The Puzzle of Christian Partnership, Your Presence
by Marlin Hoover
Your Presence - The second piece of the puzzle
This piece of the puzzle is not about going to some building we call church every Sunday morning. It's not about being one of the people in attendance. We're talking about your presence. It's that thing inside you that enables you to achieve a close relationship with others. It's the feeling that you give others when you're around. It's your presence, a thing that's felt.
John Wesley taught and practiced accountable discipleship. He knew what we deep down know today--we can't keep on the path with Christ without the help and support of other Christians. He told us without hearing the Word read and preached, without gathering with other Christians around the table to share and feast upon Christ who is host and sacrifice for us, and without becoming part of the fire of the Spirit, we are like embers of a fire separated from the community of grace. We grow cold and the fire and flame of love grow cold and we die spiritually. We may still believe, but we stand outside the covenant in our practice.
When a person trusts Jesus Christ for salvation, he or she is made a member of the body of Christ. For a church body to function properly, all of its “body parts” need to be present and working. Without our presence the puzzle can't be completed.
Church attendance is not just a “good suggestion”; it is God’s will for believers
We probably all have certain friends or relatives we only seem to see at Christmas. It would be so nice to spend much, much more time with those people. It's such a glorious reunion when we do get together. We always discuss old times because we don't spend enough time together now to create new ones. This is how God feels when we only show up at His house on Christmas. It's a glorious reunion! He wants to spend much more time with us. We can in no way appreciate the fact that the Creator of the universe, God Almighty wants and deeply desires to spend time with us. We should all be standing in a line a hundred miles long to be in the presence of God for just an instant. Matthew 18:20 says: "For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them." We all know a place where this happens, a church building on Sunday mornings. Unfortunately there's not a line outside my church waiting to get in, but there should be.
Church is God's house
Church is the place where believers can love, encourage, serve, instruct and honor one another. It's the place where we're to be kind and compassionate to each another. The Bible tells us we need to attend church so we can worship God with other believers and be taught His Word for our spiritual growth. Becoming a Christian means being a part of God’s family. If we love God, we love His/our family. Why would a person say he or she loves God but doesn’t wish to fellowship with His family? Part of the Christian experience is having a relationship with a fellowship of believers. If you have no interest in actually committing yourself to an actual group of gospel-believing, Bible-teaching Christians, you might question whether you belong to the family of God at all. Church is the best environment to increase our capacity to learn to love one another. Hebrews 10:24-25 says: "And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
God's house is not made of bricks and mortar
We have to be careful that we're worshiping God and not the church building. This piece of the puzzle has nothing to do with a church building. There is no command in scripture which says that a believer in Christ must attend a church building in order to worship God? Also, there are no examples of any follower of Christ going to a church building to worship God. They worshipped God by their obedience to Him in every area of life, every day of their lives. They did not worship Him by giving only one hour of their time every week in some church building. A "Church" is not a building made by people. The true Church is IN people who honor Christ in all things, who worship God together, and who encourage each other. The real church is present inside believers not outside of them. A church is a place of Christian fellowship. For these reasons and more, church attendance, participation, and fellowship should be regular aspects of a believer's life. Weekly church attendance is in no sense “required” for believers, but someone who belongs to Christ should have a desire to worship God, receive His Word, and fellowship with other believers.
It's not where we are to gather but HOW are we to gather that matters most
It says in John 4:24: "God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth." Are we really present when we simply listen to the polished oratory of a philosopher? Are we really obeying the Biblical commands concerning encouragement, community, and mutual accountability by once a week watching the performance of a seminary-trained entertainer? Is it required of believers to engage in a certain kind of meeting, with certain officers with certain credentials, to expose themselves to a specified ritual of acts which are called "attending church." Is this your presence? If you say that you do not believe in "organized" religion, does that mean you believe in "unorganized" religion?
Churches are places where people only receive once they start to give. Romans 12:1 tells us: "Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship." The Church, made up of all who believe in Christ to the glory of God the Father, is Christ’s body. In addition, as members of the body of Christ, we possess certain gifts of the Spirit, and we are to exercise those gifts for the glory of God and the uplifting and betterment of the rest of the body. For a church body to function properly, all of its “body parts” need to be present. The church needs you. And you need the church. There is no such thing as a "Lone Ranger" Christian.
Church is a house of love
Yep. Church is messy, flawed, disappointing and at times deeply hurtful. Largely because people are messy, flawed, disappointing and at times deeply hurtful. Part of maturity involves realizing that we are probably contributing to the messy sausage making. Not going to church because of all the messy people is like not going to the gym because of all the out of shape people. Jesus never said we would be known for our perfection. But he did say we would be known by our love. Love forgives. Love says I’m sorry. Love reconciles. Love works toward a better tomorrow. Love sees who you really are and stays anyway. We need to make sure that our love is present.
No one in the Bible ever "went to church." They were always at church. The word church in the Bible only referred to people... people who had been "called out" to follow Jesus. As Christians we should always be conscious of Christ's Presence, "where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am with them." We need to recognize God's presence with our presence. Whenever we assemble together for praising God, Scripture reading and study, encouragement and comfort, prayer and singing, and remembering the Lord's death in the communal meal, we are clearly engaging in a very special activity. God is in our presence, we're in God's presence; we're present! Let's make sure that we're glorifying God with our presence!
- How often do you "just go to church"?
- What is it about the church that isn't working for you?
- More important, what is it about you that isn't working for the church?
- When do you most feel God's presence?
- Where does God most feel your presence?
- Do you feel the presence of God's Holy Spirit in others as you worship?
- What can be done to increase this presence?
- Do others feel the presence of God's Holy spirit in you as you worship?
- What can be done to increase this presence?
- Is God glad to be in our presence?
- Are other people glad to be in our presence?
- Can TV and Internet preachers replace our presence at a local church?