Why do we meet each week for worship and instruction? Could not we pray at home with much less effort, read the Bible, and hear a sermon on the radio?
In the first century, people met weekly to hear the Scriptures - but today we can read our own copies of the Bible. So, why not stay home and read the Bible alone? It would certainly be easier - and cheaper too. With modern technology, every week in the world, every week, you could listen to the best preachers in the world! Or we could have a choice of choices and just listen to the sermons that concern us or topics we like. Would not that be wonderful?
Well, not really. I believe that Christians who stay at home miss many of the important aspects of the church. I hope to address this in this article, both to encourage loyal visitors to take more from our meetings, and to encourage others to attend weekly worship services. To understand why we meet each week, it helps to ask, "Why did God create the church?" What purpose does it have? As we get to know the functions of the Church, we can see how our weekly gatherings, for God's sake, serve different purposes for His children.
You see, God's commandments are not arbitrary orders, just to see if we jump when he says spring. No, his commandments serve our good. Of course, we may not understand when we are young Christians, why he commands certain things, and we must obey, even before we all understand the reasons. We just trust God that he knows best and we do what he says. So a young Christian could only go to church because it is simply expected of Christians. A young Christian could attend the service just because Hebrew 10,25 says, "Let's not leave our meetings ..." So far, so good. But as we mature in the faith, we should come to a deeper understanding of why God commands His people to gather.
In examining this topic, let's start by saying that the letter to the Hebrews is not the only book that commands Christians to gather. “Love one another,” Jesus says to his disciples (John 13,34). When Jesus says "to each other", he is not referring to our duty to love all people. Rather, it refers to the need for the disciples to love other disciples - it has to be mutual love. And this love is an identifying characteristic of the disciples of Jesus (V.35).
Mutual love is not expressed in accidental meetings at the grocer and at sporting events. Jesus' command requires that his disciples meet regularly. Christians should have regular fellowship with other Christians. "Let us do good to everyone, but mostly to comrades of faith," writes Paul (Galatians 6,10). To obey this command, we need to know who our fellow believers are. We have to see them and we have to see their needs.
"Serve one another," Paul wrote to the Church in Galatia (Galatians 5,13). Although we are supposed to serve unbelievers in some way, Paul does not use this verse to tell us this. In this verse, he does not command us to serve the world and he does not command the world to serve us. Rather, he commands mutual service among those who follow Christ. "One carries the burden of the other, so you will fulfill the law of Christ" (Galatians 6,2). Paul speaks to people who want to obey Jesus Christ, he tells them about the responsibility they have towards other believers. But how can we help each other to carry the burdens when we don't know what those burdens are - and how can we know them unless we meet regularly.
"But if we walk in the light ... we have fellowship with one another," wrote Johannes (1 John 1,7). John talks about people who walk in the light. He talks about spiritual community, not casual acquaintances with unbelievers. When we walk in the light, we look for other believers with whom we have fellowship. Paul wrote something like this: "Accept each other" (Rom 15,7). "Be friendly and cordial with each other and forgive one another" (Ephesians 4,35). Christians have a special responsibility for each other.
We read throughout the New Testament that the first Christians gathered to celebrate worship together, to learn together, to share their lives with one another (e.g. in Acts 2,41: 47). Wherever Paul went, he founded churches instead of leaving scattered believers behind. They were keen to share their faith and zeal with each other. This is a biblical pattern.
But nowadays people complain that they do not take anything away from the sermon. That may be true, but it's not really an excuse for not coming to the meetings. Such people have to change their perspective, from "taking" to "giving." We do not go to church services just to take, but to give - to worship God with all our hearts and serve other members of the church.
How can we serve each other at the services? By teaching the children, helping to clean the building, singing songs and playing special music, setting up chairs, welcoming people, etc. We create an atmosphere in which others can take some of the sermon. We have fellowship and we find hardships that we pray for and things we can do to help others during the week. If you do not gain anything from the sermons, at least attend the service to give others.
Paul wrote: "So comfort yourself ... among one another and build one another up" (2 Thessalonians 4,18). "Let's incite each other to love and do good works" (Hebrews 10,24). This is the exact reason given in the context of the requirement for regular meetings in Hebrews 10,25. We should encourage others, be a source of positive words, whatever is truthful, what is lovable and has a good reputation.
Take an example of Jesus. He regularly visited the synagogue and regularly listened to readings from the scriptures that did not contribute to his understanding, but he went anyway to worship. Maybe it was boring for an educated man like Paul, but that did not stop him.
