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Do I Really Have to Attend?
Do you remember taking roll at school?
Attendance seemed like such a bother.
A number of years ago I volunteered to serve on the school district budget committee.
A key metric for every district, every building was attendance.
Each district received an allotment of funds directly tied to how many students showed up in class.
There was a complicated formula, called Average Daily Membership, or ADM, that was used to calculate how much money each district recieved.
Many employers ask their employee’s to ‘clock in’ at the beginning of the shift and to ‘clock out’ when they leave.
Showing up matters.
I once belonged to a community social service club.
If we didn’t attend we were fined!
Being present makes a difference.
Ah, but church.
There are SO MANY tasks to be done - lawns to care for, flowers to water, weeds top pull, cars to wash, rooms to vacuum, floors to clean, errands to run....
If I miss this one time, well, it will be OK…another week won’t matter.
Soon it’s become a month, then several months, and suddenly it’s been a year!
Let’s go back to the church at Antioch 2,000 years ago.
Does attendance really matter?
I want to propose three questions, offer two conclusions, and make one clear application this morning.
What ‘report’ was given to believers in Jersualem?
Two other instances in Acts shed a little light of vs 22. First, when Philip began preaching in Samaria as recorded in Acts 8, people responded.
Believers in Jerusalem sent Peter and John to investigate.
Then, in Acts 11, after word of Peter’s visit to Cornelius (you know, one of ‘those’ people - i.e.a pagan, non-Jewish person of NO SIGNIFICANCE) those in Jerusalem ‘contended’ (NKJV) with him.
It’s as though they said, ‘How dare you go to ‘those’ people!’
Now, again word reaches people of ‘those’ people hearing to gospel.
My point: if only one or two had responded, and even if a handful had responded and yet they weren’t meeting together who would have noticed?
We remember that in May of 2020 a police officer killed a suspect in police custody.
Though the US was in a nationwide lockdown because of the pandemic hundreds, even thousands, showed up on the streets of most major cities in America.
We remember because....people showed up in significant numbers!
Enough new believers were coming together in Antioch that those in Jerusalem - 90 miles south- heard about it!
What did Barnabas see when he arrived?
Imagine with me that Barnabas arrived, and found a handful of people, not meeting together, people just going about their normal daily routine.
Would he have reported back?
But instead he found clear evidence ‘of the grace of God?
‘Great grace’ was clearly evident.
One NT scholar explains:
The grace that is mentioned here is ‘the divine favour and presence which rests upon the community and which is somehow tangibly manifest’
David G. Peterson, The Acts of the Apostles, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Nottingham, England: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2009), 205.
Something about the gathering of believers as Luke describes it was a palpable, tangible sense of the real presence of God.
Isn’t that what we should always expect when we come together as the people of God?
But it’s not always the case.
Sin - individual sin, sin between believers that can cause deep roots of bitterness, apathy, lack of prayer prior to meeting, even failing to pray as God’s people have met together -
and a multitude of other reasons could be listed.
When Barnabas came to Antioch, he experienced the power and presence of God
- and Luke expresses it as only Luke can: evidence of the grace of God.
There is another evidence of God’s grace we cannot ignore:
Twice in Acts 11:19-26 we read of ‘large numbers turning to or being added to the Lord.’
When God is present, He will make Himself known.
Listen to Jesus’ words, just a few days prior to His arrest, trial, crucifixion, resurrection and ascension:
When God is present, when Jesus is exalted, when the Holy Spirit is free to act as only He can act....people will come to know Jesus as Lord and Savior!
What did Barnanas and Saul/Paul do in Antioch?
Over the next few Sunday’s we will examine what people in ‘churches’ do when they come together.
When Barnabas visited Antioch the idea of ‘church’ was very much a work in progress.
Apparently the apostles and other leaders hadn’t read 1 & 2 Opinions - church has to begin at 11am, services must end no later than 12:00pm noon, shirts and ties for men, dresses for women, children are to be seen and NEVER heard.
Piano’s and Organs are mandatory instruments.
(BTW, those specific reasons have been shared with me over 40 plus years as to why people cannot attend the churches I’ve pastored.)
What Barnabas and Saul/Paul did was ‘teach.’
The instruction Jesus had given His followers prior to His ascension into heaven was:
Matthew 28:18–20 (HCSB)
Then Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.
Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you.
And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
The Greek word translated ‘teach’ is the word from which we derive ‘disciple,’ ‘discipline’ and so on.
Teach is much more than just communicating information.
Teaching is about sharing lives together, learning together, discovering together.
Think of the teacher in your school years who most influenced you.
Likely it is a teacher who spent time with you, who respected you as a person, a teacher who was excited to share about their subject, an adult who was willing to patiently walk alongside you as you grew and matured.
From this overview let me share two important insights about ‘church.’
Church = people sharing a common confession of faith
In a couple of Sunday’s we are going to look carefully about whether it matters if we believe the same things or not (Hint: IT DOES!)
For today we can see how those believers in Antioch were identified as ‘Christians’ because of their behavior
AND because of their common commitment to a set of teachings about the one sent of God, Jesus Christ.
Church = a people sharing a common covenant together
Growing up our church would read out loud together a document called ‘The Church Covenant’ every time we observed the Lord’s Supper.
Our church has a covenant as well- it’s embedded in our Constitution and By-Laws.
There is a copy of the covenant on the table in back of the auditorium for you to take home.
I won’t take time to read all four paragraphs this morning but I do want to share the relevant portion to the text this morning:’
We engage, therefore together, by the aid of the Holy Spirit,
to walk together in Christian love to strive to together for the growth of this church in knowledge, holiness, and encouragement;
to promote it’s prosperity and spirituality; to sustain it’s worship, ordinances, discipline, [there’s that word: TEACH] and doctrines....
When you identified as part of Community Baptist Church - whether consciously of it or not - you signed on to this common covenant.
We who have confessed Jesus as Lord and believe in our hearts that God raised Him from the dead are a covenanted people.
The death and resurrection of Jesus is God’s new covenant that He will give to us Christ’s righteousness in place of our unrighteousness
and that God will accept us fully and completely on this confession of our absolute trust in Jesus as the only was of approaching God.
Only by regularly meeting together can you and grow in the faith and knowledge of Jesus Christ (see 2 Peter 3:18).
Certainly there are times we miss- health issues, travel, family issues and the like.
We are aware of the church - those believers in Antioch 2,000 years ago - because they met together regularly, and consistently.
I certainly have no desire to ‘guilt’ anyone to attend more consistently.
Neither would I suggest that you must attend every time the doors are open - there are some meetings and activities that are designed for different groups, different ages, and different needs.
However, let me leave you with this challenge:
The strength and vitality of our impact on the community around us is influenced by the attendance patterns of believers!
I believe God has plans for us as Community Baptist Church well into the future.
To discover and implement these plans takes all of God’s people pulling together in a common direction, exploring our common confession and expressing our common covenant with one another.
Today, let me challenge you to join with me in a commitment to be present as often as physically possible and when present to fully be present for one another in the power of the Holy Spirit!
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