If we’re supposed to worship God every moment of every day, that means God is to be worshipped at church. And though that sounds intuitive, you may be surprised to discover that most churches aren’t actually glorifying God because they aren’t fulfilling the purpose for which God created the church. Join AMBrewster as he begins a series about how we and our disciplees can celebrate God in church the way He wants to be celebrated.
The Year Long Celebration of God is a family resource from Truth.Love.Parent., a ministry dedicated to rooting families in God and maturing families for God so they can harvest blessings from God.
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Alright, so our next minor holiday is October 31st. I know — even saying that makes some of you cringe.
Remember, you have the liberty to observe or not observe certain days over or under others. But, rest assured, I will take a couple shows leading up to Halloween to discuss — from a biblical perspective — why your family may want to reconsider how you treat that day.
So, we have half the month of October to talk of other things, so what do we do?
I want to start a series today, but we’re not going to work all the way through the series right now. We’re going to revisit it any time we have an opening in our schedule in-between holidays.
It’s going to be a very important series because it addresses a Christian discipline that must not be ignored lest we disobey the Lord. And — on the other hand — is guaranteed to please God just because we do it.
Christmas and Easter and Creation Week come only once a year, but there is a weekly celebration that is just as important. That’s why we want to start on ongoing discussion about how to Celebrate God at church.
Now, before you’re tempted to tune out because you already have a church and you regularly attend and you know all about worshipping God at church . . . I would strongly encourage you to listen through to the end and be prepared to hear some things that you may not have considered before . . . but that are extremely important nonetheless.
But before we continue, allow me to invite you parents to check out my other podcast, Truth.Love.Parent. It’s an award-winning, thoroughly biblical show all about learning from the Bible to be the parents God called and created us to be.
We have over 400 episodes and hundreds of free resources to equip you and your spouse to lead your family in God’s will.
I hope you’ll check that out.
If you plan to go to CelebrationOfGod.com to get today’s free episode notes and transcript, you’ll actually already be on part of TruthLoveParent.com. All you have to do is check out the other offerings.
Alright. Let’s start this series by asking if we really understand the biblical purpose for this thing called “church.”
Of course, if we’re going to talk about church, no doubt, some of you have had some bad experiences with church. My goal for you would be to discover a new perspective — not necessarily a new perspective on the people in your local church, but a new perspective on God’s plan for you.
And for those of you who already attend church regularly, my goal for you is that you put your church to the test.
Yes, it may sound like — on one hand — I’m encouraging those not going to go, and — on the other hand — discouraging the ones who are already going from going.
And that may be true.
That’s why I want you to revisit this five-part series over the course of this year.
Every Christian needs to assemble with other believers, but not every body of professing believers is assembling in the right way or for the right reasons.
So, our plan today is to discuss the purpose of church. Then the other four episodes will look at the motivation, the kind, the consequences of participation, and the consequences of neglect.
So, what is the purpose of church?
In their article, “Why You Should Go to Church (Even If You’re Not Sure of Your Beliefs),” The Art of Manliness suggests we should go to church for the following twelve reasons:
Sounds pretty good right? Of course, they didn’t included any biblical passages for their conclusions, but there were links to research.
Here’s my problem — though some of those ideas may have a loose hold in biblical Truth, and though many of those things may happen to someone who regularly attends church, those aren’t the reasons God created the church.
But first we need to define what “church" is.
This one is tough.
The Greek word translated church is ekklēsia. Generally speaking, in the Greek that word simply referred to an assembly of people. For example, in Acts 19, we read that many of the Ephesians were ignorantly stirred into an uproar against Paul and his traveling companions. And in verse 32 we read, “Now some cried out one thing, some another, for the assembly was in confusion, and most of them did not know why they had come together.”
Now, that may sound just as much like a rioting mob as it does some of your churches, but the word assembly wasn’t referring to a gathering of saints. No, it was a pagan, angry crowd.
But, most of the time ekklēsia is used in the Bible it does refer specifically to a group of believers who are assembled together.
