Why Church? 5

Luke 4:16

A very common image of Jesus is one of him walking through the villages and countryside of Galilee and Judea teaching and healing people. We have this image that Jesus was always out and about doing ministry. While this is true in a very large part, we often overlook the details in the Gospels that talk about the times when Jesus returned to his home or took part in the religious ceremonies of his faith.

Today’s passage gives us some details about Jesus. Where has he gone? Why did he do this? What does he do there?

While it is true that Jesus did not have as part of his Great Commission, “Go and build churches and sit in their pews,” it is not true that he was against organized religion. This passage in Luke is one of many references throughout all four Gospels of Jesus attending a worship service either at the Temple in Jerusalem or in a local synagogue.

Luke makes the comment that he did this “as was his custom.” This is not the first or only time that he entered a place of worship and took part in the worship service. It was his custom to do this.

And not only that, he was an integral part of the service. He stood up to read from the Scripture. He taught or preached in the synagogue.

So, we are to imitate Christ. He attended organized religious services. He took part in worship. Therefore, I believe we are supposed to gather with other believers and be part of worship.

However, as we imitate Christ we must remember to follow his lead in all of his ministry. Although he did attend weekly worship services he also took his ministry outside the walls of the church. He did go out to the people, those who may not have been connected with his own place of worship.

Jesus honored God in worship and he also took the love and mercy of God out into the world. We should attend church. We should worship God. But we should also take our “church” outside the church building to those who need to know of God’s love and mercy.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you extend the walls of your “church?”

Why Church 4?

Hebrews 10:25

I make no bones about it – it is very discouraging to look out across a church Sanctuary and see so many empty places. Part of it is the fact that I am going to put the same amount of prayer and effort in a sermon for ten people as I would for a sermon for a thousand. So, it would be wonderful to have a large congregation, to know I am reaching many with the message.

But the biggest discouragement is the awareness that so many people are missing out on an opportunity to hear the Word of God and to have their spirits renewed. There is plenty of room for someone else to come to church.

Why aren’t people in church? There are many reasons. The biggest is simply, “I’m too busy.” Others find it dull. Others fear the judgmental looks of members. And I am certain there are hundreds more excuses to be given.

The author of Hebrews has a simple message regarding “church.” What are we NOT to do? What should we do when we meet together?

Flagging church attendance is obviously nothing new. The author of Hebrews in the First Century addressed this trend of people falling away from regular meetings to worship. Like us, I am certain they had the same reasons for not gathering.

But we can see that we are not to allow our organized faith meetings to be neglected. Gathering for worship, gathering for church, is part of our faith. It is important to be in a time of fellowship with other believers. It is important to spend time in the presence of God.

Many will claim that the boredom and the judgmental attitudes of others keep them away. But our worship should not be a dull time nor a time of judgment. It is meant to be a time of encouragement, of building each other up in the faith.

And so, if your place of worship is seeing declining attendance and you hear of those who stay away because of judgmental attitudes, it is your place to step in and change things. It is your place as a believer in God to work at making your church time a time for encouragement and welcome and joy.

DAILY CHALLENGE: What can you do to make church a time of encouragement?

Why Church? 3

John 4:24

A speaker at last year’s annual conference was wearing a suit and tie when he got up to address the gathering of two-thousand who were wearing shorts, jeans, t-shirts and polo shirts. As he removed his jacket and loosened his tie he commented that good speakers should be more like their audience so that there is no mental separation between the two that might hinder the understanding of what is being said.

In John we have Jesus explaining our worship of God. What does he say of God? What must the worshipers do?

Just as a good speaker tries to imitate the audience so a good connection can be made, so a good worshiper will try to imitate God to make a similar connection. If we are to spend time in church worshiping God, then we must understand something about God. He is not an object that can be brought out and looked at. He is not some distant entity that we cannot reach.

Rather, God is spirit. God is that power and eternal flow of love and compassion that seeks a place within our hearts. To approach God properly, to make our time of church a holy time, a time of connecting with the Almighty, we must adopt a spiritual attitude.

