So why should the church meet together?

build up

“I don’t go to church for the people. I only go for the Word of God!”

Somehow when my friend made that statement the other night in my home group it troubled me. She sounded so pleased that her motives were correct; she was sure that her priorities were in order.

I know what she was referring to; she has been hurt by people gossiping and judging one another in church meetings. She meant that she doesn’t go for appearance, or to make an impression on others. As she elaborated on her comment, I could see that she often goes in spite of the other people there.

However, I couldn’t help but think about what Word of God says about our reasons for meeting together. The principles in that same Word (that she was making her only priority in congregating) mention many other reasons than just listening to preaching. (Actually, I have found that when preaching is mentioned in the New Testament, it generally refers to sharing the Gospel outside of the believers’ meetings!)

For example:

  • And let us continue to consider how to motivate one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another even more as you see the day of the Lord coming nearer. (Hebrews 10:24-25)
  • …be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, (Ephesians 5:18-19)
  • Then how is it, brothers? When you come together, each one of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be for building up. (1 Corinthians 14:26)
  • And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which you also are called in one body, and be thankful.
    Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. (Colossians 3:15-16)

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t include good, solid Bible teaching in our priorities for meeting together. Certainly God desires to unify and build us up as a body through the teaching of His Word. But I have found that many people who put that reason on top of the list do so because they have not developed the habit of digging into God’s Word on their own at home. I can understand that if a person didn’t eat at home they would be starved for a good spiritual meal once a week! But God’s best is for us to seek Him daily, and from the overflow of what He speaks to us we can build each other up when we gather together.

What has your experience been?

How can we encourage people to build each other up?

 

Advertisements

Getting the basics

I teach a weekly Bible Study at a safe house for women. We have been studying lately about general Bible literacy; understanding how the Bible is laid out, the categories of books and their names. Just learning the order of the books in the New Testament has been a big challenge for most of them. 

Image

 

In keeping with the season, last week I brought up the subject of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Although all but one of them claimed to have confessed Jesus as Lord and Savior, their knowledge about these events and their significance was very sketchy. They didn’t know that Jesus descended before He ascended, that He took upon Himself the sin of humanity. They weren’t sure who crucified Him, or for what reason. They had very little knowledge about the time Jesus spent with his disciples between the resurrection and His ascending to heaven. 

I feel that I have an important responsibility to help them understand truths like these. But sometimes I really wonder how widespread this lack of knowledge is? Are we assuming that people know basic truths just because we are so familiar with them? Could this lack lead to a loss of faith later on when times get tough and they don’t have the assurance of their salvation? 

I think these questions are important. I would not want to be guilty of teaching a lot of doctrines of details, or just interesting facts and stories. At this stage they need the “pure milk of the word” ( Peter 2:2) so that they can “grow up to salvation.” 

Certainly our personal relationship and fellowship with God is more important than our knowledge about Him, but I am convinced that what we know will profoundly affect that fellowship. We are so privileged to have free access to His Word to help us build that relationship so strong that it will stand any test. 

  • Have you encountered similar situations? 
  • How have you dealt with them? 
  • How can we encourage people to strengthen their core beliefs?

Propagating the Kingdom

Image

I enjoy my plants. In past years I have had (some enormous) vegetable gardens and even done some landscaping. Now that I am living in an apartment, my own garden has been reduced to a patio full of containers, but it is still great therapy for me to get out and work with them. 

It’s easy for me to understand why Jesus kept referring to plants to illustrate spiritual truths. I frequently learn principles about the Kingdom of God while I am planting, pruning, pulling weeds, or harvesting. One of my greatest gardening pleasures is propagating the plants I have (and I have to admit my patio is getting quite full!). 

From my experience, I have found basically three ways that I can get more plants from the ones I have:

  1. Planting their seeds (intentionally or voluntarily)
  2. Taking cuttings and rooting them
  3. Dividing and transplanting

The other day when I was on the patio with muddy hands planting dozens of aloe vera babies (I could go into business, seriously!) it dawned on me how these methods also apply to discipleship in the Kingdom of God:

  • Seeds: An idea takes root in us and grows. It begins as something so small that we often don’t notice, but grows so large that we must investigate, follow, dedicate ourselves to it. Sometimes it is sown intentionally, or it can seem like chance – although in God there are no coincidences. A seed can be a book, a teaching, a relationship, or even just a comment. 
  • Cuttings: There are times when God will sever us from what is familiar, and insert us into new surroundings. Roots will grow and talents will develop in ways that we might never have imagined before, and instead of just being a part of something already established we find ourselves at the center of something new. Our influence in other people causes the work to branch out and grow.
  • Dividing: In the security of community, new life buds and grows alongside those already established in the faith. Through nurturing relationships these young sprouts develop strength and purpose. They will often grow to the point that they will need more space in order to be healthy, and will repeat this pattern in their relationships with others who are new in the faith. 

