What is it that brings you to this place at this hour on Sunday morning? Is it habit – because it’s Sunday, you must be in church? Is it a sense of “ought-ness”—because you believe in God and Jesus, you feel you ought to be in church? Does fear about what others might say if you didn’t come encourage you to be faithful? Perhaps you are here because of the music, the fellowship or the sermon. Perhaps a friend invited you or you just want to come? Maybe you’re here because you have to be here or a responsibility to fulfill.
As we began this series on the church, we found that the church is not a building, but a belief. It is not a place but a people. The church is ekklesia – the called out ones of God. But WHY are we here, in this place and at this time? Why do we gather together every Sunday morning in buildings or mud huts, tents or private homes, open fields or forest glen? Why DO we gather together?
Does It Matter Where We Worship?
How often I have heard people say, quite sincerely and honestly, “ But I can worship God at home…in my garden…on the golf course…on my John Deere riding mower…in a rowboat or duck blind.” Many church members who claim allegiance to Jesus Christ have made that statement. In this age of on-line church when the click of a mouse will allow you to worship with almost any kind of congregation you choose, including this one, why DO we gather together? If the Church is wherever the “called out ones” of God meet, then what is the purpose of gathering here? Why did the author of Hebrews tell the people to “Let us not give up meeting together?”
Part of the answer to that question is in chapter 10 the letter to the Hebrews. The J.B. Phillips version paraphrases it this way—
We gather together for mutual encouragement. Because we are confident in the fact that if anyone cares about our problems, difficulties, needs, or uncertainties it is God’s “called out ones.” We know that if we need prodding or encouragement or incentive to do what we know to be the right thing, we’ll receive it here. If our faith is at a low point and needs re-charging, we can come here knowing that we will be lifted and encouraged and strengthened by the love and concern of others who have been where we are and, with God’s help, have found a way out.
We gather together because we know that this is where there are people who care enough about us to rebuke us and correct us when we are going in the wrong direction. In an atmosphere of love, our sins and errors are revealed to us. Here we can
- Sense the forgiveness of God as His “called out ones” forgive us;
- Resolve to change our ways, knowing that we are supported by those who want to see us succeed;
- Find people like us who will listen to us, pray with us and for us, correct us when we are wrong, and support and encourage us when we are right.
Prayer and Support
The “called out ones” of God—the Church—gather together to pray and seek God’s will. We gather together for support for our prayers, assured by God’s Word that our united prayers for a particular person or situation can have a more powerful effect than just our solitary, individual prayers. We know this because of the promise from our Lord “if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 18:19) We gather here together because we know there is strength in numbers.
Learn God’s Will
In this place, together, we will discover what God wants from us. Through the reading of God’s Word, we learn what it means to be a Christian. By the songs we share, the message we hear, through our shared stories of frustration and faith, disillusionment and hope, failure and success, we are learning what God expects from us as “called out ones” and exactly how He wants us to function in the world.
To Meet God
Jesus promised His followers “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20) When Jesus is present, things happen. Lives are changed. Faith is born. Miracles occur. We gather together wanting to be transformed, wanting to see miracles happen, wanting God to work in our lives, believing that, since He is present anywhere, He is present here!
We gather together to recognize and thank God for being God. We want to praise Him for all He’s done for us, seek His guidance and direction in our lives, be supported and encouraged in our faith and to be reprimanded for our sins and loved in spite of them.
Why Are We Here?
Yes, we can worship at home, in our car, in the great outdoors. By the click of a button, we can hear God’s Word read and explained by any number of dynamic enthusiastic, talented preachers. We can enjoy the great hymns of the faith sung by talented individuals and tremendous choirs. But there is something missing in the on-line church. There is no fellowship, no support and encouragement by others who have faced the same pressures you are facing, no one who calls you by name and encourages you personally in your struggle against doubt, discouragement, frustration , fear, temptation and sin.
Here, in the fellowship of the “called out ones,” is the strength, hope, support, loving rebuke, comforting hug, friendly handshake that says “You are not alone.” This is where you can let your faith grow, let your doubts show and know that someone cares about you.
The Church—the “called out ones” of God—gather together not just for worship, but for support, encouragement, fellowship, learning and growth, correction, forgiveness, admonishing and love. We are gathered together to seek God, to experience God’s presence, to be changed in order to serve Him. THAT’S WHY WE’RE HERE!