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Defining the Church

It is certainly exciting to be able to hold our first Sunday morning worship service here in this building! We have been working towards this day for quite some time now and God has done some amazing things to get us to this point, and I know God will continue to amaze us with what He does through this church in the future.

And of course, when I say that “God will continue to do amazing things through this church” – I’m not actually talking about this building. You see, as wonderful as it is, this building is not actually the church.

And I know that might seem a bit confusing… the english language doesn’t really convey the idea of church very well.

I mean, really, when you think about it, we use the word ‘church’ in all kinds of different ways. For example, we might say.,..

    • “Let’s go out for lunch after church.”
    • “We need to fix the church roof.”
    • “We want to reach the unchurched families in our community.”
    • “Kids, please change out of your church clothes before you go play.”

And you can see why this can be confusing! Judging by those four statements, the church is an event, its a building, its a social status, and its a type of clothing.

I don’t think any of those convey the true definition of what the church really is. If you look at how the Bible talks about the church – it sounds like something very different. Let me show you a few examples:

      • “But while Peter was in prison, the church prayed very earnestly for him.” Acts 12:5
      • “Finally, the church decided to send Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem.” Acts 15:2
      • “After you have read this letter, pass it on to the church at Laodicea so they can read it, too.” Colossians 4:16
      • “Upon arriving in Antioch, they called the church together and reported everything God had done through them.” Acts 14:27

In these verses, church doesn’t sound like an event, a building, a social status, or a type of clothing. Look at the action verbs there – Praying, deciding, reading, meeting together – those all sound like things that people do. Building don’t pray and events don’t read. People do these things. 

Now of course, if we were Greek speaking Christians back when these verses were originally written, this wouldn’t even be an issue for us. We would understand that the english word ‘church’ used in these verses, or the word ‘ekklesia’ in greek, meant a gathering of people – or an assembly. It had the idea of people being called together for a public meeting. In the Greek language, that’s what an ‘ekkesia’ was – it wasn’t even anything to do with religion, it was just people called together for a public assembly.

So it seems from the language of the Bible that the church is simply people. 

If you’re my age or older, you might know the little poem – Here is the church, here is the steeple. Open the doors and here are the people. 

It’s a nice little poem, but I’m afraid it’s just not very accurate! The people are the church. The church is not a building. No steeple is required. The church is people.

And of course, the church isn’t just any people. The church isn’t simply anyone who shows up Sunday morning. The church is made up of specific people. So who are these specific people? Are you one of them? Let’s find out.

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Worship in Ekklesia

Well, last Sunday I kinda left you hanging…  For the past few weeks, we’ve been talking about the purpose of the church – or the purpose of God’s Ekklesia – the gathering of God’s family. And by last Sunday, we had already talked about the main over-arching purpose of the church – which is to bring glory to God. In everything we say or do, we aim to display and declare God’s goodness to the world around us.

But then we narrowed our focus just a little bit and began to discuss the specific tasks of the local church. Bringing glory to God is the ultimate aim for the church as a whole – but what is God’s purpose in establishing local congregations? How are we to bring glory to God together as a community in ways that we simply couldn’t on our own?

And so last week, we divided these tasks of the church into three main categories. They were: 

  • To bring glory to God through worshipping Him together.
  • To bring glory to God by edifying His people.
  • To bring glory to God by evangelizing the world.

And so we started last week by digging into what it means to worship God – and that’s where I kinda left you hanging! We talked primarily about what the word ‘worship’ means – but we didn’t really dig into what that looks like as one of the primary tasks of the local church. But that’s where I want to go today.

So to do that, let me first refresh your memory as to what worship is all about – because today’s message really does build on what we talked about last week.

You’ll remember that last Sunday we looked at the old english word “weorthscipe” – which basically means to ‘declare the worth of’ something. And it’s from this old word ‘weorthscipe’ that we get our modern word ‘worship’.

When we worship something, we are declaring it’s worth or its worthiness. But worship isn’t simply about the words we say or the songs we sing in church. Worship is much more about the daily decisions we make and the priorities we have in life. It’s about showing how we esteem and value God (or anything else for that matter) by the choices we make every day.

Because whatever it is that is our highest priority, whatever it is that we value above all else, whatever it is that is our greatest consideration in every decision – that is what we worship.

It’s like what Jesus said in Matthew 6:21… 

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:21 NIV

Whatever it is that we hold most dearly, whatever it is that we choose above all else – that’s what we treasure – that’s what we worship in our hearts.

We don’t have to sing any particular songs. We don’t have to physically bow down. We don’t have to bring any offerings or sacrifices. We can do those things, but they only have meaning if they are outward reflections of what’s already going on inside in our hearts. We need to worship God in spirit and in truth, like Jesus said in John 4:23. He says…

23 But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. 24 For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.” John 4:23-24

That’s why the object of our worship isn’t necessarily revealed by what songs we sing on Sunday morning. The object of our worship is revealed by our daily decisions and choices. It’s those choices that truly reveal what we value in our hearts – what we worship.