Worship is not merely a social activity and opportunity to converse with one another. It is not merely a peaceful time of gathering where we can find our own comfort and strength. It is a time where we bring our own souls near to the eternal soul of God. It is a time of communing with the Lord, a time of adoration and connection.

To achieve this holy time and holy experience, to truly worship and adore God, we must center our attitudes in our spirits. As we prepare for worship and enter into the time and place to be with our God we must ready ourselves for the experience. Outward distractions, worries, concerns, and personal interests need to be put aside so that we can approach our Lord with our own spirit.

We must approach God in truth. And that truth should be that we love God and desire to honor Him and praise Him. In truth we must also open ourselves up to receive the Holy Spirit and presence of God that we might be changed for Him.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you be certain that you are worshiping God in spirit and in truth?

Why Church? 2

Ephesians 5:19-20

Many years ago in our previous church there were a great number of professional people in the congregation – insurance salesmen, doctors, lawyers, and accountants. Week after week I noticed how much of the conversations before and after worship were centered around business transactions and financial agreements. Even churches that do not have members using Sunday mornings as business opportunities we can find people who engage in conversations (or even arguments) that have nothing to do with God or spirituality.

This passage from Ephesians gives the early church and us some guidance in how to behave in our times of worship. What are we to do? How does a person make music in his or her heart?

Gathering for church and for worship is not only a time of togetherness with God, it is also a time of communing with other believers. That time should not be spent in petty squabbles or in marketplace transactions. Instead, it is to be a holy time, a time of worship and spiritual focus.

When we gather to worship we should engage in words and music that offer praise to God. We should engage in instruction and encouragement, times of comfort and courage. God should be the center of our attention and activities when we have church.

And, as we offer praise and thanks to God, we can also build one another up in the spirit. We can allow ourselves to be edified and strengthened in our faith, allowing God to equip us and prepare us for the “church” we need to do outside the walls of our place of worship.

If we can follow the instructions of Ephesians by keeping our spirits and actions focused on God and the betterment of His kingdom, then church will begin to lose that negative connotation that it has been given for so long. If we can come together with music in our hearts, music of praise and fellowship, then we can make church that time of holiness it should be.

DAILY CHALLENGE: What can you do to put that music of praise and thanks in your own heart?

Why Church? 1

Exodus 20:8

There’s a joke buzzing around through e-mails about a child who is asked if he knows why he is supposed to be quiet in church. “Because so many people are sleeping,” he says.

It’s amusing and, unfortunately, somewhat true. Many people find church services boring and tedious, so many, in fact, that we may sometimes ask, “Why church?” Why do we attend church? Or, at least, why do some people see a need to attend church, and why is church attendance emphasized by many?

The traditions and structures of many organized religions can be seen as archaic and pointless in today’s society. While there may be some merit to such a criticism and observation – many claiming the name of “Christian” use it almost as a shield against the outside world, embracing an elitist and separatist attitude – it is important to worship God.

After leading the Israelites out of Egypt, Moses receives the Ten Commandments from God, the basics of good behavior, the foundation to a relationship with the Almighty. What is the fourth commandment?

This is a simple command. We are to take a portion of our time – one seventh – and make it holy to God. We do that by spending time worshiping God, honoring Him, praising Him, thanking Him for what He has done. Our holy time – our Sabbath – should be a time when we commune with our Lord.

Although the command says nothing about a sanctuary or altar or pews, it is the beginning of worship. It is the beginning of church. God has decreed that we have holy time set aside for Him.

A common response is that a person can worship God anywhere at any time. Church is not necessary. But I would first challenge those who make such a comment with the question – do you worship God anywhere and at any time? Or is this an excuse not to attend church?

Although the Ten Commandments do not address the corporate gathering of believers we have come to call “church,” God later decrees in Exodus 25:8 – “have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them.” This is the next step in what we call “church.”

We must set aside time to be with our God because our God desires to be with us, to dwell among us. Your place of worship can be a perfect place to find that time of togetherness with God.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you make your Sabbath or worship time holy?