One of the ways of describing the story of the Bible is how God both scatters and then gathers together his people. God’s scattering of people is a result of our sin and his judgment upon us. We see this in the Garden, at Babylon, in the split of Israel, and most comprehensively in the exile. God’s grace is seen as he saves his people by gathering them back together. The gathering of Israel at Mount sinai sets the picture of what it looks like to be God’s people gathered around his word. During the exile the prophets then look forward to this image being fulfilled:
He will raise a signal for the nations and will assemble the banished of Israel, and gather the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.
Isaiah then expands this vision to the day when “all the nations gather together, and the peoples assemble” Isaiah 43:9.
The local church is the gathering of God’s people. What this means is that Church is not just where we get together with like-minded people. It’s not just what we do on a Sunday. It’s more than simply the place where we learn about him, or sing to him.
The local church is the end point of God’s plans and purposes in this world.
Christopher Ash in his book “Remaking a broken world” puts it like this:
the local church is at the heart of the Bible story of how a broken world is remade and that the glory of God is inseparably tied up with the local church.
That’s why I love our church. For all its good points, and yes for all its bad, for all its idiosyncrasies, and hopes and failures, the gathering at our little local church is at the heart of what God is doing in this world. That’s why you should love your church too.
– SIMON CHAPLIN