“For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them”, says Jesus.
Isn’t this what going to church is meant to be about? Isn’t this the very heart of what Christians believe, that Jesus is present with them? Christians join together in worship Sunday by Sunday because of a shared belief that this life is not the end. Christians believe that through Jesus from Nazareth, there is a hope of a life beyond this one. Christians believe that through believing they will be reunited with their loved ones in a life beyond all human imagination. Isn’t that why people go to church? If Christians do not believe Jesus is present among them, then why do they attend church?
‘I am there among them’, says Jesus. But how will people recognize his presence in the the society of the Twenty-First Century? Things have changed beyond recognition—the old values, the old beliefs, the old ways have been thrown out. How will anyone have a chance to believe unless someone tells them, and who is there to tell them, except for Christian people themselves?
The story is being forgotten. I teach religious education to sixteen classes of eleven to sixteen year olds, that is about four hundred and fifty students, if there are four or five in that entire number who are familiar with the church and its teachings, it is the most. Fewer and fewer people know anything of the Christian faith. When Christianity is taught to GCSE students, few of them have anything more than a very scant idea of the Christian story.
Where do Christians start? One thing is for sure, in twenty years’ time the scenery will have changed completely. The church will have disappeared in many places. How will people have a chance to be aware of Jesus’ presence, if there is no church to tell them?
There is a need to be creative, a need to use imagination, an need to be able to care for people and to reach out to the world around.
“For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” Jesus doesn’t say that church has to be done in a certain way, nor does Jesus say that the church must be an institution.
The church can exist without denominational organizations, it can exist without hierarchies, it can exist even without bishops. Jesus does not say that the two or three who meet to together must have all the things that many Christians would associate with being a church; even if there were nothing left of the church in a place except a small group meeting together, Jesus would still be there and they would still be part of his church.
“For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” Jesus is present with all who meet. When Christians have that confidence, it makes them different people and it makes them into a different church.