However it happens, the result is growth. Personal growth, community growth, Kingdom growth. 

Have you seen these principles at work in you or in those around you?

What other factors have caused you to grow and change?

All dressed up.

ImageIt’s Sunday. Time to put on our best clothes and head to the church meeting. At least that is the most common tradition…

But I have begun to really think about it; why do people dress up for church? Or I should ask, why would I dress up for church? Is God really impressed with our clothing? We say that we do it out of respect for Him, for the event, or for the special day. But He is always with us, and I imagine that if He is not offended by my Monday clothing, neither will He be impressed with my Sunday outfit.

I guess that lately I have been meditating more and more on the fact that I am always in His presence, whether I am conscious of it or not. And also, that Sunday is not a special “holy” day, but that my work is holy too. In fact, I probably have more opportunity to make a difference for the Kingdom of God from Monday to Saturday than I do on Sunday.

So about the dressing up… I would hope that people don’t consider a church meeting to be some sort of fashion show. But it does sometimes really look like many want to attract attention by the way they look. I try to dress in a way that expresses how I feel about myself, rather than what would impress others. Sometimes that means a little dressy (but not too much) but normally I’m pretty casual and comfortable.

I really don’t like to put too much emphasis on my clothing. But does God have anything to say about what we wear, to meet as a church or the rest of the time?

If our clothing does reveal our attitudes, God does have a lot to say about those. We must not be vain, competitive, or think more highly of ourselves than we ought. So here are a few articles that I need to make sure to keep in my soul’s wardrobe:

  • clothe yourself with the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 13:14)
  • clothe yourselves with humility (1 Peter 5:5)
  • clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience (Col. 3:12)

So, if you want to dress up on Sunday that’s fine with me, but I know that if my physical apparel ever hinders me from wearing these things, it’s time for me to change clothes.

Unscriptural?

Image

“We do everything by the Book.”

How many times have I heard people say that, especially preachers. It seems that they are referring to mostly moral values, or social/religious norms according to the way that they want to interpret the scriptures. This has been the pretext for legalism, erroneous church government, stifling of spiritual gifts, and the rejection of people in need of God’s love.

The Church has let tradition rise above the authority of God’s Word. Some claim that times have changed and that the first-century believers’ ways are no longer valid. Others simply apply current traditions and definitions back onto the Biblical accounts of church life. Both approaches are damaging to our growth as a community of believers.

I began thinking about this the other day when I had just led worship in a church meeting. (Actually, I was leading the songs, hopefully the Spirit of God was leading people’s worship.) I noticed quite a while back that “worship leading” is not in the Bible, not as we generally see it done. And that a whole lot of things that we do in our meetings have no Biblical example.

But does that automatically make them wrong? Just because a practice is not mentioned in the Bible does not necessarily make it wrong. Modern inventions, such as cars, phones, sound systems, or computers are not “scriptural” in that they are not mentioned in scripture. But rather than use the term unscriptural, I would like to suggest that we think of such things as either anti-scriptural or extra-scriptural. Obviously, anti-scriptural would apply to things that are opposed to scriptural principles. Extra-scriptural could apply to practices that are not mentioned in the Bible but are not detrimental to Biblical purposes. Like driving your car to a church meeting, or playing your guitar while you are there.

If we really examined each element of our meeting together as believers, we might be shocked to realize that many, or perhaps most of our practices are actually detrimental to the scriptural purposes for the meeting. Few traditional patterns foster a participatory meeting – all of the “one anothers” that we read in Acts and the epistles – whether these traditions have to do with buildings, seating arrangements, leadership, or the program. However, the solution is not necessarily to imitate the exact practices of the early church. Rather, we should make sure that everything we do fulfills the same purpose: edifying and encouraging one another, provoking each other to love and good works. 

So the next time that I am invited to “lead worship”, what will I do? I will pray that the Spirit will move through me to be a catalyst for participatory ministry.

What other steps can we take to return to scriptural principles in our worship?