Monday, July 14, 2014

Fellowship with my church. Important or impotent?

On the first day of the week, we assembled to break bread.  Paul spoke to them, and since he was about to depart the next day, he extended his message until midnight. - Acts 20:7
This is the clearest verse in the New Testament that indicates Sunday was the normal meeting day of the apostolic church.  Although it’s not commanded, it is their example, and one that the church has followed for over 2,000 years.  Because it is not commanded (and Sunday is not the "Sabbath" of the Big Ten), we have liberty today to worship corporately whenever.  

(I'm excited to hear of churches that have multiple worship gatherings on Sundays and because of growth need to find other days as well.)

Because our country was founded by Christians (read their documents), Sunday was go-to-church day for them and our culture originally viewed it as “The Lord’s Day”.  So, it was a standard day off for most everyone.  My generation can remember back not too long ago when most stores were closed on Sundays?  Why was that?  It goes back to our Christian roots as a nation.  At one time virtually everybody went to church in America.  

But going to church for tradition or because it's expected can ring very shallow.  There ought to be more, don't you think?  Something changes in my life when I want to do something and am passionate about it, opposed to having to do something that I just don't see as important.

How important was fellowship to these first century Christians?  Apparently they put everything else aside to eat and fellowship and be taught through the night on Sunday.  And consider that in their pagan culture Sundays were no different from any other days.  So it likely wasn’t a day off, unless they took it off, or were self-employed and set their own schedules.  Many of them were probably slaves and had no choice when they worked.   

So, on the Lord's Day, after a full day of labor, they went home, whipped up something for the pot luck dinner and headed to the place of fellowship and worship.   That made for a long day.  And in this occasion they didn’t just have a normal (whatever that meant to them) Sunday evening service.  The Apostle Paul was in town and would be speaking at their church that night.  Everybody would want to be there!  

Luke graciously let's us know that Paul was long-winded!  He "extended his message until midnight"!  So passionate about gathering together were these believers that even sleep was less important to them than being together as a church. 

I have pastor friends who tell me how upset people in their churches get if the service goes past noon.  They will tap on their watches, or set their alarms for 12:00 to let the preacher know that "his" time is up.  Some, they tell me,  will get up and leave.  For them beating the Methodists to the lunch buffet or Cracker Barrel is priority #1.   

And without exception, those kinds of churches, filled with believers who have more important things to do on the Lord’s Day than worship and fellowship, are weak, sick and powerless. Perhaps if we had more of this passion for the church and fellowship and teaching we might see God revive the churches in America.

Perhaps one day they'll wake up to the fact that without the church we who are Christians are left to deal with a world out to destroy our faith and our families.  That’s why the Bible assumes every Christ-follower will partner with a local church.  That's why apart from the protective umbrella of the church we’re like sheep outside the fold and easy prey for the wolves.  Hanging with the church is a powerful detriment to wandering, starving and disappearing back into a world from which we were salvaged.

Jesus didn't create the church out of boredom.  The church is so important to Him that we're told in Ephesians 5 that He died for "her".  She's His bride.  When we who profess Him as our Lord lose our passion for being with this amazing family there should be warning lights flashing that our hearts are in danger of finding other loves.  


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