Duty and desire
People who believe that Jesus saved them from eternal death should really love it. They are happy to meet with others to praise their Savior. Of course, sometimes we have bad days and do not really want to go to church. But even if it is not our wish at the moment, it is still our duty. We can not just go through life and do only what we want, not when we follow Jesus as our Lord. He did not seek to do his own will, but the will of the Father. That's sometimes the point that comes down to us. If everything else fails, as the old saying goes, read the manual. And the instructions tell us to be present at the services.
But why? What is the church for? The church has many functions. You can divide them into three categories - upwards, inwards and outwards. This organizational plan, like any plan, has both advantages and limitations. He is simple and simplicity is good.
But it does not show the fact that our relationship upwards has both a private and a public expression. It covers up the fact that our relationships within the church are not exactly the same for everyone in the church. It does not show that the ministry is done both internally and externally, both within the church and externally in the community and in the neighborhood.
To emphasize additional aspects of the Church's work, some Christians have used a four or five-fold scheme. For this article I will use six categories.
Our relationship with God is both private and public and we need both. Let's start with our public relationship with God - with worship. Of course it is possible to worship God when we are all alone, but the term worship usually indicates something we do in public. The English word worship (worship) is related to the word value (worth). We affirm God's worth when we worship him.
This affirmation is expressed both privately, in our prayers, and publicly in words and praise songs. In 1. Peter 2,9 states that we are called to proclaim God's praise. This indicates a public statement. Both the Old and the New Testament show how God's people worship together, as a community.
The biblical model in the Old and New Testaments shows that songs are often part of worship. Songs express some of the emotions that we have for God. Songs can express fear, faith, love, joy, confidence, awe, and a wide range of other emotions we have in our relationship with God.
Of course, not everyone in the church has the same emotions at the same time, but we still sing together. Some members would express the same emotions differently, with different songs and in different ways. Still we sing together. "Encourage one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs" (Ephesians 5,19). To do this we have to meet!
Music should be an expression of unity - yet it is often a cause for disagreement. Different cultures and different groups express the praise of God in different ways. In almost every municipality different cultures are represented. Some members want to learn new songs; some want to use the old songs. It looks like God likes both. He likes the thousand-year-old psalms; He also likes new songs. It is also helpful to note that some of the old songs - the psalms - command new songs:
“Rejoice in the Lord, you righteous; the pious should praise him rightly. Thank the Lord with harps; praise him for the psaltery of ten strings! Sing him a new song; plays beautifully on the strings with happy sound! " (Psalm 33,13).
In our music, we must consider the needs of those who may visit our church for the first time. We need music that they find meaningful, music that expresses joy so that they understand it as joyful. Singing only those songs that we like makes us understand that we care more about our own well-being than about other people.
We can not wait for new people to attend service before we start learning some contemporary songs. We need to learn it now so that we can sing it meaningfully. But music is just one aspect of our worship. Worship involves more than just expressing our emotions. Our relationship with God also includes our mind, our thought processes. Part of our exchange with God happens in the form of prayer. As a gathered people of God, we speak to God. We praise him not only with poetry and songs, but also with ordinary words and ordinary language. And it is the biblical example that we pray both together and individually.
God is not only love but also truth. There is an emotional and a factual component. So we need the truth in our worship and we find the truth in the word of God. The Bible is our ultimate authority, the foundation of everything we do. Sermons must be based on this authority. Even our songs should reflect the truth.
But the truth is not a vague idea that we can talk about without emotion. God's truth concerns our lives and our hearts. She demands an answer from us. It requires all our heart, mind, soul and strength. That's why sermons need to be relevant to life. Sermons should convey concepts that affect our lives and how we think and act at home and at work on Sundays, Mondays, Tuesdays, and so on.
Sermons must be true and based on Scripture. Sermons need to be practical, to appeal to real life. Sermons, too, must be sentimental and produce a heartfelt response in the right way. Our worship also implies that we listen to God's word and respond with repentance for our sins and joy for the salvation He gives us.
We can listen to sermons at home, either by MC / CD or on the radio. There are many good sermons. But this is not the full experience the worship visit offers. As a form of worship it is only a partial participation. There is a lack of a communal aspect of worship in which we sing songs of praise together by responding together to the word of God by exhorting one another to put the truth into practice in our lives.
Of course, some of our members cannot come to church because of their health. You are missing something - and most of you know this very well. We pray for them and we also know that it is our duty to visit them to enable them to worship together (James 1,27).
Although home-bound Christians may need physical help, they can often serve others emotionally and spiritually. Nevertheless, a "stay at home" Christianity is an exception justified by necessity. Jesus did not want His disciples, who were physically able, to do so.
