What Is A Church?
What are some reasons people GO to church?
Pew Research Center (Aug 2018) “10 reasons Americans go to church - and 9 reasons the don’t.”
The percentage refers to people who said this was a “very important” reason for their decision:
To become closer to God. (81%)
So their children will have a moral foundation. (69%)
To become a better person. (68%)
For comfort in times of trouble or sorrow. (66%)
They find the sermons valuable. (59%)
To be part of a faith community. (57%)
To continue their family’s religious traditions. (37%)
They feel obligated to go. (31%)
To meet new people or socialize. (19%)
To please their family, spouse or partner. (16%)
What are some reasons people DO NOT GO to church?
Top reasons people SKIP church:
They practice their faith in “other ways.” (37%)
They are not believers. (28%)
No reason is “very important.” (26%)
They haven’t found a house of worship they like. (23%)
They don’t like the sermons. (18%)
They don’t feel welcome. (14%)
They don’t have the time. (12%)
Poor health or mobility. (9%)
No house of worship in their area. (7%)
In looking over the reasons why people choose to go (or not to go) to church, what stands out to you?
The concern that I have is with those who were faithful attenders who have now STOPPED attending and are using the pandemic as their reason. The book states “some estimate upwards of 1/3 of churchgoers have stopped attending church”!
It’s not just my desire to see people in church, there are biblical reasons we attend church.
It’s a command:
8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
The corporate body IS the church:
16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
It gives us clarity:
4 Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths.
5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.
Christ went to church:
46 After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.
23 And when he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?”
11 And he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple. And when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.
45 And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold,
14 And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them.
28 So Jesus proclaimed, as he taught in the temple, “You know me, and you know where I come from. But I have not come of my own accord. He who sent me is true, and him you do not know.
It teaches us how to solve life's problems:
20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
It gives an opportunity to use our gifts:
4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.
Our children are taught:
6 Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.
For forgiveness of sins:
12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
Receive spiritual guidance:
2 Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. 3 Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, 4 and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. 6 Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled.
This list is by no means an exhaustive list, and surely we can find many other reasons why attending church is important. But one of the most important things that I can find, in scripture, is that we need encouragement from one another.
19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 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.
As this pandemic continues, we have grown weary. We have become fearful. We have separated ourselves from others. To be quite honest, we need each other!
In Chapter 1, there is an “aha” moment from the writer on attending church on page 20. What draws us to the church?
The Holy Spirit DREW HIM through preaching, and the people.
Preaching had challenged him spiritually and intellectually. He had a realization, a conviction, God is God. I am not.
But the people invested in him; inviting him to bible studies and meals, they loved on him, they showed him what it meant to be a christ-like servant. They didn’t just talk about it, they didn’t just tell him about it, they showed him how following God was different that following the world.
How has the Holy Spirit used preaching in your life? How has he used his people? Why are both preaching and people essential to what the church is?
How many of you have heard these words “Talk is cheap”? What we actually mean is you do not believe someone will do what they say. Can I challenge you with this today? Church talk is cheap. Why would I say that? Because for years we have sang “Oh how I love Jesus” only to live like the devil. We say “let us know if you need anything” only to come up with excuses when another is in need. We have said we are a loving and caring church, only to see them slip out the back doors of our church and not even notice. People deserve more from us. They don’t just need “Christian Talk”, they need a community of believers that live the Word of God.
Do you think most churches main goal today is evangelism? Why or why not?
More importantly, what does our church offer that would attract non-Christians?
Let us read Isaiah 62:1-2
1 For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be quiet, until her righteousness goes forth as brightness, and her salvation as a burning torch. 2 The nations shall see your righteousness, and all the kings your glory, and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will give.
12 And they shall be called The Holy People, The Redeemed of the Lord; and you shall be called Sought Out, A City Not Forsaken.
What does Isaiah say will be noticeable about the gathered people of God?
Who is going to see and seek out the city?
How are these verses being fulfilled in the church today? Specifically, how do people in our community see righteousness and salvation being exemplified in our church?
The church should be the FIRST place where anyone (believer or unbeliever) can find heaven here on earth. On page 25 we find the following:
Matthew 4 shows us the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
Matthew 6 tells us God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven.
Matthew 6 also tells us we store up the treasures of heaven while on earth.
Matthew 16 and 18 reminds us we bind and loose on earth what is bound and loosed in heaven.
And finally in 1 Corinthians 3 and 1 Peter 2 we are told WE are the heavenly temple.
In Hebrews 12:22-24 we see a picture describing the gathered worship of the church.
22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23 and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
What is your impression of worship after reading this text?
How would our church experience change if we remembered that we are worshiping in “the heavenly Jerusalem”? How would it change our worship if we remember that we are worshiping alongside the whole host of heaven? How would it change our experience if we remembered we are worshiping in the presence of Jesus himself?
What do we expect when we come to church?
Many of us have attended church for the majority of our lives. We may have been saved, baptised, and even joined the church. Growing up in church, we learn the right answers to biblical questions. But knowing the answers is totally different that having a personal relationship with our Savior. It isn’t until we have that personal relationship, that we can truly recognize the purpose of church.
The author of this chapter makes this statement on page 28 “A church is a group of people who know they’ve been loved by Christ and have begun to love one another like that”.
How did God demonstrate his love toward us?
10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
What word does John use to stress the importance of loving one another in the church? Is this love optional?
What we will learn in the coming chapters is this:
A church is a group of Christians (Chapter 2)
who assemble as an earthly embassy of christ’s heavenly kingdom (Chapter 3)
to proclaim the good news and commands of Christ the King (Chapter 4)
to affirm one another as his citizens through the ordinance (Chapter 5)
and to display God’s own holiness and love (Chapter 6)
through a unified and diverse people (Chapter 7)
in all the world (Chapter 8)
following the teaching and example of elders (Chapter 9)