In fact, the first usage of the word in the NT comes from Jesus Himself in Matthew 16:18: “I will build my ekklēsia, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
However, the first written usage of the word was probably in the book of James. James was likely the first NT book ever written, and in chapter 5, verse 14 we read, “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the ekklēsia, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.”
Now, I hate to cite that verse and then move on, but this isn’t the time to exegete that particular passage. Needless to say, please understand that the church is not the place we go to be healed from all of our physical ills.
I shared an informal Bible study I did with my kids at TruthLoveParent.com. If you become at TLP Family member — which is free to sign up — you can access that video series and learn what James 5:14 is teaching us to do.
Anyway, the point is that the word church never referred to a building. It always referred to a group of people who gathered together.
That’s very different from the usage today. You may be driving down the road with your kids, and one of them says, “I think that’s my friend’s church.” You glance out the window, and you’re likely not going to see a throng of people on the side of the road. You’re probably going to see a building — one that is potentially empty during the time you’re driving by it.
I believe the first thing we need to do for us and for our families and our disciplees and for our churches is to stop using biblical words the wrong way. Teach them that church is the people, not the building. It’s the people, not the service or the programs.
That right there will help some of you overcome some of your issues with your idea of church. To you church was a place were religious rites were performed, services experienced, and standards were expected.
However, others of you are put-off even more from the whole idea simply by hearing that church is more about the people than the programs.
So, let’s continue deepening our biblical understanding.
First, just because people walk into a church building or participate in a service or light a candle or preach a message, does not mean they’re part of the church.
It also doesn’t matter if you’re a member or a charter member for that matter of a local assembly of believers. It doesn’t matter if your name is on some roll somewhere. What matters is whether or not you truly have a saving relationship with God.
In Acts 2 we learn a lot about the beginning of the church, and in the last verse of the chapter we read, “And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”
Earlier in the chapter when the people heard Peter preach during Pentecost, this happened: “Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
Then verse 41 tells us, “So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.”
True church membership happens when you’re born again. Whether you like it or not, if you are a born again follower of Christ, then you are a member of the church. And as a member, you have responsibilities.
That’s right. Of course. In fact, it wouldn’t make sense any other way.
God is a God of change. His whole purpose is to redeem lost men and women and then to joyously engage those individuals in redeeming other lost men and women so that He can have a relationship with them for all eternity.
That sounds an awful to like the mission of The Celebration of God.
Listen, God doesn’t save us so He can drop us right back where we were. No. He has a plan for us and the other people in our lives.
So, what is that purpose? Let’s discover that right now.
Of course we have to start with the verses you were all expecting. Hebrews 10:24-25 read, “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.”
1. Here we see the ever important injunction to not neglect the ekklēsia. This is pretty impossible to get around.
The whole purpose of the church is to gather, to assemble, to meet. If we neglect that physical assembling of believers, then we’re ignoring the command of God. If nothing else, the world-wide quarantines have proven to God’s people the absolute importance of physically meeting with other believers.
It doesn’t really matter if we don’t like it. I mean, seriously, that argument holds as much water as a child’s impassioned plea that they not have to eat their vegetables simply because they don’t like it.
The reality is that we must meet. Why?
Well, here are just a few reasons:
Now, those are just two of what are commonly called the “One Anothers.” Most people agree that there are about 30 One Anothers listed in the Scriptures.
The point is we can’t minister to each other by doing the One Anothers to and for other believers if we’re not together with other believers.
And — we’ll talk about this more later — you can’t fulfill the One Anothers when you tune in to an online church either.
This is another reason that Paul, under the inspiration of God, refers to us as a building and as a body. Each of these similes are a picture of the fact that each believer in the assembly has a special and necessary role to play. If for some reason your liver decided to neglect the assembling of your body parts today, there would be a problem.
And — let me say — there are a lot of churches out there suffering from liver failure. There are a lot of amputated local bodies out there.
And some of that may have to do with the fact that you don’t assemble.
