So you don’t want to go to church anymore? [cont.]

The 4th SURPRISE concerning believers and their relationship with the Church:  EXCHANGING ‘GOING TO CHURCH’ FOR ‘BEING THE CHURCH’ IS TOTALLY EXILARATING!

 

Some disadvantages of ‘going to church’:

  • it’s a really a false ‘gospel’ (certainly not ‘good news’). People often ‘go to church’ out of guilt or mere duty. Think also of the false security, or the disillusionment when there is no ‘life to the full!’ (Jn. 10:10)
  • mere spectatorship. I ‘come to church’ lonely or feeling insignificant, and leave the same way. It mostly happens ‘up front.’ Ask dreary or bored church-attenders.
  • often it’s all about a church, a minister/pastor, non-essentials. In an inter-church fraternal I attend we were told about a particular congregation with one paid priest assisted by 4 self-supporting priests. The 5 would take turns to preach, but soon enough some complained ‘Why is minister so-and-so not preaching today, after all we pay him!’ 
  • minimal opportunity for life-transformation (1 hour per week)…
  • minimal evangelism. A few years ago, when doing a hospital visit, I almost kissed a stranger when I saw her t-shirt logo ‘The Church Has Left The Building!’ 

Some advantages of being the Church?

  • it’s ‘good news!’ It’s liberating, the horizons are limitless!
  • 24/7 participation = 24/7 personal significance. Talk about ‘the purpose driven life.’ 
  • continuous and deep ‘fellowship.’ The 90 year-old New Zealand mentor (mentioned previously) has another saying, ‘You can’t have fellowship in a meeting.’ Especially the kind we busy (and wear out) ourselves with! [How about the times of deep sharing with your spouse at the end of the day, ending with a psalm and prayer? The two-hour coffee with a friend who is bleeding? Working a garden for the sake of feeding the poor? (Acts 2:42-47, 4:32ff)]
  • total transformation! At the end of the day it’s a lifestyle, isn’t it?
  • powerful evangelism. In the family, at school or college, in the workplace.
  • it’s really all about JESUS! It’s not about my ‘church,’ denomination, wineskins (Mt. 9) (HE is the wine!)

The 5th SURPRISE concerning believers’ relationship with the Church:  WE ALL NEED TO REPENT OF ‘CHURCH-GOING’ AND SURRENDER TO ‘CHURCH-BEING!’

 

Things like ‘church-going’ are substitutes for the real thing, ‘idols.’ And we know what God thinks and says about idols…

 

‘The dearest idol I have known, 

Whate’er that idol be, 

Help me to tear it from Thy throne

And worship only Thee. 

 

So shall my walk be close with God, 

Calm and serene my frame; 

So purer light shall mark the road

That leads me to the Lamb.”  (William Cowper, 1731-1800)

 

This repentance (180 degrees about-turn) and surrender means drawing a clear line in the sand! It may just mean leaving your denominational, institutionalised, traditional (as opposed to biblical) church, to pursue a better way… God will guide and help you –  you’re definitely not alone! (Mt. 28:20)

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So you don’t want to go to church anymore? [cont.]

We were busy with the 3rd SURPRISE concerning believers’ relationship with the Church, viz. ‘CHURCH’ IS REALLY ALL ABOUT BEING THE CHURCH! (24/7 x 52)

 

Not only was it God’s eternal purpose in Christ to always be with His people, but (more significantly) to be in His people!  Let me give just a few Scriptures, among many others, that make this abundantly clear…

  • Is. 66:1-2 as quoted in Stephen’s address before the Sanhedrin in Acts 7:48-49 (David wanted to build a temple for God’s indwelling, God ‘allowed’ Solomon to build it), “However, the Most High doesn’t live in temples made by human hands. As the prophet says, ‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. Could you ever build me a temple as good as that?… Could you build a dwelling place for me?'” 
  • Jn. 14:20 (Jesus promises the Spirit), “When I am raised to life again, you will know that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.” 
  • 1 Cor. 3:16-17 (divisions in the Church), “Don’t you realise that all of you together are the temple of God and the Spirit of God lives in you? … God’s temple is holy, and you Christians are that temple.” 
  • Eph. 1:23 (prayer for spiritual wisdom), “And the church is his body; it is filled by Christ, who fills everything everywhere with His presence.” (‘It’s not even about a church without walls, but a LIFE without boundaries’ –  a 90 year old mentor in New Zealand)
  • Col. 1:27 (Paul’s labour for the Church), “For it has pleased God to tell his people that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. For this is the secret: Christ lives in you, and this is your assurance that you will share in his glory.” 
  • 1 Pet. 2:4-5 (living stones for God’s house), “And now God is building you, as living stones, into his spiritual temple. What’s more you are God’s holy priests, who offer the spiritual sacrifices that please him because of Jesus Christ.” [was Jesus a stone-mason, perhaps? the word translated ‘carpenter’ (Mk. 6:3, Mt. 13:55) simply means ‘artisan,’ including ‘carpenter’ and ‘stone mason’]

