How to go to Church
Woodview Christian Church
Dear Woodview friends and family,
I subscribe to a weekly email and this week the article was entitled, "How to Go to Church." I won't copy the entire article, but I do think there were some very good points and statements, so I will share those.
"Life in the church is not an optional appendage for Christians. It's a privileged essential, at the center. It's been a joyful essential since New Testament times. And local church life is not only about gathering corporately for worship one day a week. But that is a central part of the joy and benefit. As such an important part of life in Christ, it's to be expected that gathering for corporate worship involves a few things.
Here are a few things to consider as we go to church:
1. Gathering publicly - Going to church starts with going to church. We gather with something bigger than ourselves and our agenda.
"But church is not a building, it's people." "Going to church doesn't make you a Christian." If you were to say that to the apostle Paul, he'd say, "Uh, sure, now go to church. Go, gather with the local body of believers under qualified shepherding like I wrote in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1; be seen with them for worship."
For those still stuck in the "I can do church my own way and in my own place" error, please consider this. It's not about, "Well, I don't need to go somewhere to worship God," but, "I get the privilege of plugging into a New Testament kind of church with the redeemed body of Christ to see and be seen; to give and receive; to minister and be ministered to; to love and be loved; to come alongside and be held accountable, and all out of worship for my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ."
2. Promptly gathering - Obviously there are times when we can't make it or we stroll in at the sermon's midpoint. It happens. This isn't so much about a clock as it is humble love for Christ and people.
So then, instead of, "Well, it's just announcements and stuff, so it's fine if we're late," it's more about, "Out of love for Christ, let's arrive early so we can serve in ways needed, meet and greet visitors, and be ready for worship."
3. Engaged participation - One of the easiest things to do in corporate worship is to let the mind go passive. We are hearing, but not absorbing. We are reading, but not digesting. We are singing, but not proclaiming. It's all too easy to be passive instead of active in corporate worship. But we miss out on God's care when we allow that.
So, it's not about, "I did my duty by being present and listening," but, "I get to receive God's care and be used by him through actively praying, reading, and singing with the beloved body of Christ during this short time of worship we have out of a 168-hour week."
4. Worshipful giving - Giving is part of worship just like singing and hearing the word. We give in light of the infinite gift of the Lord Jesus Christ. We also get to give in proportion to what God supplies us. We give generously, joyfully, and sacrificially (2 Cor. 8-9). Because this is an act of worship, it behooves us to prepare beforehand, praying and considering how to give in such a way as opposed to frantically or thoughtlessly tossing a few bills into the offering plate last minute.
So, instead of, "Hey, at least I"m giving something," it's more about, "My God did not even withhold his most precious possession, his own Son, and he did so for my sins and to make me his child for eternity; so, it's a joy to thoughtfully prepare to joyfully, sacrificially, and generously give back to him for his kingdom through my church."
5. Partaking of ordinances - God has set in place two ordinances for the New Covenant; baptism and the Lord's Table. In the first century, it was unthinkable for a Christian to remain unbaptized. Baptism was the essential symbol of faith in Christ. Both for the baptized and spectators, it's a joyful time of worship, rejoicing in the power of God in his sovereign act of salvation.
Similarly, Christians participated regularly in that solemn, joyful memorial of the Lord's substitutionary atoning death through the bread and the cup. It's a time to reflect on the glory of God in quenching his righteous wrath for all our sin in the Person and finished work of Christ. Who would want to miss out on something like that?
So, it's appropriate for us to set our hearts for these glorious events in the regular life of the church.
6. Feasting on preaching - We can say at least three things about preparing for the preaching. First, there is need to prepare our hearts -- listening to biblical preaching is not like listening to a lecture; tilling of the heart is necessary so that the word may take root.
Second, there is the need for teachability and receptivity. When we are served a meal, we don't perpetually turn the plate around, inspecting it at every angle. We eat. That's the idea with the weekly biblical sermon.
Third, there is the need to stick to the word. In a volatile time like ours, it's possible we desperately hope the preaching will address the latest hot-button issues. We hope he will body slam that pagan-in-the-news-this-week on the proverbial mat. That may feed our flesh, but it's going to do little for our soul We need the soul-strengthening meaty exposition of God's word for another week in this world.
7. Ministering in the aftermath - By the time worship closes, the manifold care of God has been ministered at the New Testament church gathering. Souls are anywhere from encouraged to wounded; convicted to comforted and more. It's not only a time to respond in my personal life. It also can be a time to respond by reaching out. Who can I ask what they learned from the sermon? How they were encouraged? Challenged? It's a great time to follow-up with that visitor; to get their number, invite them to a home group or something.
So, instead of, "Let's hit a quick lunch," make it more about, "Let's hang for a bit, meet some visitors, see if there's someone to minister to, and invite someone over who I might not usually hang out with."
The God of the universe loves us and desires to care for us by having us gather corporately as New Testament churches for biblical worship. It's one of his preeminent ways of administering his love for us in this life. And, as anything valuable and enjoyable we do in life, it involves a little preparation and attention."
Well, I hope you enjoyed that...I thought it was good enough to share!
I'm looking forward to us getting together this Sunday! It's going to be a great day and now we know who to prepare for it!
Jon B. Stradtner