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The Airplane Church: Rethinking the Concept of Church

IN THE August 14 ISSUE

FROM THE Christopher Lewis,
andMinistry Musings
SECTIONS

by Rev. Christopher Lewis,
Nothing is Impossible Ministries

nothing is impossibleI went to church in an airplane one day.

I was traveling to Piura, Peru on Faucett Airways, an airline that soon thereafter went out of business — probably due to too many accidents to be a coincidence. The state of the plane on the inside didn’t do too much to inspire confidence either. One of the overhead bins kept coming open on its own, and several of the light fixtures over the seats were hanging out of their sockets with only the electrical wiring holding them like a string suspended over the passengers’ heads.

The middle-aged lady next to me was scared. She was not used to flying, and I suspect there were several factors that contributed to her fear.

As we began to talk, she soon discovered I was a preacher. She said that she herself was a religious person and was a devout member of her local Catholic church. We talked about God and the Bible for the whole flight and I noticed that, very soon after we started talking, all signs of fear disappeared.

After we landed, she said, “You know what? After we started talking, my fear went away. In fact, I felt closer to God during this flight than I ever have before.”

Church is wherever God’s people are. It’s not a building; it’s people.

That’s why I can say that airplane became church that day. As we turned to God in the midst of that flight, it quickly became all about Jesus.

I also remember going to church in a bar in Peru once as well. I felt this sudden tug to enter this local bar, a place where many Christians would be scandalized to set foot. As I entered, I soon encountered somebody who was in need and needed to talk to someone. God’s Presence came clearly into that loud little place in South America, and it became a holy place the moment God’s love was shown.

Any place where Jesus’ love is proclaimed and lived out can become a holy place. The Bible does not call Christians to just go to a church building once a week and then satisfy themselves that it makes them Christians.

Living a Christ-like life is about what we do during the week. Our time in a church building is only a small part of it. And being a follower of Christ is about letting Jesus forgive us of our failures and come to dwell in our hearts EVERY DAY, not just for an hour a week.

If we have Christ truly living in our lives, everywhere we set foot can become church. The word translated church in the Bible means “called-out ones.” The biblical word has absolutely nothing to do with a building, but it has EVERYTHING to do with people. The word refers to people who are called out of the mundane life of a dying world and called into a personal relationship with this world’s maker and savior. It refers to people who are called to live out the life of Jesus in the world, demonstrating that they are not citizens of this broken world but citizens of the Kingdom of God which is breaking into this world through Jesus Christ.

It’s possible to go to a church building every week and never go to church. Why? Because the building is not the church. The people are the church and, wherever the people who know Jesus are living out the life of God’s Kingdom, that’s where church is.

Does that mean that we shouldn’t go to church services? No, it doesn’t mean that. The Bible says, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:25)

However, our meeting together only becomes true “church” when we meet to seek God together, to encourage one another in the faith, and to prepare together to live out the life of Christ through the week. Singing songs and listening to sermons isn’t what makes it church. Jesus is the one who makes it church when we focus on Him and let His life flow through us. The meeting during the week is supposed to help equip us, encourage us and prepare us to BE the church throughout the week.

Then we continue to be the church when we go to work on Monday. We can find ourselves going to church when we meet someone who needs some encouragement or a hug at school. When we find out our coworker could use a kind word, our everyday workplace, whether it be an office, a factory or McDonald’s, can become a holy place.

Have you been to church today? Try giving someone a smile wherever you are right now. Try encouraging the checkout person at the grocery store. Try telling a neighbor how much God loves her. Try treating a homeless man to a meal. Try filling your workplace with kindness.

You’ll be surprised how quickly the very world you live in will become the church of the living God!

Christopher Lewis is an ongoing contributor to our Helping Hands section, currently serving as missionary and Pastor of the Baja Christian Church in México. More of his insight is available at his blog,
Nothing is Impossible Ministries.

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