I was talking with a youth kid on Friday, they were telling me about how they wanted to come to Church more, but they couldn’t get there. They’d been arguing with their mum about it and it got to the the stage where they said “Mum we are Christians; Christians go to Church!”
I’ve been reflecting on that phrase a lot, we live in a time where a regular attender attends church 1 in 3 weeks. Yet “we are Christians; Christians go to Church”
As a Pastor I often wonder, what can we do to help change this trend, because I believe whole heartedly in what Bill Hybels says when he says “The local church is the hope of the world.” I do wonder how the local church can be that hope when its members are only coming once every 3 weeks.
I believe that this comes from a misunderstanding about the idea of Church. We will be looking at what the Church is, what it’s purpose is and why meeting together is so important.
The Called Out Church
The first misunderstanding we carry is about what Church is. We often talk about Church as the building in which we sit for an hour and a half on a Sunday. Church is not just the service that we attend.
Rather the Greek word that we translate into Church is the word ECCLESIA. In the 1st Century this word had a very particular meaning. The Encyclopaedia Brittanica defines it as this: It (ecclesia) was the name given to the governmental assembly of the city of Athens, duly convoked by proper officers and possessing all political power including even juridical functions. The key to this definition is the word “convoked” to be convoked is to be called together, to be summoned for a very particular purpose.
This changes our initial understanding of Church, it is not just about attending a Sunday service but understanding that we are a group of people summoned by God for a very particular purpose. Which we are going to look at now.
Called Together; Sent Together
Understanding our mission is a key part of understanding the importance of gathering together regularly.
The mission of God’s called out people can be found in the Jesus’s final words to his disciples. These are very purposeful words, if you knew this was your last sentence you would only say what was vitally important.
Here is a fun fact for you though, there is a little conjecture about what were Jesus’ last words. The general consensus though is that it is one of either [Matthew 28:19-20] or [Acts 1:8-9]. What is important though is that both of these verses have a strong focus on the disciples ‘going’ and ‘witnessing’ to others.
The major mission of our lives as Christians is to go and proclaim all that God has done for us. To declare the good news that Jesus has defeated sin and death. To reconcile those who are distant from God back into relationship.
This is an incredibly important mission that we are caught up in.
Important Mission Require Important Meetings
If our mission is so important, and one that only we can carry out then it is important that we get regularly updated on the game plan, get equipped with the right equipment and get motivated to go and make it happen.
Sporting teams understand this really well. Each year these teams come together with the goal of winning their relevant championship. To do this though they meet regularly, to discuss the game plan, to analyse if it is working, to understand the strengths and weaknesses of their opponent. They get the most up to date equipment (some sporting clubs are using VR to help their athletes train). Then they get motivated by being reminded what they are trying to achieve, by watching previous success and hearing motivational words and stories from members of the playing group.
To me this shows me two things.
1. This is what Church should be like, sharing game plans, being equipped and being motivated by the successes and stories of others.
2. It is crucially important that as Christians we are meeting together regularly, not out of religion and ritual. Rather out of a deep commitment to seeing our mission come to fruition.
An apathetic attitude to Church doesn’t do any of us any good as individuals (I’ve only seen a handful of growing Christians who only occasionally go to Church) but it definitely doesn’t do us any good communally. Imagine if half the sports team didn’t attend the meetings, you wouldn’t expect them to have the game plan together, they wouldn’t have been able to use the most up to date equipment and you definitely wouldn’t say they were committed to the mission.
Rather we need to realise the mission we are called to and recognise that meeting together regularly is an important part of seeing the mission come to fruition.
Hebrews 10:24-26 summarises it nicely “24 Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.25 And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.”
We are called together as Christians for a particular mission, to declare the good news of Jesus Christ and what he has done for all humanity.
We are called together to understand the game plan, to be equipped with resources and to be motivated by the stories and successes of others.
We do this because our mission is important and time sensitive.
When all of us understand this and take on this mindset, the local church really does become the hope of the world. And I can only imagine what that could look like.