We are beginning a new series on “Becoming Like Family” as our online community members begin to share the daily challenges with friends, and we begin to gather our larger community together. We want to have five main characteristics, and the one we’re focusing on this week is to be spending time in community groups.
Yesterday, we saw that four-in-ten American young adults with a Christian background (43%) believe going to church and having Christian friends is optional.
You might think that this is a new phenomenon, but today we’ll read about a similar story from the Bible, written in a letter to some of the first Christians, within 50 years of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 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 10:23-25 ESV)
First, please notice how clear this is that being a church here is about a gathering of people. The Greek word for church is ekklesia which literally means “an assembly” or “gathering of people” called out to be and do something specific. The author of the Letter to the Hebrews was not specifically speaking about a building. Even if they worshipped at the temple occasionally, it was primarily a place of Jewish ritual sacrifices, not a place that was immediately associated with Christian worship just because of its architecture or presence.
He was referring to a people group, a movement, who actually did spend time together – sometimes in temple, sometimes in homes, sometimes in rented rooms, and probably some places in between.
But the other thing that’s clear here is that they aren’t meeting together as much as they should, and it’s essential that they do.
The author doesn’t say why. Did they get lazy? Are they afraid of being identified by persecutors? Have they actually stopped believing?
No one can be sure. But the author is clear that being a regular part of a Christian community is critical regardless. He says it’s this important, it represents holding fast to what we claim/confess to believe. That involves connectedness with others who claim and confess the same things.
Gathering with other Christians is also a visible reminder of who we are – God’s beloved but distant children, trying to follow Jesus to know him again.
Someone I know recently went out West on business, and was planning to go to an Oilers vs. Leafs game, wearing a Leafs jersey! She went there knowing she’d be alone, and would endure persecution, where no one else would be dressed like her. But then at the game, she looked out, and saw a few other Leafs jerseys, and a few more, and a few more. She was reminded she wasn’t alone.
This is what church is about. Although we may feel alone at times as Christians, when we are part of a church we remind ourselves that we are not alone, as we catch a glimpse of others wearing our colours. We are not the only ones trying to live as followers of Jesus in a hostile world. In fact, there are millions of us, all over the world, and all around our offices and neighbourhoods. But we need to come out and recognize each other. As we gather together, we remember that we are part of a community. We see this, we feel it and we are encouraged. And we are challenged, to be there for each other throughout the week as well.
Question: Why do you think it’s important for followers of Jesus to meet together? What should come of their meetings?
Reminder: Last week we saw the importance of reading the Bible together in sync, so our new daily bible readings start today in our mobile app and web site.
Read the Bible in Sync Today
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This week, we’re exploring how a church community should be committed to connectedness to God in worship.
Humans will never be more connected to God than in the kingdom of heaven, or the kingdom of God. The Bible includes the book of Revelation, which recounts John’s vision of the kingdom of heaven. Here’s what he described about angels, and then humans:
Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under his wings. Day and night they never stop saying: "HOLY, HOLY, HOLY IS THE Lord GOD ALMIGHTY, WHO WAS, AND IS, AND IS TO COME." Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne, and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say: "You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being." (Revelation 4:8-11)
Even in the kingdom, there is worship. The word may not appear in this reading, but the core meaning is there. Worship means “to give worth to something.” And the words “you are worthy” are right at the beginning of the words the elders say in their heavenly worship.
You can tell what someone values by how they spend money, time. You can see what’s worth their limited resources. Worship is spending our limited time on God. It’s an expression of love.
In our Marriage and Parenting courses, we introduce the five love languages. Some communicate and receive love through words, touch, acts of service, time, and others through gifts.
In the same way, we can show love to God through various “languages”. Worship includes prayer, and music, confessing sins, asking forgiveness, reminding ourselves what we believe, reading the Bible together, and more. All aspects of how communities of Christians worship.
These are all ways to communicate God’s worth in our eyes. You can see it in this reading. The elders say, “You are worthy to receive glory and honor and power” but then they tell him why: he is the creator of everything.
He knows all this, of course. But this is a time for humans, mortals, to feed that back to him. To acknowledge he is at the cetner of our lives, not the periphery, and we’re not going to deny it.
Question: How do you know someone values you? What do they say, do, or not?
Reminder: Earlier in this series, we saw the importance of reading the Bible together in sync, so our new daily bible readings start today in our mobile app and web site.
This series looks at becoming “like family” with others learning to follow Jesus. We're exploring how the church is not a building, institution or event, but a community of people. It's important that explore what church means as we prepare to launch a new church in Ajax in 2014.