Come to Church! Five Compelling Reasons Why

January 21, 2014

coming to churchOne of the my earliest sermons was entitled, “Forsake Not the Assembly.” It was based upon the “go-to” verse on this topic–Hebrews 10:25. Since then, I have spent a considerable amount of energy trying to urge; convince; beg; encourage; and challenge folks to grasp the eternal significance of gathering weekly with the church.

I will give it another shot. Here are five compelling reasons why you should worship with the church every Sunday.

  1. Church is a big deal to God. How big? Christ started and endorsed the church–Matthew 16:18; His sacrifice purchased the church and made it whole–Acts 20:28; Ephesians 5:25-27. He married it. The church is the bride of Christ–Revelation 19:7-9; 21:2,9. The idea that we can have Christ without the church is unthinkable to God. From heaven’s perspective there is no “take it or leave it” option when it comes to the church. God is all in on the church. Jesus gave all to the church.
  2. Worship matters. What goes on in church is also a big deal. When we gather with the Spirit of God in our midst, events of eternal importance occur. Communion takes us to the cross and beyond. It anchors our gathering with reflection, thanksgiving, and anticipation. Our singing is designed to encourage, teach, and build up each other. Our prayers are like sweet incense to God. Biblical teaching expands our understanding of God and his will for us. The sweet fellowship we enjoy strengthens and refreshes. None of this is accidental. It is thoroughly God-designed–just for us. Why deny ourselves this incredible blessing?
  3. Church is a redemptive community. It is usually at this point in this discussion when all the church warts are pointed out. Yes, it is true. The church is made up of all sorts of less-than-perfect people. Folks in the church do dumb things and often fail to model Christ consistently. It is also a fact that our exercise of worship can occasionally seem repetitive and less-than-inspirational. We are after all, human. But we are not what makes the church such a compelling place. It is Christ and his redemptive work within us. The apostle Paul recalled the sorry former state of some who made up the Corinthian church. But that was before Jesus. He tells them, “Since then, you’ve been cleaned up and given a frest start by Jesus, our Master, our Messiah and by God present in us, the Spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:11 MSG). This is the church–full of a bunch of sinners given another chance by Jesus. The church celebrates; reflects; and embodies his redemptive work. When we can focus on that–on him; our attitude about church and our experience in church will likely change.
  4. We need you. You have a place in this redemptive community. God has arranged it (1 Corinthians 12:18). You belong. You fit. We need your giftedness; your heart (especially if it is broken); your presence. Your background does not matter. Without you here, we are not complete. Please do not ever believe otherwise–we need you.
  5. God loves you. Ultimately this is what it is all about. Earlier, I referenced Ephesians 5:25-27. It is a beautiful text on many different levels: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” The church is about the love of God working in you to bring about transformation; to bring about God’s eternal will for you to enjoy a relationship with him forever.

To the skeptics; to the burned out; to the suspicious; to the bruised; to the turned-off; to the struggling; to the disappointed; to the disillusioned; to those who no longer believe; to those who doubt; to the tired: to the former faithful; to anyone who has given up on or never were interested: give church a chance. Come and worship with us Sunday. It will be far from a perfect experience. But that is why we are here. We need redemption. We need Jesus. And yes, we need you.


Five Reasons Why It Is Easy to Bash the Church

January 15, 2014
  1. It is easier to criticize than to praise. It requires much less effort to point out what is wrong, than to celebrate what is right. A church may be engaged in all kinds of encouraging, life-changing ministry, but it is the flaws that seem to get most of the focus. And there are flaws and always will be. Which means…
  2. The church is an easy target. Yep, we have hypocrites, liars, the immoral, the insensitve, the intolerant, and the self-righteous. Often we seem out-of-touch and archaic. Name it (and the critics do) because we got it. Never mind that we also have the faithful, the loving, the pure, the servant-hearted: you know, folks trying to model Jesus. Forget the fact that by its very nature the church welcomes all of the above to enter into a transformative relationship with Christ. Ignore the reality that we are and will contiune to be (until Christ returns) a work in progress– never claiming perfection. Our mistakes just make too big a target for many to see beyond.
  3. Misery sells. Good news creates much less buzz than bad. The media has grasped this for decades. Church bashing simply has broader appeal than church praising. It has become a cottage industry.
  4. Everyone is an expert. Just ask and you will discover that almost everyone has an opinion (usually a strong one) about the church. These opinons usually contain criticism complete with a “how to fix it” plan. Very few experts see themselves as part of the problem, however.
  5. It is self-serving. For many church bashing serves to create justification for their own choices. “The church is bad therefore I will not support it” or “The church is bad and I need to change it” or “The church is bad therefore I will oppose it”- is the idea. Obviously, this is not true about criticism across the board, Also, it must be acknowleged that some have suffered genuially terrible experiences in churches, which has created difficult personal spiritual struggles. But for many criticizing the church simply serves their own purposes.

There is a difference, of course, between healthy criticsim which seeks to instruct and improve. I see the apostle Paul engaged in this kind of criticism as he dealt with the first century churches. He pointed out their flaws; their sins, but always with the goal of correcting them in the most productive way in Jesus. He never engaged in bashing. His was redemptive criticism. Some, who survey the church today and offer a critique do so in the same spirit and for the same purpose. We need that. It is healthy.

What we do not need is the type of critcism reflective in my five reasons. It is counterproductive and damaging.


Too Busy To? Five Signs of Being Too Busy

October 31, 2013

I just ordered the book, Crazy Busy by Edward Hallowell. It has not arrived yet- so no comment on it, but I eagerly await it. Hopefully it will give me some insight on how to slow down a crazy busy life.

