Church Involvement

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We are called to be in community with other believers

  • We shouldn’t forsake fellowship (Hebrews 10:23-25)
    • True fellowship is loving community with others by sharing life together (Acts 2:42)
    • This is done through shared worship of God in spirit and in truth (John 4:19-24)
      • The spirit is from the Holy Spirit, while the truth is in solid doctrine
  • Though “church” is used in the Bible a lot, it only refers to the community and not a building or location
    • A church is always spiritually grounded on the foundation of God’s Word (Ephesians 2:19-22)
      • God is present during a church service if it’s truly giving Him glory
    • A church is technically any gathering of believers for the intentional act of worshiping God
      • However, if it doesn’t put Christ at the center it’s worshiping something else
    • The location of a church’s congregation can vary heavily
      • Weekly routine meetings at the same place are a blessing, since they’re only possible in a country that permits Christianity
      • Some modern Western cultures adopt an “anti-establishment” stance and avoid buildings
        • This is perfectly fine as long as they don’t avoid the spiritual community
          • To love Christ is to love the Church (Acts 9:1-5)
        • The problem isn’t the buildings as much as the complacency that can come from buildings
  • The shared worship of God takes a lot of forms
    • Giving a shared joy to the Lord through singing and dancing (Psalm 98:4)
      • This has sometimes been extended to laughing and acting strange, but there’s no biblical basis for that
    • Collective praying and fasting for God’s kingdom to grow and God’s will to be done
      • This is debatable, since prayer is best done in a more private setting (Matthew 6:5)
    • There is nothing in the Bible about a pastor preaching, but it can be grouped as either preaching the Gospel or discipleship
      • Anyone who has walked in Christ for some time will not usually need the hear the Gospel over and over every week
      • The downside of large-scale preaching for discipleship purposes comes from a lack of opportunity for appropriate feedback
      • The simplest test of its quality is on how much Scripture is actually used during the service
  • There are many possible sacraments (ceremonies) that are part of a church’s operation
    • Water baptism is a command in Scripture as a symbol of the spiritual baptism in Christ (1 Peter 3:21)
      • This is not necessary for salvation, but for showing the world your salvation (Luke 23:29-43)
      • Catholics do it at birth, and most Protestants do it after conversion, and any church that does it stresses its significance
    • Confirmation is a public declaration of faith in Christ
      • Catholics view this to be a completion of the water baptism
      • Most Protestants don’t do this, though the more private prayer to receive Christ is the spiritual equivalent
    • The Eucharist, or communion, is the eating of bread and drinking of grape juice/wine to symbolize Christ’s bodily sacrifice and covering of sins through blood (Luke 22:19-20)
      • Most Protestants believe that it’s a symbol, and Catholics believe it becomes literal flesh and blood (trans-substantiation) but the Bible isn’t directly clear on this
    • Penance is asking for forgiveness of sins under Christ’s atonement
      • Catholics and some Protestants practice this on a regular basis with a qualified church leader
      • Most Protestants believe it is a personal prayer conversation with God, and will typically consider it less necessary than Scripture really makes it to be
    • Marriage is performed to show the union of a man and woman in the same way as Christ will someday be unified with the Church (Revelation 19:6-9)
      • Everyone agrees on this ritual, though the scope of what the marriage ceremony involves can vary in many places
    • Ordination is the appointing of new church leaders (elders)
      • Catholics treat this with a lot of ceremony and public declaration, but most Protestant churches simply announce the results of the elected vote
    • Anointing of the Sick, or funeral services, are given regarding people dying and passing on to the next life
      • Most Western cultures have a grim and dark approach to the loss of a life from this earth
      • Many Eastern cultures see it as a mixed sorrow of missing the person with a tremendous joy of their spiritual victory and chance to finally see God

You’ll never find a church that’s running perfectly

  • Every church is the sum of each of its members along with the Holy Spirit’s presence
    • The leaders have to have success and leadership skills in a way that is acceptable to the secular world (1 Timothy 3)
      • Some people look just at the leaders for guidance and input, but pastors are typically very busy
        • Many fleshly Christians will worship their pastor, but don’t let that distract from the church experience
    • Since each of the members struggles with sins, all churches have sin that disrupt perfect operation
      • Most non-persecuted churches, especially very large and very small ones, have major cultural problems with sin
        • Some are extremely fearful and worry about any risk or danger
        • Some are unloving and apathetic to the suffering of others
        • Many people in churches, especially in the West, are gluttons
        • Most churches in the West have a problem with idolizing comfort, consumerism and patriotism
        • Some churches have a problem with deceptiveness, flattery and other types of lying
        • Many churches are legalistic and religious to the point of where a “church service” serves no spiritual benefit
      • This shouldn’t dissuade you from attending unless you see that the leaders are perfectly accepting of the behavior
        • It’s a large act of love in itself to accept an entire church that has some very corrupt people in it
  • It can be challenging to join a new church, especially without knowing anyone beforehand
    • If you were willing to follow Christ into eternity, it’s not hard to get to know a few strangers
      • In larger churches, try to find smaller groups or ministry opportunities to get involved in instead of simply going to the large congregation
        • Many large congregations have “main” church services that look a lot like a performance, but that’s the intention
          • The mostly volunteer talent of artists, marketers, performers, orators and entertainers are trying to make something very broad and mostly shallow
    • The only way to really find out about a Christ-centered church is to be deeply involved in it
      • By treating it like a social club or a weekly observance, it becomes an act of complacency
      • It’s a matter of numbers, so don’t linger too long at a church if it’s clearly not a good place for you
  • You are only truly in a church once you’ve made friends with others
    • As much as God calls people to loving others, it’s a lot easier to love and be loved by understanding the rules of friendship
    • There are 3 kinds of church people we need to have in our lives:
      • A mentor – someone like Paul was to Timothy who guides us and gives us input from their past-tense experiences
      • A companion – someone of the same gender that is presently walking through the same challenges and struggles
      • A disciple – someone who is less experienced that you can share your own past experiences with
    • Sometimes you will outpace your Christian friends, especially if they’re not pursuing Christ as directly
      • In those instances, remember that God is the one growing you and not your own works (Philippians 2:13)
      • The more devoted to Christ you are, the faster you’ll pass by others in their walk, and it’s best to learn to move on
  • Use your spiritual gifts in the church to see God work through you
    • Use your talents and try things that you’re interested in helping serve in
Next: Spiritual Gifts
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