Do you go to church? If so, what does it mean to you? What does the “church experience” do for you, as a Christ-follower?
// For more of my thoughts on church, read my previous post on this subject: Church a Light? //
I grew up going to big churches. Sometimes even mega churches. Baptist. Evangelical Free. Pentecostal. Non-denominational. Some were smaller, but not many.
So, today, the type of church experience that feels comfortable and normal to me is a big building hosting a worship team and probably about three services. It’s the type of church where you might get a handshake, but never an invitation to supper. The type of church where you can easily slip in Sunday morning while the music is playing loudly. And then join the crowd surging out after the service concludes. No one really makes eye contact. It’s the type of church where you get a really amazing message from the pastor, but then you go home and most likely forget about it – proceed with normal life because no one is keeping you accountable.
I’m not trying to bash churches. I’m just being honest. This is my “church experience”. Rarely, if ever, have I walked into a church building feeling at home. Seeing my fellow attenders as family. People I do life with.
But isn’t that what church is supposed to be? A time of fellowship with your family in Christ? We – those who are the Lord’s – are the Church. The Bride of Christ. But we have made church buildings a place to slip in and out of – merely warm the pews on a Sunday morning. Never getting to know the Church. The people who fill that building.
Truly, I don’t think church attendance is just some religious practice required of Christians. We actually need it.
24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.
In order to be flourishing in Christ, we need to be regularly meeting together with our dearly-loved brothers and sisters in Christ.
What did you say? The people who go to your church aren’t your dearly-beloveds? Well, it seems that they should be according to the Scripture.
They need you. You need them.
Remember Elijah? He asked God to let him die. He was discouraged and thought there were no other believers in the Lord left.
4 But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he prayed that he might die, and said, “It is enough! Now, Lord, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!”
5 Then as he lay and slept under a broom tree, suddenly an angel touched him, and said to him, “Arise and eat.” 6 Then he looked, and there by his head was a cake baked on coals, and a jar of water. So he ate and drank, and lay down again. 7 And the angel of the Lord came back the second time, and touched him, and said, “Arise and eat, because the journey is too great for you.” 8 So he arose, and ate and drank; and he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights as far as Horeb, the mountain of God.
9 And there he went into a cave, and spent the night in that place; and behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and He said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
10 So he said, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.”
Sometimes I feel perhaps a fraction of that. Oh, so isolated. Floundering. Wanting more of Jesus, but struggling not to drown under the waves of difficult life stuff and alone-ness.
Trying to do life alone is hard. I would be so bold to say that we were absolutely not meant to do life alone.
James 5:14, 16, & 19-20
14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.
16 Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.
19 Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, 20 let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.
God is three in one. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit have each other.
And yes, we have the Holy Spirit living inside. But sometimes this life leaves us feeling disillusioned. And the Enemy’s whispers are so loud; his attacks so vicious. We cry out, I can’t do this, Lord. There is no one who understands. No one who speaks Your truth.
The Church is supposed to be there to help you. Come alongside you. Encourage you. Comfort you. Sustain you. Speak truth over you. Rebuke you. Worship with you. Break bread with you. Rejoice with you. Mourn with you. Help you find and use your God-given talents and gifts. Serve with you. Spread the gospel with you. Learn with you. Teach you. Be taught by you. Laugh with you. Hope with you.
Behold, how good and how pleasant it is
For brethren to dwell together in unity!
14 These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.
We seriously wound ourselves when we are not deeply rooted in a local church body. Sometimes we suffer deeply and alone. Sometimes we become entangled in sin. Sometimes we just become stagnant. Stop growing. And have no one to point out to us what is happening.
Truly, it is God who calls and the Holy Spirit who convicts and comforts. And He can do those things without people. But, He also gave us brothers and sisters, and His Word exhorts us to meet together with them and love them fervently.
46 So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.
1 Peter 5:1-5
The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: 2 Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; 3 nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; 4 and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.
5 Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility,
So while God may allow us a time of loneliness and isolation to some extent and purpose, I don’t believe He means for us to stay there.
We were created for companionship. Community. Love. And we the Believers are meant to live and be so close that we become a Body, working together for the sake of the gospel. For the glory of God. For the good of each other. For the reaching of the lost.
4 For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, 5 so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. 6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; 7 or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; 8 he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.
10 Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; 11 not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; 12 rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; 13 distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.
So, the big, fancy buildings. The concert-like “worship” services – smoke and lights and more listening than actually singing. The affirmation from pastors that they will only send you a note, they will not show up at your house …
Is this what church is really all about?
Or is it more about filling a place with passionate Christ-followers who meet because they have so much love filling their hearts – for their God! For His people! And then they become friends and teammates with their local, fellow believers! Isn’t it more about getting in each other’s spaces and lives for the sake of God’s kingdom?
We act like church is about listening to a sermon on Sunday morning.
But I think it’s more about listening to a sermon together. Worshiping our King together. Breaking bread together. Exalting Christ together. Pressing on together. Having fellowship with one another. Looking forward unto His return together. Making a difference together. Talking and laughing and sharing and exhorting and rebuking and teaching and comforting and encouraging. It’s about having spiritual leadership and being discipled. And making disciples!
- I think having a loving, Scripture-grounded shepherd over the local flock of believers is important.
- I think it’s important that you have a relationship with your pastor so you can go to him when in distress or you have a question.
- I think godly, close fellowship is important.
- I think genuinely worshiping with one another is important.
- I think having your church members over for supper is important.
- I think it’s important to have a sound-doctrine, Christ-centered place to equip believers to then go out into the community and share the Good News.
- I think it’s important to be sharing praises, prayer requests, miracles, struggles, and answered prayers with your local, fellow believers.
- I think being mentored is important.
- I think feeling like you belong and this is your family and there are safe, godly people you can seek advice from in your church is important.
- I think looking for people to mentor within your church is important.
- I think it’s important to be together at least once a week!
But in order for these things to occur, you need to know and be known within your church building. You need to really, truly be part of the Church.
42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.
Look at this verse from the book of Acts! Biblical doctrine, fellowship, eating together, and prayer were regular parts of these early believer’s lives!
I strongly encourage you to really read and meditate on the Scriptures I included in this post. And look up more verses from the Word of God on church, community, fellowship, and the Body of Christ!
I think we’ve gotten church somewhat wrong in this civilized, advanced day and age. I think we’ve lost sight of the core purpose of church …
This is what I believe:
Church is about being there for each other and igniting each other’s passion for our Lord Jesus.
Onward to Heaven! ❤