Theologian Stanley Hauerwas has observed that many believers in Jesus “think they have a relationship with God that they go to church to have expressed. . . . I think that’s to get it exactly backwards.” A local church isn’t merely a gathering of people who already have a relationship with Jesus. Meeting together is central to that relationship.

Jesus told Peter, “Upon this rock I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18). The word “church,” or ekklesia in the original Greek, literally means “assembly.” It appears often in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament. For instance, it’s the word that was used to describe the “assembled” Israelites when God came down to Mount Sinai to establish His covenant with His people (Deuteronomy 9:10, 18:16). Moses remembered, “You came near and stood at the foot of the mountain, while flames from the mountain shot into the sky. . . . And the Lord spoke . . . from the heart of the fire” (Deuteronomy 4:11-12).

God dwelt with His people as they assembled around the tabernacle and later the more permanent temple. Finally He lived among the church as Jesus—God Himself (Hebrews 1:3). Before He ascended, Jesus promised to build His church, where He would continue to dwell in the assembly of His people.

Do you know what this means? Your church is the temple of God! Paul asks, “Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16).

Jesus communes with us when we individually pray and read His Word. But He meets us in a uniquely powerful way when we assemble as His church, even if your group is small (Matthew 18:20). May we continue to meet together!

NLT 365-day reading plan passage for today: John 14:1-14