Devoting our Presence…

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. (Acts 2:42, NRSV)

“Devote: 1 to give up or appropriate to or concentrate on a particular pursuit, occupation, purpose, cause, etc.  2 To appropriate by or as if by a vow; set apart or dedicate by a solemn or formal act; consecrate.”

The early church recognized, at their peril, that devotion to gathering as the church was vital to their faith and their spiritual growth and health.  This understanding has not changed in the past two thousand years.  It is still vital to our faith that we gather together in community for fellowship, study, worship, and prayer.  It is why our membership vows include the word “presence” in the things that we promise to offer to God.

It seems, however, that our culture has different ideas about how we spend our time.  There are many activities that are robbing us of our time together as the church.  Sleeping in on Sunday mornings is a common thief of our time.  Sports, travel, yard work, and numerous other thieves are also robbing us of our time with God and with each other on Sundays.  These temptations are all too real and they are not foreign to me.  (I wouldn’t mind sleeping in on an occasional Sunday morning either.)

My point is that we all have lots of things pulling at us and demanding a piece of the 168 hours we have to work with each week.  The very least of these demands seems to be the hour or so God has asked us to offer to his glory on Sunday morning.  (If you consider Sunday school as another opportunity to praise God, then add another hour to this.)  It seems to me that 2 hours a week is a tiny offering to make to the One who created us and gives us everything we have to work with the other 166 hours a week…That’s not even a tithe of our available time.  (A tithe of our time would mean offering 16.8 hours each week to worship and service.  We’re only talking about 1.2% here.)

Now, don’t get me wrong…I know there are lots of “reasons” for staying away from church on Sunday morning.  I’ve thought of them all and probably used a couple dozen of those “reasons” myself over the years.  The truth of the matter is that God hears those “reasons” as “excuses” and is very disappointed in how we set our priorities.  I remember when I was a kid and we went on vacation my Dad always insisted we find a church to attend wherever we were.  I never understood why until I got a lot older and began to notice how I missed church whenever I didn’t start my week visiting for a while with God.

Going to church every Sunday is a habit that grows into something we love and cannot imagine being without.  NOT going to church is also a habit that grows into loss of our relationship with God.  Habits are hard to break and simple to cultivate.  We have a choice – which habit are we going to break and which one are we going to nurture?  What habit are we going to teach our children?

God bless,
Pastor Don 

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3 Comments

  1. I like the quote of, “they devoting themselves”.
    However, and I mean no disrespect, I have come to see church in a whole new light through prayer and what the Lord has been showing me as of late.

    First, we don’t go to church, we are the church. To say that we “go to church” is like a married person saying I’m going home to marriage. Sounds strange, doesn’t it.

    Second, it is Jesus who builds the church. the attempts by man to do what Jesus has reserved for Himself alone are quite evident in that there are at last count over 25,000 denominations world wide each saying that they are right and thus dividing the body of Christ. I quote the Apostle Paul here where he says, “This is what I mean: Each of you is saying, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in Paul’s name”?
    (1Co 1:12-13 GW)

    As far as gathering for worship, Jesus comments to the woman at the well hold as true today as they did back then. Jesus laid the groundwork when He said that the time was now here when you will worship neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, but the true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and in truth. So the where is not as important as the how when it comes to worship. What the Lord desires is clean hands and clean hearts, i.e., truth, and in the Spirit.

    As far as numbers are concerned, Jesus makes it clear in Matthew 18 where Jesus says, “”For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”
    (Mat 18:20 NASB)

    Looking now at the great commission, Jesus said the following In Matthew 28:19:

    Go and make disciples. The Greek word for disciples is “Mathēteúō” and it means not only to learn, but to become attached to one’s teacher and to become his follower in doctrine and conduct of life. That is impossible to accomplish on one Sunday morning a week. This is a life long commitment here to impart what Jesus imparted into the disciples, they now were being commissioned to do the same.
    Next he says to Teach. The word teach in the Greek is the word, “didaskō” and it means,
    1) to teach
    1a) to hold discourse with others in order to instruct them, deliver didactic discourses
    1b) to be a teacher
    1c) to discharge the office of a teacher, conduct one’s self as a teacher
    2) to teach one
    2a) to impart instruction
    2b) instill doctrine into one
    2c) the thing taught or enjoined
    2d) to explain or expound a thing
    2f) to teach one something

    What does this look like?

    What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up.
    (1Co 14:26 NIV)

    The church as I have been seeing is to be a family. The church up until the time of the Emperor Constantine, met in homes. After that time, it was not permitted.

    Is there a place for the traditional church? Absolutely. Is the Lord doing a new thing in the house church movement? Absolutely. Can both co-exist? Absolutely,

    These are some things that I have seen in prayer and study. Take it to prayer and see what the Lord would speak to you.

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    1. I could not agree more. However, I think you may have misinterpreted my original post. I did not call people to “go to church” as opposed to “be the church.” In fact, our congregation is very much about being the church into the community and beyond. My point is that gathering together offers us the fellowship, learning, and growing time we need to become better disciples and better servants of God. My message is targeted to those who don’t get that concept yet. This has nothing to do with “numbers”, and I never refer to that idea anyway; this has everything to do with helping people develop a relationship with God, to become immersed in Scripture, to understand their particular calling and gifts, to equip people to do all that Jesus asks us to do. I too am a prophet and teacher. I try to help people see where we all need to be in relationship with God. “Church” – the building – is not the issue; “church” – the family of God – IS the issue. As a family, we are drawn to one another to help and encourage one another; we cannot do this if we are separated from one another.

      I am very blessed to lead a congregation where mission in the name of Jesus takes high priority. Many of our people are deeply involved in reaching out to those Jesus sought to reach; many are involved in diverse worship activities in and out of “church”; this is a group that understands “being” rather than “going”. However, there are others here who need help learning that Way. It is to these that this particular post (and its print article) is directed…To those who still need to commit to being the church by being part of the worship, the learning, and the going out. You must admit that many of our brothers and sisters in Christ have different priorities that can get in the way of being all that Christ calls them to be. As prophets and teachers we should try to help these re-adjust their priorities as they seek to know God more completely in their lives. I hear the Scripture quotations you cited as supporting this understanding, not contradicting it.

      I agree that traditional church and other new things the Lord is doing in house churches, street churches, and other diverse forms, can truly co-exist in a world that desperately needs to hear a Word from Jesus. There is a place for all these forms…as long as the leadership of any form is grounded in Scripture and leading in love, guided by God’s Holy Spirit. People respond to different forms that inspire, feed, and empower them to act in Jesus’ name. Any form that is truly from God has value as we all seek ways to reach the world with a message of hope and healing. That is why our “traditional” church uses multiple forms to reach the people in our community without labeling one form or the other as the “correct” form. We “do church” in a variety of ways under the same banner. Those who respond well to the traditional have a chance to be with us; those who respond to the less structured have their chance to be with us; those who seek the going-out form also have their chance to be with us. In this way, we believe we are following Jesus’ lead to reach as many people with the Gospel as God is willing to place in our path. “One Sunday morning a week” is only the beginning for us…we must begin someplace…Our mission and message is an everyday thing for us. Obviously, some are more committed than others, but we keep trying to open everyone to the leading Jesus provides by offering opportunities to encounter the Living God outside of the Sunday morning time where each week begins.

      I look forward to continued conversation on these issues. I believe God brings people together to engage these thoughts and to help all of us broaden our understandings as we seek deeper relationship with God.

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