Okay, so the first reason we need to assemble is solely because God commands it.
2. The second reason is so that we can fulfill our responsibility to our brothers and sisters in Christ.
“But,” you may say, “I don’t know how to do the One Anothers. I wouldn’t be any help to my brothers and sister.”
Well, that’s another reason we need to go to church.
In Ephesians 4 we learn that God gave the church certain people with a very important job. Starting in verse 11 we read, “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”
Are you starting to see the grand and glorious plan?
God gave the church men whose sole responsibility was to equip the saints — that’s those of us in the church — to do the work of the ministry and build up the body of Christ so that we can introduce more people into the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God so that we can all become mature just like Jesus Christ and not easily lead astray by failure philosophies. Instead, the church is to be filled with people who speak to each other in Truth and love so that they can all grow together into the head, Jesus Christ. And the passage says it once again, it ends by saying the whole purpose of this is to grow and build itself up in love.
The church exists to celebrate Christ, unify us together in His Truth, and subsequently be built up, strengthened, matured, and equipped to introduce others to the body so they can celebrate Christ and continue the process.
That is the purpose of the assembling of believers.
Yes, there is so much more that could be said, and the next time we get back into this study we’re going to discuss why The Art of Manliness’s list is no good.
But let’s review and put a finer point on today’s discussion.
1. Born again believers are to assemble together because they love God and He commands it.
2. God commands it so that we may play a vital part in the process of teaching and being taught, ministering and being ministered unto, loving and being loved, reaching and being reached.
3. And lastly, we do this so that the church may grow, not only quantitatively as new people are added, but also qualitatively as we are matured into the image of Christ.
Aren’t those three things you want for your family, students, friends, and co-workers?
Don’t you want them to know God and submit to Him?
Don’t you want them to be built up in Him?
Don’t you want them to be used by God to spread His Truth and love to this dark and dying world?
Well, then you all need to get to church.
Still, you may be asking, “But, we have the Bible, can’t we do all that without the pomp and circumstance of ‘going to church?’”
Not only that, but you may be thinking, “You haven’t seen my church. I wish it were full of people who spoke Truth in love and were dedicated to equipping my family and helping us mature in Christ, but it’s not. It’s full of a bunch of dead hypocrites.”
First, I’m very sorry to hear that.
Second, we’re going to talk about that in a couple episodes. We can’t celebrate God at church if we’re not obeying God at church.
And third, all I can say is that hypocritical pharisaism in not how God created the church to work. He’s a communal, relational God. It makes all the sense in the world that following Him would lead us into redemptive, communal relationships that celebrate God.
Perhaps, the closest local church isn’t the right one for your family, but not assembling with believers is not a sustainable or Christ-honoring option.
You need to give serious thought to what we’re read from God’s Word today. Our episode notes are linked below if you’d like to go back and review the verses and points.
If this episode really resonated with you, please share it on social media. And while you’re there I encourage you to like and follow The Celebration of God so you can receive other valuable resources.
I’m going to say that outside of a relationship with God and a sincere understanding of His Word, the church is the next best tool for those who deeply desire to celebrate God better.
But more importantly than the benefits you may receive, the best reason to gather with believers is that it pleases the Lord.
Please join us next time as we talk about another really important way to celebrate God during the normal hours of the average day. We’re going to discuss the seemingly obvious point that “Discipleship Requires Conversation,” but we’re also going to see how we miss the mark far too often.
The Year Long Celebration of God is a dynamic, holistic resource that utilizes the Bible, our holiday calendars, and even the most average moments of the most normal days to equip Christians to worship God all year long
and disciple others to do the same.
AMBrewster is the creator and host of the Celebration of God. He originally designed the COG to be a discipleship tool for Christian parents to train their children to know and love God, but he quickly realized how valuable it is for all Christians. Whether it's a small group, church, classroom, one-on-one, or community relationship, this resource is guaranteed to draw people closer together as they draw closer to God.
Aaron is the President of Truth.Love.Parent. and host of its podcast.