Worship is only part of our worship. The Word of God must enter our hearts and minds to influence everything we do during the week. Worship can change its format, but it should never stop. Part of our response to God involves personal prayer and Bible study. Experience shows us that these are absolutely necessary for growth. People who become more mature spiritually desire to learn about God in His Word. They are eager to address their requests to him, to share their lives with him, to walk with him, to be aware of his constant presence in their lives. Our devotion to God encompasses our heart, our spirit, our soul and our power. We should have desire for prayer and study, but even if it is not our desire, we still have to practice it.
This reminds me of the advice John Wesley was once given. In that period of his life, he said, he had an intellectual understanding of Christianity, but he did not feel the faith in his heart. So he was advised to preach the faith until you have the faith - and if you have it, you will surely preach it! He knew he had the duty to preach the faith, so he should do his duty. And in time, God gave him what he lacked. He gave him the faith that you feel in your heart. What he had previously done out of duty he did now out of desire. God had given him the desire he needed. God will do the same for us too.
Prayer and study are sometimes called spiritual disciplines. "Discipline" may sound like a punishment, or perhaps something unpleasant, which we have to force ourselves to do. But the exact meaning of the word discipline is something that makes us a disciple, that is, it teaches or helps us to learn. Over the centuries, spiritual leaders have found that certain activities help us learn from God.
There are many practices that help us to walk with God. Many members of the Church are familiar with prayer, study, meditation and fasting. And you can also learn from other disciplines, such as simplicity, generosity, celebrations or the visit of widows and orphans. Being present at church services is also a spiritual discipline that promotes individual relationship with God. We could also learn more about prayer, about Bible study and other spiritual habits, by visiting small groups where we see other Christians practicing these kinds of worship.
Genuine faith leads to genuine obedience - even though this obedience is not pleasant, even if it is boring, even though it requires us to change our behavior. We worship Him in spirit and in truth, in the Church, at home, at work and wherever we go. The church is made up of the people of God, and God's people have both private and public worship. Both are necessary functions of the church.
Throughout the New Testament, we see how spiritual leaders teach others. This is part of the Christian lifestyle; it is part of the great order: "Go therefore and make disciples all nations ... and teach them to keep everything I have commanded you" (Matthew 28,1920). Everyone has to be either a disciple or a teacher and most of the time we are both at the same time. "Teaches and exhorts one another with all wisdom" (Colossians 3,16). We have to learn from each other, from other Christians. The church is an educational institute.
Paul said to Timothy: "And what you heard from me before many witnesses command loyal people who are capable of teaching others" (2 Timothy 2,2). Every Christian should be able to teach the foundation of faith, to respond to the hope we have in Christ.
What about those who have already learned? They should become teachers to pass the truth on to future generations. Obviously, much teaching takes place through the pastors. But Paul commands all Christians to teach. Small groups offer a possibility. Mature Christians can teach both in the Word and in their example. They can tell others how Christ helped them. If their faith is weak, they can seek the encouragement of others. If their faith is strong, they can try to help the weak.
It is not a good thing that man is alone; nor is it a good thing that a Christian is alone. “It's better this way to two than to be alone; because they have good wages for their trouble. If one of them falls, his companion helps him up. Woe to those who are alone when they fall! Then there is no one else to help him. Even when two are close together, they warm up; how can a single person get warm? One may be overwhelmed, but two can resist, and a triple cord does not easily tear in two ” (Ecclesiastes 4,9: 12).
We can help each other grow by working together. Discipleship is often a mutual process, one member helps another member. But some disciples flow more resolutely and have a clearer focus. God has designated some people in his church to do just that: “And he appointed some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, some as shepherds and teachers, so that the saints are prepared for the work of service. This is to build the body of Christ until we all reach the unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God, the accomplished man, to the full measure of fullness in Christ ” (Ephesians 4,11: 13).
God provides leaders whose role is to prepare others for their roles. The result is growth, maturity and unity, if we allow the process to proceed as God intended. Some Christian growth and learning come from peers; Some come from people who have the specific task in the Church of teaching and living Christian life. People who isolate miss this aspect of belief.
As a church we had an interest in learning. It was our concern to know the truth about as many topics as possible. We were eager to study the Bible. Well, it seems that something of this zeal has been lost. Perhaps this is the inevitable result of doctrinal changes. But we need to regain the love for the learning we once had.
We have much to learn - and a lot to apply. Local churches must offer Bible study groups, classes for new believers, evangelization lessons, etc. We must encourage lay people by releasing them, training them, giving them tools, giving them control, and avoiding them!
Community is clearly a mutual relationship among Christians. We all have to give and receive fellowship. We all have to give and receive love. Our weekly meetings show that community is important to us, both historically and in this moment. Community means much more than talking to each other about sports, gossip and the news. It means sharing life, sharing feelings, bearing mutual burdens, encouraging each other and helping the needy.
