Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Church that Man built.

  Before I begin, I want to make an admission.  This article is about me - it is about my own feelings and my own failures to recognize and practice the vital need for assembly in any format.  It is written as a call to action for me personally, and a reminder to any who feel the same way that we need to be with and around our brothers and sisters in Christ, especially now.

 Sometimes I watch Sunday morning sermons on TV.  That means sometimes I do not go to a Church on Sunday morning. Almost never.  Watching the word from the comfort of my couch is a pleasant way to ease into the week ahead. At the end of the day, I can rationalize in my mind with a hundred reasons that all make sense to me that it is okay to just sit back and soak in some Spirit without much effort. But there is one reason that should trump all others when this comes to mind, a Church does not need me - But I do need the Church. Please understand this however: Church is not the building. It is the assembly of the body of Christ, minus all of the legalistic and bureaucratic nonsense that has become an expected way of showing our reverence and faith. The direction of the modern church and its impact on the viewpoint of coming together as a body of Believers is a fault all its own. Attendance is down and this decline has been in process for decades. Lets just keep it real. Christ did not build a single solitary Church. He IS the Church.

  This trend of declining attendance has many variables.  "I was reading...where you state that we need to go to church", writes one frustrated Christian to his pastor. ".. Well that's where I have to differ, because it does not sit well with me when the church's concern is one's income...."  " Same old, same old..." laments R.M., who declines regular attendance. "...Opening prayer. Worship. Offertory. Announcements. Sermon. Communion. Closing Prayer. Closing songs. Go back to daily life. Next Sunday. Predictable. Nothing wrong with that per se. Just going in circles. Routine, for me, is a killer...."  "We left our home church in 2004, in search of something more biblical..." says Mike M, who is raising his family in Christ. "...I would like to get my boys to experience church life, and feel if I don’t I am causing them them to stumble,  but when I look at the church today and see what it has become, what are they missing?" Can anyone amongst us disagree with the reasons Christians may feel this way? I for my part cannot. What has the church become? Is the routine that drives some away really found anywhere in the bible? Would you go to a 2,500 seat Church if you knew going in, only 2 other people would be there?  How have 450,000 churches in the United States been built (this is more than all the convenience stores, fast food restaurants and hotels/motels combined) if it is not important to attend a single one of them? The answer is within you.

  Whether you attend a Church or not is a load that each one must carry upon himself. It is not commanded to attend a church, though that idea bodes well for some religions considering the market value of some denominations here in America.  Hebrews 10:25 says we are not to forsake "the assembling of ourselves together."  "Assembling together"  is from one Greek word. Its lexical form is episunagōgē. This word is a noun and it is found in only one other place:  "Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, that ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand" (2 Thessalonians 2:1-2). "Gathering together" is translated from episunagōgē. It is obvious in this passage that episunagōgē refers to our being gathered to Christ.The only words that Jesus spoke that co-relate to this specifically, and even vaguely are these: "For where two or three are assembled in my name, there am I in the midst of them." (Matthew 18:20)  

  After the death of Christ - people met in homes, they gathered in public places. They ate together often and encouraged one another in his name;  in passing, on the streets - when they awoke and during the day. It was called back then "The Way".  No Building required.  It was centuries after his departure that the Body of Christ became the buildings of men.  The fast argument for those who disagree with this line of reasoning is "There are so many Christians today, we need more churches and bigger facilities."  Fair argument, and to those who enjoy this kind of format, regardless of if we disagree on this point, you are my brother or sister in His Name and I love you beyond compare. Period. However, It would do us well to reason on this: In the book of Acts, chapter 2 speaks of 3,000 hearing, believing and being baptized on the same day; in the following Chapter of Acts, another 5,000.  In addition, Peter mentions Samaritans, and those in Judea and Jerusalem (no number given) who were saved in Christ Jesus. Its not even the year 50 yet.  Fast forward the year 300 and we find the first known and verified, recorded Church ever built. It was in Dura-Europas, Syria. Here is the question to reason on: Why did it take 250 years for the early Believers in Christ Jesus to build the first church, and in the same amount of time in our Modern Era, 450,000? What was important to these Christians?

  Jesus is the Church. We are his body. Together, we are a force that can change the world. But we cannot make these changes individually nearly as effectively as we can collectively. So we gather together. We encourage each other. We take care of each other. We talk of Him amongst ourselves and we speak of him to those around us. We reflect that WE are the Church of Christ - His Body, and assemble in whatever manner the Holy Spirit guides us to do.  The growth of his Church is a testament to many things: The power of faith and prayer and truth and every word that we believe in His written word and that he saw fit that he would draw those called to his own together. But it just takes 2 or 3. Romans 12:3-5 states " For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.  Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function,  so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others."

  Our faith and devotion bind us. Separate, we are parts of a whole. Together we are one. We should all take a good hard look, not at where we attend, but why we attend and feel the need be together and praise his Holy Name, all the while encouraging and loving one another in Christ. We do that as a body that comes together to become His body for the Glory of God the Father. Where there are 2 or more gathered for his name and purpose is Church. It is His Church. We are the Church, not the churches.