, malls, arenas, and theaters — or built their own auditoriums or other meeting venues as gathering places for their church to meet.
However, it is imperative for the church to take a serious and thoughtful look at Scripture for practical guidelines and teaching on the necessity of building church facilities as gathering places for their members and other attendees.
Although probably not exclusively, there is credence in the New Testament that the early church met in homes (Acts 2:46, 12:12; Romans 16:5) and not in their own buildings. This account certainly does not dictate the idea that churches, in order to be biblical, should not build their own buildings.
The important thing to realize is that the early church undoubtedly used whatever meeting places were available to them to gather together to fulfill their God-given, biblical purposes.
Why Should the Church Gather Together?
There seems to be a variety of reasons given in the pages of the New Testament for the church to gather in order to fulfill its mission.
1. Christ expected His church to make disciples. The imperative of His “Great Commission” in Matthew 28:19-20 was for His followers to disciple others by “baptizing” and “teaching” them to obey everything the Lord Jesus taught.
This mandate has never changed. It is still important for the church to follow the Lord’s last command to make disciples.
2. The New Testament church met to equip God’s people to serve Him. Ephesians 4:12 makes it clear that the church exists so that Christ-followers would learn how to effectively serve Him.
3. The Lord expected His followers to use their God-given gifts to serve Him in and through the local church. Passages like Romans 12:3-8 and 1 Corinthians 12 emphasize the importance of each believer being actively involved in serving by using their spiritual gifts in active ministry to the Lord through His church.
Their music was, of course, designed to focus on the Lord, but it also was to minister to each other (note the use of “one another” in Ephesians 5:19).
5. Christ wants His people to share their faith in Christ with others. This was quite clear throughout the entire narrative of Acts when the church was new, and an evangelistic emphasis continued through the Epistles as well.
The Apostle Paul and his ministry associates modeled evangelism on numerous occasions, and his student, Timothy, was instructed in 2 Timothy 4:5 to “do the work of an evangelist.”
6. The New Testament instructs God’s people to give financially to the Lord’s work. The New Testament contains a great deal about the subject of giving and financial support.
God’s people were to give when they met for worship and fellowship (1 Corinthians 6:12), and they were to be actively involved in the financial support of God’s servants (2 Corinthians 8:1-7; Philippians 4:14-16).
7. God wanted His people to have fellowship with one another as well. Hebrews 10:25 provides instruction for the church to not “forsake” gathering together as a means of exhortation and encouragement for God’s people.
Do These Purposes Require a Building to Make the Connection?
There could be several very practical reasons for today’s church not to have a building. The church might be a church plant and does not have its own meeting facility yet. Perhaps the church has decided to financially support God’s work instead of putting their money into the expense of a building.
Some churches have experienced the loss of their building through fire or a natural disaster, other churches are not allowed to gather in person due to health concerns or legal requirements.
The important thing is for God’s church to make intentional and tangible connections with their people for the purpose of accomplishing God’s mission for His church.
It is obvious from Scripture that God wants His people to gather with the intent to fulfill the above-mentioned purposes for His church.
It may not be possible for a period of time for the church to meet in person, but the church must connect. Creativity and initiative may be required, but God expects His church to connect.
Photo Credit: ©SparrowStock
Mel Walker is the president of Vision For Youth, Inc., an international network of youth ministry, and he is also is the youth pastor at Wyoming Valley Church in Wilkes-Barre, PA. Mel has been actively involved in various aspects of youth ministry for over 40 years. He is also an author, speaker, and a consultant with churches. More information about his speaking and writing ministry can be found at www.GoingOnForGod.com. Mel has written 12 books on various aspects of youth ministry, plus he speaks to hundreds of teenagers and parents each year. Mel & Peggy Walker are the parents of 3 adult children—all of whom are in vocational ministry. You can follow him on Twitter: @vfyouth. He recently wrote a book on discipleship for youth leaders, Discipling Student Leaders: A Strategy for Discipleship in Youth Ministry, which can be purchased on that website.