Church

Let Us Consider: Neglecting to Meet Together

CW2

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24-25

I’m sure these are verses that we all have heard quoted many times, especially by preachers who are trying to guilt us into coming to church. Let me say right now before we go any further, I don’t want to guilt you into going to church. I tell folks all the time, even the folks that I pastor, that it is not my job to beg people to come to church. Sure, I want you to know that I want you there. Yes, I want you to know that the doors are always open. Please, know that everyone is welcome. But, I will never beg you to come to church nor will I make you feel guilty for not being there.

Does this mean that I don’t think church is important? Absolutely not. There are few things in this world and in our Christian lives that are more important than worshiping corporately with fellow believers. In fact, as this passage from Hebrews shows us very clearly, corporate worship is a command from God. We are to “not neglect to meet together…” Why? So that we can stir one another up to good works, and encourage each other.

Likewise, in Ephesians 4 the Apostle Paul gives another powerful illustration of what is accomplished through the local church. Paul says that the saints are equipped…”for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God…to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine…we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”

The picture we have throughout the Bible, ALL of the Bible, is that believers WILL gather with other believers in order to worship God and to be built up in their faith. It is through the ministry of the local church that we learn who God really is. It is through the ministry of the local church that we learn what God has done and is doing through Christ. It is through the local church that believers are built up in their faith, grow in their walk with Christ, and are shaped more into his image. It is through the local church that believers draw close to other believers and build relationships that help them to love God and love others as Christ has called them to love. It is through the local church that believers encourage each other, love each other, and build each other up.

This isn’t just a preacher talking, this is the Word of God talking.

So, no, I don’t want to beg anyone to come to church. But what I do want you to know is that if you aren’t a member of a local church, or if you don’t attend a local church and serve in a local church then your faith WILL suffer. Your Christian life WILL suffer. Your relationship with God WILL suffer. Your knowledge of and affection for the Lord Jesus will not be what it should be. Perhaps most frightening of all…If you are neglecting to meet together with other believers, you are neglecting and disobeying the clear command of the word of God, and this is called sin.

As a pastor, I don’t want to see people coming to church because it strokes my ego, or makes me feel more successful. As a pastor, I want to see people coming to church because I want to see people drawing near to Jesus and growing in their relationship with him.

I was reading this week about the persecution of Christians in many parts of the world, and I was reminded yet again what an amazing privilege we have here in the United States to worship and speak the name of Jesus freely. In other parts of the world there are believers who have to meet in secret, and literally risk their lives to speak, sing, and praise the name of Jesus. Believers in other parts of the world would literally die to do the things that so many of us take for granted, and even neglect.

I said previously that I don’t want to guilt anyone into going to church, and I don’t see it as my job to beg you to do so. Those things may be true, but I do want to leave you with this encouragement: PLEASE, for the sake of your own soul and your relationship with the Lord, find a local church. Attend that local church, join that local church, be faithful and serve that local church. This is the will of God for your life – Scripture commands it, a thriving and vibrant Christian life demands it.

An Ordinary Church

acts 2

“And they devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of the bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” –Acts 2:42-47

In Acts Chapter 2 we see the birth of the very first church at Pentecost. Now what I’m about to say about this church may catch some of us by surprise. Many of us have probably heard a few sermons on this passage and about what a powerful example this church is for how a church should look. This is certainly true. But in these same sermons we’ve probably also heard the preacher say something about what an extraordinary church this is.

Now certainly this church was birthed and came about through extraordinary means. This can’t be denied. But in my mind, this church isn’t any more extraordinary than any other church.

At the beginning of Acts Chapter 2 we see that the Spirit of God came upon the believers. We see in verse 14 of Chapter 2 how empowered by the Spirit of God Peter preached a powerful sermon. Peter preached Jesus. Peter preached Jesus crucified. Peter preached Jesus risen from the grave and ascended to the right hand of God the Father. Peter preached Jesus as Lord of all! Through the powerful preaching of Peter the Bible tells us that 3,000 folks were saved. So, certainly this was an extraordinary event. I’ve never preached a sermon in which 3,000 folks got saved. And not many preachers can say that they have!

