I'll be honest with you. I haven't been in a church building much this summer. A combination of a lack of protestant churches near my wife’s family vacation spot and being away from our church home in Orahovica has made it difficult to attend. But I have been to Church. Let me tell you about 3 times this summer when I've been part of two or three gathered in His name and I came away with a strong sense of God's presence.
1. Our youth group took a trip up to the Papuk Mountains to mark the end of the school year. We were enjoying a BBQ in one of the most beautiful parts of Croatia, when my friend Scott from Boston calls up out of the blue to talk for a few minutes. Turns out he's headed to the Middle East for a few weeks on a missions trip. I can't tell you much about the conversation except for this: When I asked him what I could pray for he didn't mention a good trip over, or safety when he got there, or even that he would influence others for Christ. What he did say was what he usually says: 'Pray that I fall more in love with Jesus'. Those words have influenced me to the point that it’s a prayer that I pray for him, but now also for myself and my family.
2. My wife spent some time in India 7 years back. The family she stayed with was in Italy in July and decided they liked Petra enough to take a full day to travel to Croatia to see her for 24 hours. I'm glad they did. The four of us sat down on the dock by the Adriatic and had church. We talked about how the Church and religion sometimes take away from efforts to spread the gospel. We talked about the burden that some in the Church have because of the extra rules we Christians sometimes add. We also talked about freedom in Christ and what that means.
3. Petra and I were leaders at childrens camp a few weeks ago and I was invited to have coffee with a pastor during our break. He’s a Croat who has a heart for the city of Karlovac. When he decided to move from his home in Split to Karlovac he didn’t know one person. He told me that his family of 5 had no apartment to live in when they got there. God’s call was so strong that he felt he had no choice but to go – despite not having contacts or a place to live. They didn’t have any churches financially supporting them. They didn’t even have a strategy. But he rode his bike around the city and told random people about how Jesus had changed his life. Five years later they have a strong church of 75 people. More importantly his congregation is maturing in Christ and taking the good news to the rest of Karlovac and Croatia. He will be a key figure in the effort to make disciples here in Eastern Europe and I think it’s precisely because of his utter dependence on God.
These are the exciting kind of experiences that you don’t need a church building to have. Don’t get me wrong, gathering in His name is essential to the Christian faith. Having a weekly time devoted to church is an important way to fellowship with believers and worship the Lord. But it’s refreshing to know it’s not the only way.