Kid’s soccer games and basketball practice; work responsibilities and work-related meetings; church events; school events; work-around-the-house concerns; they can become all consuming. The calendar gets full in a hurry. You know the drill. Some of it is important; some of it is urgent; some of it is neither, but we rush into it all none-the-less.

It is busyness and often we embrace it with pride. It becomes a symbol of our significance. Amazingly, not being busy now equals not mattering. We do it. We post it on Facebook. We tweet about it. We matter! It has become embarrassing to admit that we actually have nothing to do on Saturday night.

But is staying busy really all that?

God, knowing the tendencies of his creation, mandated a Sabbath rest for the Hebrews. Jesus, who indeed was a busy man with a most important agenda, often “withdrew” from the bustle and demand of the crowds to rest and pray. Scripture encourages us to, “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).

Without a doubt, we can become too busy for our own good. Here are five signs that we are there:

  • You cannot remember what is next. In a conversation with my wife recently, I expressed relief that nothing was planned the next night. She quickly corrected me. We did have something planned– kind of a big deal church event which had long been on the calendar. At that moment I had completely forgotten about it. When we have too much going on to remember it all, perhaps that is a sign that we have too much going on.
  • You can no longer just relax. Whether it is from being too overstimulated for too long or you feel guilty for taking a break–if you cannot “be still” that likely is not healthy.
  • It bothers you that other people are not as busy as your are. Having experienced life in other cultures, it amuses me to see Americans adjust to slower-paced countries. Often they conclude that the locals are simply lazy. The locals, on the other hand, look at us and ask, “what’s your hurry?”
  • You must multi-task. Yesterday, I heard about a movie theater chain that plans to open up a section in each of its viewing halls for texters. The two hour viewing time for a typical movie is now way too long to stay off the phone. Ah, the phones. Ever try having a conversation with someone who cannot keep his eyes off the screen? Too busy to talk! Busyness can be an addiction with technology being the drug.
  • You have less time for God. Ultimately, this is the lasting danger of busyness. When we overstuff our calendars, something will get squeezed out. Quite often these are the very things which strengthen our relationship with God. We become too busy to pray; too busy to praise; too busy to interact with God in any meaningful way. Other appointments take precedent over Sunday worship. Devotional and Bible reading opportunities get lost in the shuffle. Instead of seeking “first” Christ’s kingdom, we find ourselves able only to give God a few minutes here or there.

Recall the story of Martha in Luke 10:38-42. The occasion was a visit of Jesus to her house. Rightly, we would think, she became busy with meal preparations. Her sister, Mary, did not join her, choosing rather to pause to listen to Christ’s teaching. This bothered Martha and she complained to Jesus about it. His words to her speak to our busyness now: “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things, but one thing is needed. Mary has chosen the best part; it will not be taken away from her.”

Let’s not get too busy to choose the “best part.”


A Post-Racial Church?

July 16, 2013

As evidenced by the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman case—America is a long way from being post-racial. This case has pealed back layers of deep-seated emotions—raw and on full display 24/7 on various news outlets.

Folks from all sides have seized this unfortunate series-of-events to posture; profit; accuse; and vigorously fuel the racial divide.  On one level this should be a huge disappointment for our nation. Shouldn’t we be beyond this? On another level maybe this should be expected. After all, we live in a broken world and racism remains an entrenched part of it.

Caught up in this furor is, of course, the church. If ever there is to be a place that is post-racial it is God’s kingdom.  Scripture is clear:

I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism, but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right.  (Acts 10:34)

For God does not show favoritism.  (Romans 2:11)

On the surface both of these texts demonstrate God’s plan and desire is for all people to be embraced equally and fully share in the blessings of God’s grace regardless of racial, social, economic, or gender status. And certainly it is in his church where this ideal should be most evident.

But unpacking both of these texts and understanding their context demonstrates the challenges embedded within this- both for them and us.

The apostle Peter spoke the first sentence as he was first beginning to realize that God’s kingdom extended beyond just the Jewish community. He had a struggle with his own racism to overcome (see Galatians 2:11-13) before he could finally fully embrace a post-racial church.

The second sentence was a part of the apostle Paul’s preamble in his correspondance to a Roman church strictly divided along racial lines. Throughout most of that letter he presented a thorough theological treatise revealing God’s original plan to have a fully integrated church before finally urging them to, “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God” (Romans 15:7).

“In order to bring praise to God.” If I understand the nature of the church as the present manifestation of God’s kingdom this is foundational to all we do (see 1 Peter 2:9).  What better way to accomplish this now- in the sound and fury of a racially divided America- then to truly love and accept one another regardless of skin color?

A post-racial church? Absolutely! Clearly this is who God has called us to be. It is heaven’s alternative to the harmful emotions and actions that result from racism. The church as a place of refuge from this is God’s desire.

But let’s be honest. This can remain as challenging for us as it was for the first century church. None of us have escaped the social and racial conditioning influence of our culture. So we must remember that only in Christ is racism really and completely solved.

I don’t know about you, but I do not want the angry, partisan, self-serving, race-based politics of our culture to influence the church. I want the post-racial ethic of a church that looks and acts like Jesus to influence our culture.


Just Want to Say, Thank You.

June 13, 2013

Occasionally a preacher’s life can become difficult because of the job. I have had a few moments like that over the years. Some I created. Some other’s instigated.

I have heard all of the lame preacher’s jokes, but hardly ever were they delivered mean-spiritedly. I can only remember  a few times when I took them personally.

In reflection, whatever difficulties I have endured have been more than overshadowed by love, support, understanding, encouragement, acceptance, and grace.

The churches where I have served have overwhelmingly embraced me and my ministry– even in spite of my human weaknesses. God has provided me many FOPs (friend of preachers) along the way. What blessings and joy I have received throughout my ministry!

Now, I just want to say, thank you.


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