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Ekklesia – The Assembly

Over the past several months, COVID-19 has radically changed our familiar ‘church’ experience.  

The Sunday mornings we knew a year ago were very different from the online Sunday mornings we knew for the last three months – and they are very different from what we’re experiencing today!

Over these last months we’ve changed how we gather. We’ve changed how we worship. We’ve changed how we do preaching and teaching. We’ve changed how we do kids programming. We’ve changed how we fellowship. We’ve changed how we do Bible studies. We’ve changed how we connect with each other and with the community.

So many of our familiar church experiences have changed.

And so this whole process of changing how we do church has really led me to reevaluate what we do and why we do it!

    • Just because we’ve always had a snacktime in the middle of our service doesn’t mean we have to… It doesn’t even mean we should!
    • Just because we enjoy having some talented musicians lead our worship with piano, guitars, and drums – it doesn’t mean we have to… it doesn’t mean we should!
    • Just because we’ve had great success in running our summer kids club or other kids programming –  doesn’t mean we have to…. doesn’t mean we should!

It’s easy to get into the habit of just doing things because that’s what we’ve always done before. But it’s important to evaluate every once in a while to see if what we’re doing is still useful and effective and important.

It’s like the story of young lady who was newly married and she decided to bake a ham for their first Easter dinner. So she took the ham, sliced off both ends and placed it in the roasting pan. Her husband was watching all this and asked, “Honey, why did you slice off the ends of that ham? It’s all good ham – why not just bake the whole thing?”

The young wife thought about this and said “I’m not sure – that’s what mom always did when she baked a ham. I’ll ask her.”

So the young lady called up her mom and asked “Mom, when you’re roasting a ham, why do you always cut off the ends?” The Mom thought for a moment and said, “Well, that what your grandmother always did. Grandma’s ham was always delicious, and so I’ve always just done what she did.”

So the young lady then called up Grandma and asked, “Grandma, when you cook a ham, why do you always cut off the ends?” To this the Grandma replied, “I always cut off the ends because I didn’t have a roasting pan big enough to fit the whole ham.”

And I think this story illustrates what often happens in church. We just do things a certain way simply because that’s what we’ve always done – without considering if what we’re doing is still useful, effective, and important.

And so with all the changes that we’ve been forced to make because of COVID-19, I think now is a perfect opportunity for us to all reevaluate how we do church. 

Why do we do the things that we do? What are some things that we should change? What are some things that we should never change?

But I guess, to answer those questions, we really need to take a look at the bigger picture. What exactly are we trying to accomplish as a church anyway? What’s the purpose of the church?

If we don’t have a clear picture of why we exist and what God wants us to accomplish – I think we’ll have a really hard time measuring the effectiveness of what we do.

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Living In Love

Today we are getting back into the book of 1 Peter. We took a bit of a break from Peter last week, as Mike brought us a message from the book of John, but today we’re getting back at it and my goal for today is to finish up this first chapter so that we can start chapter 2 next week. But in case you’ve missed the last couple messages from Peter, let me give you just a quick recap.

In this letter, Peter is writing to Christians who were really going through some really difficult times. At that time and in that part of the world, being a Christian was really not a popular thing. There were social consequences, (if not physical consequences) for pledging allegiance to King Jesus.

And we don’t know specifically what kind of trials these folks were going through, but we do know that it’s not too long after writing this letter that Peter himself is put to death for his faith. So it’s not hard to imagine some of the challenges and struggles some of these Christians might have been experiencing.

And so Peter is writing this letter with two purposes in mind. First of all, He writes to encourage those Christians as they experience these hardships and difficulties. He reminds them of the hope and the joy they have in Jesus. Peter talks about the priceless inheritance that they have to look forward to – and how they are dearly loved by God – chosen by Him to receive endless joy in his presence forever. And so that’s how Peter starts off this letter – with that encouragement.

But his second purpose for this letter is to instruct them on how live in this world until they receive their promised salvation in full. Peter mentions frequently how they are exiles or foreigners or temporary residents – and perhaps some of Peter’s original audience were literally exiled from their homeland because of persecution, but certainly every Christian both then and today – no matter where we are in the world – we understand that this world is not our home. We are citizens of heaven – and thus we are all exiles and foreigners.

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Taking Care of Our Family

This morning we’re tackling a fairly large portion of Scripture – 27 verses in all. On average, we’ve usually been looking at about 8 verses on any given Sunday. So why such a huge portion today? The reason I decided to preach on all 27 verses is because all of these verses revolve around a single theme, although at first glance, you may not think so. Our sermon title for today is “Taking Care of the Family” because that’s exactly what Paul is telling us to in this passage today. Over the past month or so, we’ve been looking in 1 Timothy at our responsibilities as Christians – our “Call of Duty” if you will. And in these 27 verses, Paul lays out for Timothy and us, exactly what our responsibilities are towards others in our family – both our physical family and our spiritual family.

Now since we’ve already heard the whole passage once as read by our different readers, I won’t go through the whole thing again now. But I’ll try to hit some key verses and dig out four main lessons and then I’ll leave you to work through the rest this week at home.

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