But this being said, aren’t all churches pretty extraordinary? All churches are made up of sinners who have had the scales removed from their eyes and have seen clearly who Christ is, and have chosen to follow him. This is an amazing thing. It’s not natural. Salvation is all a work of God. This is true whether we are talking about 3,000 people or 30, or even 3.

So, even though this event was powerful. Even though we can say this was an extraordinary event…this first church was no more extraordinary than any other church. This first church was no more extraordinary than my church or yours.

And do you know why I can say that? Because the same Spirit that empowered Peter to preach on this day, is the same Spirit that empowers men today to preach. The same Jesus that Peter preached in Acts chapter 2 is the same Jesus that faithful preachers today preach. And the same Spirit at work through this Church that we read about working so powerfully in and through this church, is the same Spirit that will work through our own churches, IF we will faithfully preach this Jesus and be obedient to His Word.

So, yes. This church came about through extraordinary means. It was a wonderful event. But, in a lot of ways this church was simply an ordinary Church. The Church we see in Acts 2:42-47 was not some unreachable standard for us as the modern church to attain. The Church in Acts 2:42-47 was God’s ideal local church, and what God desires every local church to look like.

May it be so…

The Pastor’s Wife

mere

The call to peach the Word of God and to shepherd God’s people is a strange thing. Obviously it is an honor and a privilege that I don’t take lightly. It is also humbling because few things make me feel so small and so inadequate. Because it is such a large task it is very easy to get caught up in yourself and your work that you often neglect other areas of your life. Because it is such a humbling task that makes you so aware of your own limitations you can easily get overwhelmed at the things you have to do to prepare and you can begin to lose sight of those around you and their own struggles.

Because I have six kids and a part time job outside of my church work I do much of my studying and sermon prep late at night. I often feel like I’m a step behind where I need to be. My wife works night shift as a nurse so our quality time together is very limited. When she is home and able to help out with the kids I often find myself letting her handle things as I give myself over to study or writing. Saturday nights and Sunday mornings are always a bit tense as I make my final preparations to my sermon or getting the music ready for our worship service. I’m not complaining, I love what I do and wouldn’t trade my life for anything…But there is a point here I’m trying to make.

I often get so caught up in myself and my own work that I forget how hard my wife works. I’m not even talking about her “job” as a nurse. She is the one who picks up the slack around the house and with the kids while I work on my sermon. She is the one who makes sure I get to escape to my office so I can work on my Sunday School Lesson. She is the one who allows me to “sleep in” those couple of days she’s here, because I was up late writing. She is the one who goes to get the kids from school while I make my pastoral visits. She is the one who stays home and makes dinner and gets the kids ready for bed when it’s late on Wednesday night when I come home from our mid-week service. And she is the one washing the girls, and brushing their tangled hair on Sunday morning when I’m making the final tweaks to my sermon or yelling at everyone to hurry up out the door so we aren’t late to Sunday School. She is the one who wrangles the kids in the front pew while I preach and proclaim the truths of God’s Word.

It’s very easy for me to think about all that I do or need to do in ministry. But I often forget how important my wife is to my ministry. The truth is apart from her hard work I wouldn’t be able to do what I do. While I shake hands and chat with folks after Sunday Service, and breathe that breath of relief because another one is “in the books”,  I often see her exhausted face and slightly disheveled hair after wrestling with a one year old for an hour and don’t give it a second thought.The fact is, she has worked every bit as hard as I have that morning.The call of a Pastor’s wife is just as sacred and just as important a call as the call to Pastoral ministry. The difference is the value of one is often overlooked, even by the Pastor himself.

I know I often take for granted what my wife does and how important she is to my ministry. I have a feeling I’m not alone. So Pastors…Tell your wife thank you and you love her and give her a kiss. Thank God for her. If you’re not a Pastor but find yourself reading this, show your Pastor’s wife some love…she deserves it. And please, pray for both your Pastor and his wife.

And just in case my wife happens to stumble upon this…Thank you Babe, I love you.