Most people put on a mask to hide their needs from others. If we really want to help each other, we have to get closer enough to look behind the mask. And it means that we have to drop our own mask a little so that others can see our needs. Small groups are a good place to do this. We get to know people a little better and feel safer with them. They are often strong in the areas where we are weak and we are strong in the areas where they are weak. So we both get stronger by supporting each other. Even the apostle Paul, even though he was a great believer, believed that other Christians would strengthen his faith (Rom 1,12).
In earlier times, people did not move so often. Communities in which people knew each other became easier. But in today's industrial societies, people often do not know their neighbors. People are often separated from their families and friends. People are always wearing masks, never feeling safe enough to let people know who they really are inside.
Earlier churches did not need to emphasize small groups - they formed on their own. The reason we need to emphasize them today is that society has changed so much. To really build interpersonal connections that should be part of Christian churches, we have to go detours to form Christian friendships / study / prayer circles.
Yes, this will take time. It really takes time to realize our Christian responsibilities. It takes time to serve others. It also takes time to find out what services they need. But, when we accept Jesus as our Lord, our time is not our own. Jesus Christ makes demands on our lives. He demands total dedication, not pretended Christianity.
If I list here "service" as a separate category, then I emphasize the physical service, not the teaching service. A teacher is also one who washes feet, a person who shows the meaning of Christianity by doing what Jesus would do. Jesus took care of physical needs such as food and health. In a physical way he gave his life for us. The early church provided physical help by sharing their property with the needy, collecting offerings for the hungry.
Paul tells us that ministry should be done within the Church. "Therefore, while we still have time, let's do good to everyone, but mostly to comrades of faith." (Galatians 6,10). People who isolate themselves from other believers lack something of this aspect of Christianity. The concept of spiritual gifts is very important here. God has put each of us in one body "for the benefit of all" (1 Corinthians 12,7). Each of us has gifts that can help others.
What spiritual gifts do you have? You can test it to find out, but most of the testing really relies on your experience. What have you done in the past that was successful? What do you think are good in the opinion of others? How have you helped others in the past? The best test of spiritual gifts is service in the Christian community. Try different roles of the church and ask others what you do best. Sign up voluntarily. Each member should have at least one role in the church. Once again, small groups are an excellent opportunity for mutual service. They offer many opportunities for work and many opportunities to receive feedback, what you do well and what you enjoy.
The Christian community also serves the world around us, not only in the Word, but also in deeds that accompany those words. God did not just speak - he acted too. Acts can show that the love of God works in our hearts by helping the poor by comforting the discouraged by helping the victims find meaning in their lives. It is those who need practical help who often respond to the gospel message.
The physical ministry could in some ways be seen as gospel support. He can be seen as a way to support evangelism. But many a service should be done without conditions, without trying to get something back. We serve simply because God has given us some opportunities and opened our eyes to recognize a need. Jesus fed and healed many people without an immediate call to them to become his disciples. He did it because it had to be done and he saw an emergency that he could alleviate.
"Go out into the world, and proclaim the gospel," commands Jesus. To be honest, we have a lot of room for improvement in this area. We are too much used to keeping our faith for ourselves. Of course, people can not be converted unless the Father calls them, but that fact does not mean that we should not preach the gospel!
To be effective stewards of the Gospel message, we need a cultural change within the Church. We can not be satisfied with letting others do this. We can not be satisfied with hiring people to do it on the radio or in a magazine. These types of evangelism are not wrong, but they are not enough.
Evangelism needs a personal face. When God wanted to send a message to people, he used people to do so. He sent his own son, God in the flesh, to preach. Today he sends his children, people in whom the Holy Spirit lives, to preach the message and give it the right form in every culture.
We have to be active, willing, and eager to share the faith. We need enthusiasm for the gospel, an enthusiasm that at least conveys something of Christianity to our neighbors. (Do they even know that we are Christians? Does it feel that we are happy to be Christians?) We are growing and improving in this regard, but we need more growth.
I encourage everyone to think about how each one of us can be a Christian witness to those around us. I encourage each member to obey the commandment to be ready to give an answer. I encourage every member to read about evangelism and to apply what they have read. We can all learn together and spur each other to good works. Small groups can offer training for evangelism, and small groups can often carry out evangelistic projects themselves.
In some cases, members can learn faster than their pastors. That's fine. Then the pastor can learn from the member. God has given them different spiritual gifts. For some of our members, he has given the gift of evangelism that needs to be awakened and guided. If the pastor of this person can not provide the necessary resources for this form of evangelism, the pastor should at least encourage that person to learn, and be an example to others, and to carry out the evangelism so that the whole church can grow. In this six-part scheme of Church work, I find it important to emphasize evangelization and to emphasize this aspect.
by Joseph Tkach