On Friday I lit a fire in our fireplace. The flames and warmth are just right for a relaxing evening. First, there are small pieces of kindling. On top of that are smaller pieces of wood. Once that has caught fire, burning nicely, I placed two larger pieces on top to sustain the fire. As the pile burned and settled, one of the larger logs rolled off of the pile. In a few moments it was just smoking, no longer aflame.
There is a powerful lesson for a Christian about keeping holy passion alive.
“Church, who needs it?” is a question that many Christians are asking, in their heart, if not out loud. We who shape the worship services must accept some responsibility for that. If gatherings are thrown together, unfocused, without prayer, and the Word is presented in ways that are beyond understanding or disconnected from daily life, it’s only natural for a person to start to wonder – ‘why bother?’ I am not just blaming the people in the pews!
However, there is a casual attitude toward gathering for worship that grows out of a misunderstanding of what worship means and why we gather, too. Worship is not just about your experience. We gather to honor God with our time, our attention! We present ourselves to Him, acknowledging with our attendance, that He is our God. On a given Sunday, I see somewhere around half of the congregation present. Some are resting after busy weeks. Some are doing ‘family’ things. Sports are a factor, too. In each case, Christians insist that they can worship as they do what they feel is more important than coming together for formal acts of worship and instruction from the Scripture.
So, you think this is just an issue because I am a Pastor, my life dedicated to the organized Church? In fact, those who brush off the importance of being an active part of a congregation, are ignoring what God says is ‘critically important.’ The Bible says, “let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25, NIV)
Our spiritual experience is incomplete without Church. We are part of Christ’s Body, each of gifted to contribute to the whole, none of us self-sufficient in our practice or understanding. (see 1 Corinthians 12) Nearly every aberrant or heretical practice begins when a person decides that his/her ‘private experience with God’ is more significant than the teaching of the Church and the relationships found in her. Like the log that fell off the fire, if a Christian spends too long apart from the Fellowship, there will be an inevitable cooling of the Spirit’s fire, too. And, on a positive note, there is the factor of multiplied effectiveness and joy that comes from shared worship and service in the Church.
Let’s not confuse the building with the Church! Christ’s church is us, not our gathering place. That said, we need structure – people with the holy calling of teaching, shepherding, speaking, guiding, correcting, loving. Yes, the Body of Christ can, and often does, gather in a living room, a school gymnasium, a chapel by the roadside, or a cathedral. I have worshiped with Christians in all of the above and offered my praise and worship to the Living God.
I remember feeling the Presence of God as I worshiped with people whose language I could not understand, sitting on a wooden bench in a potato warehouse that had been converted to a church in India. Our only musical instrument was a single drum! I also have stood with thousands in huge arenas, pouring out praise, led by skilled musicians, taught by gifted communicators. They were equally rich worship experiences! It is the act of gathering; coming together in the Name of Jesus, to adore the Father in the Spirit, that is worshipful! Jesus assures us that “where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:20, NIV) He’s in the gathering, not the building.
Thinking about walking away from your church? If she is not a good church, then earnestly pray for her; don’t abandon her! God may change the church or He may change you, but the act of loving His Church with prayer and support, is a choice of obedience that the Lord will always bless. If your church is a good, healthy Body, give thanks for the work being accomplished and pray for those who lead her to keep vision renewed and fervor fresh. Nothing breeds complacency like ‘success’ even in church work!
This I know: there is nothing that will contribute to the stability and vitality of your faith in a greater way than your church over the course of your life. God says so!
Don’t be like the log that rolled off the fire! The charred piece of wood lies cold, alone, in my fireplace. The fire went out when it got separated from the other logs. Stay fired up! Keep your holy passion intact by staying ‘in church.’ If the Church is important to Him, it must be important to those who claim to love and serve Him! You better believe it.
Here’s a song from the Rend Collective. It is a prayer that I pray daily. Will you pray, too? And, together, let’s be part of His answer.
(listen by clicking on the title)
Come set Your rule and reign
In our hearts again.
Increase in us we pray,
Unveil why we’re made.
Come set our hearts ablaze with hope,
Like wildfire in our very souls,
Holy Spirit, come invade us now.
We are Your church,
We need Your pow’r in us.
We seek Your kingdom first,
We hunger and we thirst,
Refuse to waste our lives,
For You’re our joy and prize.
To see the captives’ hearts released,
The hurt, the sick, the poor at peace.
We lay down our lives for heaven’s cause,
We are Your church!
We pray, “revive this earth.”
Build Your kingdom here.
Let the darkness fear.
Show Your mighty hand,
Heal our streets and land.
Set Your church on fire,
Win this nation back.
Change the atmosphere,
Build Your kingdom here we pray.
Unleash Your kingdom’s pow’r,
Reaching the near and far.
No force of hell can stop,
Your beauty changing hearts.
You made us for much more than this,
Awake the kingdom seed in us,
Fill us with the strength and love of Christ.
We are Your church,
We are the hope on earth.
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