Living in the 21st Century, sometimes it’s hard to fathom just how mind-boggling the achievements of the ancient Romans actually were.
Today, we see the remnants of their genius in the aqueducts, fortifications and old Roman roads that can still be found in various locations in the Middle East, Europe and North Africa.
Yet, perhaps the greatest symbol of the majesty of ancient Rome can be found in the Coliseum. As the aqueducts and roads bear witness to Rome’s solution to meeting certain basic human needs, the Coliseum, which housed the gladiator games and chariot races (and events yet more gruesome and infamous) and still stands in Rome more than 2,000 years later, bears witness to the Roman response to another strong human motivator, that seemingly cuts across all languages, cultures, races and classes:
The desire to gather together and be entertained.
Today, we, too, see this expressed in the stadiums, theaters and auditoriums of all sizes which dot the American landscape in cities large and small – not to mention the living rooms, bars and other spaces in which folks of all stripes gather to watch televised sporting events and other highly anticipated television shows.
This spectator approach has also become prevalent in the Church in recent decades.
Many Christ followers still gather on Sunday mornings to worship and receive instruction and encouragement from the Word, but the spectator approach has also become popular in the Church.
God, in His Word, makes clear He has created and instituted the Church for the purpose of building the faith of His People and helping them to grow.
Certainly, God can and does meet people wherever they may be; He is not constrained by a building.
But God time and again encourages His People to not forsake the gathering together of those who love Jesus.
God made us to need each other. God has given each of us gifts from His Spirit. And He has called us to not only enjoy watching the Spirit move, but to actively participate, through the ministry for which He has equipped us.
Consider the differing levels of athletics: Many people watch sporting events on television, and some can find a measure of satisfaction from it. But a spot on the couch watching, say, the Super Bowl or World Series would still fall short of the thrill of being in attendance. But they all would fall short of the heightened senses, adrenaline rush and, perhaps, thrill of victory that can only be truly experienced by participating in the event as a player or even coach.
In the same way, God desires to use us to accomplish His work of building His Church and helping and encouraging His People. While this can be done remotely, it is so much easier and more effective live and in person, in an environment in which God can use each of us to meet the needs of others and encounter His Presence, receiving His Good Gifts from His Hand and His Word - together.