Why go to Church if Church is unfamiliar and uncomfortable?

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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.
(Heb 10:24-25)

Most non-Christians avoid the Church because it is unfamiliar. They believe that they need to have “church clothes” in order to attend and not be shunned. Sadly, many churches shun new attendees exactly because they are unfamiliar, especially close-knit and clique-ish type churches. (James 2:1-4) Then again, people will attend church even if it is standing room only, if its message is relevant enough, its people warm enough, and its worship inviting enough.

First, we must dispel the notion that we require a certain type of person we accept for attendance. We ought to be welcoming to all. Shame on any believer that makes style of clothing a standard for fellowship. When the church began, it was the clothing of slaves and ordinary people that made the cut. There was no such thing as Sunday clothes. Sunday was a work day back then.

But second,  understand that this question is probably a smoke-screen. It is not the building or pews, or most times even the strangers they meet there that give rise to this question. It is the emotional attachments to previous buildings or relationships that make a person feel truly uncomfortable in church. Whether a person attended a funeral at a church, or went there as a kid, or knows someone in the church who has hurt them or whom they have hurt, a person will feel uncomfortable with church. Help them work through their hurt, maybe even the resolution of hurt feelings. But most importantly, love and understanding will help this person overcome their fears. It will take time, but “don’t give up on meeting together.” If the person feels uncomfortable with going to church, offer to pray with them, and offer to sit with them.

Third, now that they have settled into a particular routine of not going, even going to another church will be difficult. People go to new churches because that is where their friends are going. Having an inside connection like a friend will go a long way to getting someone to try going to church for the first time. This also means that simply “inviting” someone to church isn’t enough. If you invite someone to your church, who do they know? Your best kids program and preacher’s sermon won’t be enough to keep a casual attender. They will stay because of who they know. Try being that person.

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Giving

Lavish Expressions of Love

In light of the recent stories about churches removing people from membership for lack of attendance and lack of tithing, I am reminded of this passage in 2 Corinthians 8 about “God loves a cheerful giver”. A person should not give reluctantly or under compulsion, which is exactly what a church puts in place if they say you have to tithe to them to continue to be a member. There is some thing to be said for being an active attender of a church. A person ought not to neglect the fellowship. But church cannot demand a tithe, or make it a condition of membership. Rather, giving should be an expression of love and dependence on the Father who gives His own love lavishly in the atoning blood of his Son, i addition to the grace and blessings we receive every day.

God bless you on this Friday!

The Risen Lord!

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For Christians, Easter is the high point on the Church calendar. It’s THE day when most people, if they ever go to church, is the day they go. Easter is unique. For many people, Easter marks the beginning of Spring, and a shaking off of winter. It is a sign of new beginnings, and promises of warmth and weather are made. Flowers come up around Easter. They adorn our Easter cross, and complex symbol both of the shape of Christ’s death, but the beauty of its significance for us as Christians. Easter means many things to many different people. For me, Easter was making the trip when I was a kid to my great uncle John’s house, the annual Easter Egg Hunt, and finding that one chocolate egg that everyone else missed, because it was colored green.

But Easter is also a culmination of some folk’s religious obligation. What began Thanksgiving the year before, went through Christmas, and through St. Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Lent, and Annunciation Day, now culminates at Easter. For some it is the end of religious obligation for another year, and now warm weather, spring break, summer vacation, ball games and NO SCHOOL are just around the corner. Even for dedicated Christians, Easter is an ending of sorts. We saw Jesus born and we saw him die, and rise again. Many churches choose to emphasize Jesus’ life during this time as teaching naturally flows from Christmas to Easter. Once Easter comes, it’s time to focus on other subjects. We tend to lose Jesus at Easter, only to pick Him back up again next Christmas.

What is Jesus now? We proclaim Him, praise Him, and extol the virtues of His life on earth, but didn’t Jesus rise from the dead? What is He up to? Does the Bible tell us about it? Though Jesus’ sacrifice for sin was once for all paid at the cross, His resurrection celebrated every Sunday, do we know what Jesus is doing today?

This same Jesus whom we celebrate on Resurrection Sunday is still alive and active today. He isn’t just to be found in the covers of the Bible, but He is the Living Lord! That means that Jesus is alive right now. He lives in Heaven with the Father, but He has been known to make the occasional appearance. Right now, He dwells at the right hand of the Father, but also in you. He mediates for us before the Father night and day as our Great High Priest and Advocate. He also dwells in the midst of the Churches as the Son of the Most High, our Head and Ruler.

Jesus’ work didn’t stop when He rose in the clouds. Let’s take time to find out what He’s doing today!

King Jesus has all authority on heaven and earth, and sends us out to do His work.

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
(Mat 28:18-20)

Jesus, Our Great High Priest is our advocate before the Father, defending us before the judgment our sins deserve against our adversary, the Devil

But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.
(Heb 9:11-12)

 

Jesus, the Great Prophet who sees all of this as the First and the Last is just as alive today as He was then.

When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.
(Rev 1:17-18)

 

Being a Christian isn’t about attending church, or making sure your pew is filled on special days. Being a Christian calls for a daily taking up the cross and following Him. Don’t let your discipleship be defined by tick marks in a roll call but by treasures gathered in heaven.

For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done.
(1Co 3:11-13)

Are You Sure?

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Though salvation may not be at the top of everyone’s list, everyone has an opinion about salvation.

