I was driving down the freeway today when I was struck by six letters on the outside of a white warehouse shaped building on the south side of the freeway: C.H.U.R.C.H. That’s it! Nothing more. Nothing less. No neon. No pastor name. No denominational affiliation. No cross, religious symbol, slogan or logo of any kind. Just Church.
I can’t imagine how many thousands of times I have read, said or heard the word church. I’ve been in these places thousands of times as well. I began to realize that I had become so familiar with this word, God decided to get my attention to refresh me with a new perspective. (He has a tendency to do that with me when I become complacent or think I understand anything very well). Let me explain.
What’s in a word?
As I pondered the word, I realized there was only one vowel and it was ‘U.’ Hmm…you. I looked at the next letter, ‘R,’ or are. You are the church. It was like Jesus was speaking to me personally about this issue. I had become accustomed to using the word church to refer to a place, an institution, other people or something out there, external to myself.
When I looked at the word again, I realized that the same two bookends protect who U.R. There’s a C.H. on each side. When I got my hands on the nearest dictionary, I looked up the word church. Guess what? It’s the only word in Webster that begins with a C.H. and ends with a C.H. What are the odds that the Greek for the word church is translated into an English spelling that is so distinct and unique? As I thought about this, I heard a still small voice whisper: “You are protected and surrounded.”
As I contemplated this, it became clear that you are protected and surrounded by Christ’s hands, Christ’s heart. It’s not by what. It’s by Whom. It’s Christ Himself.
It will never be just church for me again.