‘Go to church?’
This is a question being asked a lot these days. Is the church as we know it over? Do brick and mortars have a place going forward? Is the Bible out dated in its mandates? The answers to these questions are obvious for many, based on their choices. Podcasts, Facebook streaming, mega church TV services and, of course, tweets or gram’s are good enough according to public opinion.
The age-old excuses of ‘honey do lists’ or recreation are still the root of many people’s decision to no longer attend or serve in a local church. For some the new excuse is they can get all they need from digital media. “If I can get a little Jesus in a package that is convenient, quick and when it fits my schedule, then sign me up!” The reason we say any of these things is because we want to do something else, which really, when boiled down, is about priorities and Biblical obedience.
Let me briefly address those whose job requires them to work during church services before my phone rings off the hook. Unfortunately, America as a whole no longer respects the sanctity of the Sabbath. As such, businesses driven by consumerism and profit are now opening their doors seven days a week because the competition is doing it. While I wish this was not the case, it is. Therefore, as a Christian we have to make choices. I implore you to prayerfully consider God in your financial circumstance. Maybe you need to consider selecting another employer or maybe you need to be bolder to request the Sabbath off or maybe for the time being, it is what is provided and all you have. Fervently lay these decisions before God and hear His instruction. In cases like emergency services, they are simply bound to work the Sabbath sometimes. In either situation, pursue purity and clarity of heart before the Lord. Ensure you are being feed and serving through the local church as often as possible through other opportunities.
For everyone else, the issue of priorities bubbles to the top. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) This declaration by our King is unavoidable, yet He did not say it to be a club over our head to beat us into compliance. Rather, this is a loving statement of Father knows best. What Jesus exemplified for us is the best way to live. The Ten Commandments begin with “You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20) This is purposed for our protection and ultimate blessing. This is no different in concept than the rules we put in place in our home for our children to follow.
With this in mind, we ought to hear the scripture declare to not neglect meeting together in Hebrews 10:24-25. Why? For so many reasons. Here are a few in no particular order.
Because spiritual gifts are given to every believer for the edification and building of The Church. (1 Corinthians 12/Romans 12) The Church is the ecosystem in which Christians minister, encourage, and build one another up. The Kingdom of God was built and is being built on and through the local church. Without coming together spiritual gifts go largely unused. This would call into question the God-head’s sovereignty. Did He simply not see the future clearly? Did He make a bad design decision? No and No. Not using our spiritual gifts is a bad decision on our part, leaves a gaping hole obedience falls into and prevents the blessings we would otherwise receive.
Because God the Father designed The Church to be sheep who need a shepherd. (John 10) Pastors/Elders are called to lead a local grouping of sheep for the purpose of teaching and training them. (Hebrews 13:7,17; Ephesians 4:11-14) Without sheep, who will the shepherds train and without a shepherd, how with the sheep receive training? Local shepherds love, care for and engage in the lives of their sheep. This is how the Father tends to his flock. Pastors/Elders are the temporal shepherds while we wait for the Good Shepherd’s arrival.
Because the Body of Christ has many parts and cannot function without every part doing its part. (1 Corinthians 12) No Christian is an island unto himself. The local church is necessary for spiritual and human needs. The local church is the network through which support, resources and life thrive. There is one body, one Spirit…one hope…one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God…” (Ephesians 4:1-7)
Because the Gospel is grassroots driven through cultivating relationships. (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) Jesus style evangelism and discipleship is 100% one-on-one, even though He enhanced this ministry with some public addresses. He came to train some through whom the world would be changed. That mission statement has never been recanted or altered. (Matthew 28:19-20)
Because work is never done and recreation is temporary happiness. (Matthew 6:19-24) You know it is true, no matter how much you complete there is always another project or task waiting around the corner. You have also experienced the quickness that the pleasure of hunting, boating, hiking, bike riding, camping or whatever dissipates. That is why you crave to do it again. The end result is always temporary, every time. Joy is always better than happiness. (Psalms 100, Romans 14:17, 15:13)
Perhaps the greatest reason for the local church to continue is because the Bible says so. The Bible never says it will end until Christ returns and our eternity begins. Note there is not a Bible passage listed here as done above. Because there is not any. Therefore, until Jesus decrees an end to the local church, we are to be The Church by gathering together. We are to be making ourselves ready for the Bridegroom’s return through prayer, study and service. Here is where Luke 14:25-33 comes in. Jesus requires that we deny ourselves and carry our cross. This means we must count the cost of discipleship and discover it means, “any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” Commitment at the price of self-sacrifice breeds joy and delight. Jesus said he came to give an abundant life, that is, life to its fullest. (John 10:10) But to receive that blessing, we must yield ourselves to Him in all things. (James 4)
All the convenience technology offers is fantastic for the enhancement of our spiritual growth with the Lord, but it ought never be a replacement for His design. Use these new tools for deeper exploration or increasing of understanding, but never allow them to take you out of the local body. Every part needs the other parts. Without you, the church stumbles. Not attending and serving in the local church is, for all these reasons, disobedience.
Do you love Jesus? More than anything? “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” (Ephesians 4:1)
See you Sunday.