Thursday, January 26, 2017

10 Reasons Why I'm Not Giving Up on the Local Church

Many have their reasons for not going to church: “Local churches are dying!” “Churches are no longer relevant.” “The church is full of hypocrites.” “I don’t need the institutional church.”  Thom Rainer posted some good reasons a while back on why not to give up on the church that Christ calls his bride.

  1. The local church has been God’s chosen instrument since the ascension of Christ. Christ left us with the church to carry out His plan. He even refers to churches as “the body of Christ.” Local churches have been messy since the onset.  He will not give up on the 21st century churches.
  2. Believers can do more together than individually. We are called “church members” because we are members of the body of Christ. One member is not nearly as effective by himself or herself. We were not designed for Lone Ranger Christianity.
  3. The local church is where the Word is proclaimed and taught every week. Indeed, that is one of the key reasons for churches to exist.
  4. The local church is the place to gather to worship. Sure, we are to worship God individually. But we are also told to come together to worship with fellow believers.
  5. The local church fosters accountability. The very essence of gathered believers is natural accountability. We are to submit to one another in willing and cheerful accountability.
  6. We experience grace in the local church. I agree. The church is full of hypocrites and I am chief among them. The gathered church reminds us that we are a bunch of sinners who have been forgiven. As we continue to experience the grace of God through Christ, we should naturally desire to show that same grace to one another.
  7. The gathered church can have a great impact on its community. Most of us have seen the incredible difference a church can make on its community when that becomes its focus.
  8. The local church can provide an incredible organized ministry of small groups. Once believers get in small groups, they are apt to do more ministry, to read the Bible more frequently, and to give more abundantly.
  9. Believers can practice biblical stewardship best in local churches. As you read the New Testament pattern of stewardship, you see that most of the abundant giving came through local churches. Such is and should be the pattern today.
  10. The local church is the home base for evangelism. We gather for corporate worship and Bible study. But the best local churches then intentionally scatter to share the gospel with others.
I believe in the local church. I am not giving up on the local church. Too much is at stake. And God is not done with us.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Is Worship About a Personal Experience?

Many times we confuse worship with our personal experience that takes place during a church service.  Is worship a subjective experience and is all worship acceptable to God?  I've heard some suggest that as long as you are expressing love to God then everything is good.  All of our subjective experiences, even when it comes to worship, must be measured by the objective truth of God's Word.  Even though worship services may look different at times, they must all align themselves with the Truth from God's Word.  When this is done, Christ calls it acceptable worship (John 4:23-24).  God does allow us to experience a relationship with Him.  My concern is that God is sometimes not included in worship services that take place and yet Christians can still leave church feeling that they had a great morning of worship.

Worship is certainly and expression of love and adoration for who God is.  In fact, worship is a response from our own personal redemption through Jesus Christ.  True worshipers are those who have been redeemed (purchased) by the precious blood of Jesus Christ.  We truly have much to sing about and proclaim!  Christ teaches us in John 4:23-24, "But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

I would suggest that the foundation of worship is not primarily love as love is a byproduct of walking in step with the Spirit of God (1 Cor. 13).  I believe that the foundation of worship is actually redemption.  Everything flows out of a transformed life which gives us the ability to love God properly (and others).  God the Father is seeking those who will worship Him for eternity.  The response of our redemption is to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength-this is what Christ taught (Mark 12:20; Deut. 6:4-6).  Worship is truly a response to God for all that He has done in our redemption.  It is revealed in our love, praise, and adoration to Him each and every day of our lives.  Worship is truly Whole Life Worship (Rom. 12:1-2).

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Cluttered Worship

If we were to try to define worship many Christians would come up with various definitions.  The tragedy is that the church stands guilty of offering God worship that is not always acceptable worship to Him.  It is often what is convenient, what we are used to doing, and what we have time to offer Him.  We have been guilty many times of creating worship services that meet our own tastes and our own desires.  The reality is that Christian worship services can look different all across the globe but is it all acceptable worship?  I often feel that the way "I" do it is the proper way because it most satisfies "me".

I'm afraid that when many of us wake up on Sunday mornings that we are hoping that the church service does something good for us or that we feel good when we leave.  However, I'm afraid we are using the wrong measuring stick.  Perhaps we should ask ourselves if God was delighted by what we brought to Him that morning?  This truly changes everything.  Worship is both serious and celebratory because it is recognizing God for who He is.  Christ says that true worshippers worship God in "spirit and in truth" (Jn. 4:24).  This means that we love God with our entirety in accordance to the truths of Scripture.  The objective truth of God's Word should measure all worship.

A dominant theme in Scripture is worship and it is what Christians are called to do today and for all eternity.  Even some biblical figures missed the boat when it came to worship.  Cain offered a sacrifice that was not acceptable to God.  Uzza took worship into his own hands and was killed by God when he touched the Ark.  Martha fell short by equating busyness with worship.  Worship is truly giving praise and adoration in response to God's splendor and majesty.  The more we understand who God is the more we can't help but worship him.  It is a natural response for those who know God!

We all stand guilty at times of making worship about things that it really is not about.  In fact, our lives are an act of worship in total devotion to God (Romans 12:1-2).  This Sunday, would you come to church with a spirit that God would be the focus of everything--not our desires or comfort?  When we sing to him, give to him, listen to His Words, and pray to him, let's stand in awe of who He is and what He does.  Christ repeated the essence of worship in His earthly ministry several times when he told even the religious people to "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind" (Lk. 10:27).  He was repeating what was already recorded in God's Law to Israel (Deut. 6:4-7).

 This Sunday, let's come with prepared hearts to bring Him worship, praise, and adoration.