First, there are those that dismiss the importance of salvation. “If there is no God,” they repeat, “why do I need to be saved?” Yet behind the atheistic agenda of many in this camp, there is a pious heritage against which they rebel. There is a Christian grandmother who died from cancer, and they blame a God who would let it happen. There is an overbearing Christian father who forced them to go to church every Sunday. A Christian mother who endured a violent marriage, and so on. These folks need our prayers, and our sympathy, not our fear or judgment.

Second, there are those who assume they are saved today because of a distant act in the past, like getting baptized when they were an infant, or raising their hand and praying the sinner’s prayer in front of the TV. These are folks that may be getting only part of the story, and need like an Apollos (Acts 18:26) a teaching more comprehensive of the way of salvation.

Third, there are those who assume that their “salvation” years ago and their name put into a church ledger is all that is required for entrance into heaven, like they passed a spelling test when they were in first grade and can tackle the National Spelling Bee today. Being baptized into Christ is great and effective, justifying us before God in heaven, but there is that element of maturity (sanctification) we still need to perfect.

Fourth, there is still another group who have been saved in the traditional sense, but even today don’t know if they are going to heaven, because their understanding of grace and works is lacking. They worry constantly that their salvation is in constant jeopardy because they still commit sin. Didn’t Jesus die for all your sins, or just the ones you committed before you were baptized?

Of course the point of this series is simple: You can be sure if you are saved. God did not deliver us from sin to live in constant worry and anxiety about our status with Him. God’s word makes it clear for all who have properly applied their faith to salvation, both before and after baptism.

Therefore, no condemnation now exists for those in Christ Jesus, because the Spirit’s law of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. (Rom 8:1-2, HCSB)

Penciling In

Another year has come and gone, and we are faced with a new year, complete with new challenges and new opportunities. There is something about opening a new calendar, and putting away an old one. The scent of fresh paper, the sound of crinkled plastic, and the bright and playful colors of the approaching year’s pictures. But, just as soon as the new calendar is opened and hung, it becomes filled. Without fail, it becomes a battlefield, with armies of meetings and programs threatening the placid surface of the page. The old calendar bears silent witness to the war between your time, and the time claimed by everyone else, your job, your children, and your spouse.

I can’t speak to all of your other commitments, but I can guarantee at least one hour a week well worth the investment of your time. That hour is the hour you spend with God and His people. Many of you may not have been to church in recent months. I want to formally invite you to revisit God’s house, where His name is worshipped and His word is read and examined. That hour, and you can put this in your calendar, is the hour you spend with Jesus. Jesus won’t monopolize your time; it must be freely given. But for the cost, it is the most profitable 60 minutes of your week. For what you give, you get peace of mind, and of heart. There is joy here, and love. There is also hope. For here is a Savior, and a forgiver of sin. If you want the rest of your 167 hours to be meaningful, I ask you to spend 1 with Jesus.

Why should Sunday occupy an important part of our time? Examine the following:

It is the day on which God created light. (Genesis 1:3)

It is the day on which our Lord was resurrected and on which He appeared to His Disciples. (John 20:19, 26)

It is the day on which the 120 believers received the baptism of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. (Leviticus 23:15-16; Acts 2:1-4)

It is the day when the Apostle John was given his revelation of the glorified Christ. (Revelation 1:10)

It is the day on which the early Christians gathered to worship (Acts 20:7); to hear the Word (Acts 20:6-7): and to make their contributions for God’s work. (1 Corinthians 16:2)

The first day of the week, Sunday, is the foundation for the remaining six days. If the foundation is holy, so will the rest be holy. But if the foundation is full of holes, the rest of the week cannot stand.

Please pencil Him in.

So, Are You Coming?

If you are one of those 33% that don’t go to church anywhere, then this article is for you. So those of you who are already members AND regular attenders at a church, either this one, or elsewhere, I ask you to give this article to someone you know.

Now, it’s just us. You the rare-if-ever church-goer, and me, the minister of a local church. The question that plagues me is what can I do, or what can I say that might encourage you to darken the doors of our church building? You may have some objection to coming to church, and this I fully understand. There are times when 9:30am is really too early to be in a church building on a Sunday morning. Sometimes I am tired from my busy weekend and would really just rather stay in bed. I can’t. And its not just the fact that I have to preach on Sunday morning, but that I want to be in this church. This is where all my friends are. The people I love come to church. This is my family.

Some people just don’t like church. It’s filled with too much politics. If you agree with this statement, I am your newest best friend. You are the kind of person that truly loves the Lord. Amen, brother. Because you have a place reserved for you in Heaven. I hate church politics. It only gets in the way of real worship and expression. What we need here at Jesus’ Church are more people that think like this. They are willing to worship Jesus no matter what. If you are willing to trust in Jesus alone, then you have a home here with us.

Some people have been to this church before and have either been burned or felt that they weren’t welcome here. I want to tell you that this church isn’t your father’s church or the preacher’s church. This is Jesus’ church and it belongs to Him. We have the great privilege of being invited to belong.

Listen, I don’t want to beat you up over this, but it’s very important that you find out the answer to this question: If you were to die tonight, and God asked you at His throne, “why should I let you into my Heaven?”, I want you to be prepared to answer. Only Christians can say with confidence, “Because Christ has died for me.”

Christ isn’t just an odd concept. He is a living, real person. He has done a marvelous thing for us. He lived just like we do. He was working-class, and never made any bones about it. He lived his life, the best life that was ever lived, and died for you. He died so that you, and I mean you on a personal level, could stand before His Father, and answer. Your eternity depends on it. Don’t wait any longer. You need to decide today.