I grew up in church: Sunday School, morning worship, evening services, Bible School, potlucks. We were “church people”. If the doors were open, we were there. It didn’t matter if we were gifted or not, we served. We faithfully toiled, but I have no memory of in depth relationships with other believers. We did have some rather fractious encounters with other congregants. There was little joy; no actual “doing life together.” Church was a work assignment. To miss a service would mean guilt and having to make excuses for not being there. It might have even meant losing face because God forbid, we might appear like our “heathen neighbors” who mowed their grass on Sundays. Church was a transactional experience: put in your time and get the star, the recognition, the social acceptance. Just hope that in enough years you can put in for retirement and take a break.
I walked away from the church I grew up with. In contrast to my experiences, the Apostle Paul describes Church as a relational universe where believers encourage each other so that no believer easily walks away. The Book of Acts in chapter 2 explains it as an opportunity to come together before the Throne of God. It is the spiritual war room in which believers are fortified. The early Christians did not have to go it alone as they traveled through the perplexities and hardships of the Roman culture. It was in this community of relationships where believers could help equip each other and to be united to face the roaring lion that to this present day seeks to devour us. Church is a network of relationships that if truly fleshed out like God meant it, where Christ can be wondrously displayed.
Church is also something to be excited about. Acts records: “They were continually devoting themselves.” Note the adverb “continually” attached to the verb “devoting”. The seats in the early church were not occupied for the sake of occupation. Just like eager young lovers, these believers were sitting in the presence of their first love, Jesus Christ. Their eyes lit up during the teachings of the Apostles. They were starved for real Truth after coming out of spiritual famine. If a word could express what was going on, one would say there was an atmosphere of “wonder”. No one was looking at their bank statement figuring out if they had enough to buy that vacation to Hawaii. Instead, they were looking at their possessions and trying to figure out how they could give to help out each other. They had open doors in regards to hospitality. There was no concern if the hosts’ living room didn’t look like something out of a magazine. They shared, ate together and were sincerely delighted about being together. And the world scratched its head….It had never seen anything like this before. It was Church as the Body of Christ.
Is church for you as it once was for me – that duty, that once a week obligation? Do you check off your name on the attendance pad and duck out the door as quick as you can? Have you become a part of your local church so that it is as Christ meant His Church to be? Maybe there won’t be the official potluck suppers anymore as in years past, but the feast of relationships based on Jesus Christ should be more than enough.