The Church, in the most effective era of its history, got it right for some three hundred years! People didn’t ‘go to church,’ rather they ‘were the Church’ – wherever they went. Small wonder they turned their world upside down, or if you like ‘right side up.’ Sadly, with Emperor Constantine (early 4th cent.), supposedly converted to Christianity, came ‘civilised Christianity,’ special church buildings, paid priests, on-looking spectators (as in Roman and Greek temples, with all the action up front) (sound familiar?), etc. We’re fighting 1700 years of tradition. It’s hard to change the course of a river when its been flowing along a certain river-bed for that long! In fact, it’s impossible. But then nothing is impossible with God… [One more blog on this subject]

So you don’t want to go to church anymore (part 1)

SO YOU DON’T WANT TO GO TO CHURCH ANY MORE? (PART 1)

Most of us are aware of the decline of the western Church over the last decades. E.g. Wayne Jacobsen estimated some time ago that 92% of fully ‘Sunday Schooled’ and ‘Youth Programmed’ young people in the US left their local church when leaving home. In South Africa, the Dutch Reformed Church reported last year (2011) that they had lost some 20,000 members (making up about 200 congregations).

But here are ‘FIVE SURPRISES’ concerning believers and their relationship with their local church…

SURPRISE no. 1. Globally, there are hundreds of thousands of serious believers who ‘don’t want to go to church anymore!’ Especially young adults between the ages of 20-33, although I personally know of many older than that (I am in my sixties, received a certificate for ‘forty years faithful pastoral service’ from my denomination, and I have absolutely no appetite for ‘going to church any more’).

SURPRISE no. 2. ‘Going to church’ is actually a physical and spiritual impossibility! If your name is John, and I say to you ‘John, go to John,’ what would your logical response be? Surely, i’I can’t go to John, because I am John! Now we all talk about ‘going to church,’ but maybe its time we stopped talking this way long enough for the impossibility of it all to sink into not only our speech but our thoughts! (as we think, so we are, says Proverbs). You can play a little game at home – whenever you as a parent get it wrong, put a R. 5-00 coin (SA currency) into a piggy bank and share the proceeds with your kidz after a little while – they’ll keep you on your toes and probably do quite well!

Of course, I am NOT saying that there is no place for special and even regular times of teaching and fellowship, communion and prayer (Acts 2:42) (Heb. 10:25). I AM saying that there is no way we can reduce this massive and mysterious thing called ‘Church’ to a mere institution, place and time – e.g. 9-10:30 am every week on a Sunday morning, depending on our denominational tradition!

SURPRISE no. 3. ‘Church’ is really all about being the church! (24/7 x 52)

It has always been God’s eternal purpose in Christ (being a ‘family God’: Father, Son and Spirit) to be with His people! (24/7 x 52 x eternity). This was His desire even before He created the universe and you/me. He expressed this desire again in Eden, where He loved to commune with the first two people He had created (Gen. 1-2). When Israel journeyed from Egyptian captivity to freedom in Canaan, He gave instructions for the building of a ‘tabernacle,’ a special kind of mobile tent in which He graciously manifested His presence in the midst of His people. Then came the temple -same thing. In the fullness of time Jesus His Son became man, ‘pitching his tent’ (lit. ‘tabernacling’) among us, ‘moving into the neighbourhood,’ and we beheld God’s glory in the person of Jesus (Emmanuel – ‘God with us’) in a way as never before (Jn. 1:14). Paul wrote about God and His NT people, ‘I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people’ (2 Cor. 6:16, quoting three OT scriptures). John had an end-time vision of God living with His people eternally in the heavenly garden-city of Jerusalem, with no more pain and separation!

But note something far greater: it has always been God’s eternal purpose in Christ to be in His people! (24/7 x 52 x eternity) This truth is probably, in my and many others’ humble opinion, one of the most neglected of Bible truths for decades now – doctrinally, experientially and practically! As a number of seasoned believers have said to me on teaching this point, ‘How did we miss it all these years!’ We’ll take it from there in our next blog…