Just a Thought

Last week, in this article, I argued that the church is essential to the life of the Christian.  Let’s take that a bit further.  The word translated “church” in the New Testament is “ekklesia,” meaning the assembly.  Ekklesia is a gathering of people.  We are saved as individuals but individuals who are intended to gather.  So, gathering is not something the church does, it is what the church is.  We also must understand that the church is talked about in two different ways in the New Testament.  There is the Church (capital C) meaning the universal or invisible Church.  All believers across time and place.  We are connected with believers around the world, throughout history and those gathered now in glory.  But the most frequent reference to church in the New Testament is a local body of believers in covenant relationship, i.e., “the church at Corinth”, “the church at Ephesus”.  Individuals who know one another and are responsible to and for each other.  Okay pastor, what does the New Testament say about this gathering?  Matt Merker, in his excellent little book, “Corporate Worship: How the Church Gathers as God’s People” points out 5 things about the gathered church:

1.First, we see that churches gather regularly.  Paul uses phrases like, “when you gather as a church” and “the whole church comes together” (1 Cor. 11:18; 14:23).
2.Second, a church assembly is a distinct event.  This is reflected in Paul’s instructions about what to do when they gather.  “In church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue” (1 Cor. 14:19),  “If there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silent in church” (1 Cor. 14:28).
3.Third, even large churches met as one body in the New Testament era.  Thousands of believers belonged to the congregation at Jerusalem, yet they met “all together in Solomon’s Portico” (Acts 5:12).
4.Fourth, the New Testament writers instruct churches to do things that can only be done by meeting together: teaching and admonishing one another; singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (Col. 3:16); reading Scripture publicly (1 Tim. 4:13); and encouraging one another (Heb. 10:24-25).
5.Fifth, church discipline is an act of the gathered congregation.

Why does God gather His people?  Merker gives three reasons.  The church gathers for God’s glory, for our mutual good, and as a testimony of God’s power to the world.  I want to focus on that second reason, for our mutual good.  Have you ever thought about that?  At the heart of your coming to church is to do good for others.  So often we come to church for ourselves.  I need something.  I need to be encouraged, I need to be forgiven, I need to find hope, I, I, I…  Part of your coming is for the sake of your brothers and sisters around you.  Think about the implications of that.  What changes if you have this in mind when you come to church?  First and foremost, it isn’t about you!  Look around you.  Does someone seem down or discouraged?  Pray for them.  Better yet, go speak to them and pray with them.  You don’t like the song being sung?  Think about that one who is encouraged by that song and sing it for them, as a means of encouragement.  See it as an opportunity to count others as more important that yourself.  What happens when you approach worship in this way?  You will be blessed.  You will know the joy of being the church.  Oh, and by the way, others will be doing the same for you.  They will sing your songs.  They will be praying for you.  Yet, another reminder to us that worship is not a spectator sport but a participation sport.  We are a kingdom of priest representing God and ministering to God’s people.  The church is a gathering but not just any gathering, it is the gathering of the people of God for His glory, for mutual good and as testimony to the world of the power and presence of God.  Think about that as we gather this coming Lord’s Day.

One quick note, we will have a special guest with us this Wednesday evening.  We will hear from one of our IMB missionaries serving in a difficult spot in our world.  You won’t want to miss this opportunity to hear first-hand what the Lord is doing through out cooperative work.

Have a great week!