Have you seen someone drop out of church, no longer caring? Or have you ever met someone who was abandoned by the church, and suffered alone when they most needed the body of Christ? Perhaps you yourself have been there. Or maybe you’ve come to church faithfully and cheerfully for many years, but you’ve been attending on the surface.
What do I mean by that? Well, on the one hand, you could come to church by simply sitting in the pew, mumbling a few hymns, listening to the sermon, and then rushing home to eat and take a nap. On the other hand, you could chat with people afterwards and even ask a few questions about Bible verses or different points of theology to your ABC teacher. But neither of these are really the fullness of what church really is. There is much more to it than that. In Hebrews 10:24-25, we are told not to forsake church — because that is where we study each other carefully and learn how to specifically spur each other on to love and good works, which is a kind of intimacy and relational depth that plunges far beyond what most church-goers seem to think church is. To understand what it means to “go to church,” we must go back to the dawn of the church: Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit powerfully rippled like a shockwave through Jerusalem. In one day, three thousand souls entered the family of God. What was this new group of people to do? Through the church, God was doing an entirely new thing that had never been done before. Luke tells us what they did next:
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. (Acts 2:42 ESV)
Luke tells us that they met at the Temple (verse 46, and see also Acts 3:11 and 5:12). All three thousand believers could have gathered in the public open-air colonnades that encircled King Herod’s temple complex. Here’s a good model of what the temple mount would have roughly looked like. See that long stretch of wall in the front? Behind that long wall in front is the hall where Luke says the believers gathered. There the vast crowds of people coming in and out of the temple precinct would have seen the apostles performing miracles and wonders, and ever-swelling crowds (more were being saved every day!) thronging to hear the good news.
But Luke also tells us, “And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts.” (v. 46). So they not only met at the Temple every day, but they also went into each other’s homes. In other words, the 3,000+ people split up into smaller groups in people’s homes to intimately feast with one another and to remember the death of Christ and the future promise of resurrection (the “breaking of bread” alludes to communion). There they shared scriptures and their very souls. It was there that they could truly cement the bonds of fellowship (partnership, camaraderie).
That is why and how we do church. We gather together as a big community in a public space to worship together, singing songs and learning from “the apostles’ teaching” (now passed down through the Bible). But if that is your only community, then you are missing half the picture. And if you are already fully, relationally engaged in an Adult Bible Connection or a small group (or both), let this week’s Fighter Verse reaffirm you deeply in your heart to keep the good fight… and to go ever deeper, because we can always deepen our relationships with our spiritual family.
QUESTIONS TO ASK EACH OTHER
- Doing church absolutely requires vulnerability — the willingness to open up about matters of the heart. How can you go deeper with your spiritual family at Grace?
- The first church constantly kept the Gospel (pictured here through communion) in front as they went into each other’s homes. How can we keep the Gospel at the center of our relationships with our spiritual friends?
- We fear vulnerability, but this is an obstacle to doing church together. How does the Gospel address those fears?
QUESTIONS TO ASK CHILDREN:
- The very first church gathered together in one place to sing together and learn about God’s word. Where do we do that at church today?
- In the very first church, people liked to get together, become friends, and celebrate what Jesus had done for them. We need to have friends at church that we trust, so we can pray together and talk about God. Can you think of a friend at church you might like to ask to be your “prayer friend” so you can share prayer requests?
- Sometimes we’re shy and don’t like to tell other people when we’re sad, or when we did something bad. But what if your “prayer friend” loyally prayed for you to feel better when you were sad, and prayed for you to grow spiritually? How would that make you feel?