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Inside and Outside the Walls

by Matt Soper

This Sunday West Houston is participating in a national initiative called Be-the-Church Day,” in which congregations assemble in their regular meeting place for worship (or not), then disburse around their community to serve others in the love of Christ. The point is to express the reality that God’s intention for his church is both to assemble for worship and to be the hands and feet of Christ in our communities.

Some congregations are not meeting for worship at all, just to make the point that church should happen “outside the walls,” but I think that is misguided. The fact is that the Body of Christ is called both to assemble in worship and to serve in the world. Acts 2:42 notes that after Pentecost the followers of Jesus “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and prayer.” They did these things by gathering together. Indeed, the early Christians chose a term to describe themselves, ekklesia, which in secular usage referred to a public assembly. There is a sense in which the church becomes the church by assembling. Jesus says, “Where two or three come together in my name, I am there with them” (Matthew 18:20). We gather at the Table, hear the scriptures taught and preached, sing praises to God, pray, and encourage one another as we assemble.

On the other hand, the Bible records a number of instances in which God expresses his disgust for his peoples’ elaborate worship assemblies which have no connection to their daily lives, particularly inasmuch as they exploit the poor and are indifferent to the needy (see Isaiah 1:10-20, Amos 5:18-27, Micah 6:6-8). This is an important reminder to American Christians, who typically associate church with a building and often confuse “going to church” with “being the church.” I have the following conversation about once a week, it seems, with someone who finds out that I am a preacher:

Stranger: “Where is your church?”

Me: “All over northwest Houston.”

Stranger: “I mean, where IS it.”

Me: “We meet on West Rd. and Queenston, but since the church is the people of Christ, not the building, I like to say we are located all over northwest Houston.”

Yes, I am always this charming.

But I feel it is an important reminder. American Christianity is too building-centered. We tend to say “I go to such-and-such a church” not too differently than to say “I go to L.A. Fitness” or “I go to Starbucks.”

The church is a movement; it is a cause. It is Christ’s people gathering together in His name and then going out “into the mission field of our lives,” as I say each week in the benediction. We express in our daily lives “outside the walls” what we proclaim and affirm when we assemble “inside the walls.” Be- the-Church days are a good reminder of this.

So, this Sunday after our worship assembly we will spread out all over northwest Houston doing service projects for people in need, expressing the love of Christ in tangible ways.

It is part of being the church instead of just going to church.

— Dr. Matt Soper, Senior Minister, West Houston Church of Christ

Dr. Matt Soper
Senior Minister
Matt was raised in New Orleans and has lived in Tennessee, Scotland, Texas, New Jersey, Connecticut, and California since graduating from high school in 1980.  He is glad to be back in Texas.  He has a bachelor degree in Business from Rhodes College, a bachelor in Biblical Studies form the Austin Graduate School of Theolgy, a Master of Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary, and a Doctor of Ministry from Abilene Christian University.  He enjoys reading, fitness, golf and spending time with his family.  He and his wife, Angela, have two daughters, Morgan and Alexandra.  Matt also writes a weekly essay entitled “The Way I See It”

17100 West Rd., Houston, TX 77095 281-856-0001




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I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

John 16:33