CHURCH LIFE: Weeks 1 & 2

Below is the write-up from our series called CHURCH LIFE.  The write-ups may be “raw’ at times, with just simple notes for points (I apologize; but hey, maybe you could come to service if you’re near by! 11am, Sundays!).  Week 1 is called WHY CHURCH? and Week 2 is called LIFE IN (this one is a more substantial and coherent write-up, as the others will be).  You’ll see icons for the weeks that express the basic premise of each talk.  I hope it’s helpful 🙂

Church Life Logo

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I’m excited about our message series over the next 4 weeks called “CHURCH LIFE.”  Today we will be looking at “WHY CHURCH?”  There’s a guide on the back of your Order of Worship that lists the 3 main questions I want us to deal with today.  Each of these things are common ideas or comments that I hear or have heard from people who have “tried” church, fallen out of church, or fallen away from a church they’ve once loved.

Church Life Artwork CHURCH LIFE

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WORSHIP GUIDE QUESTIONS

  • Why do I need to go to church?
    • Church is a means of grace;
    • Church is God’s design and plan;
      • do we mess it up?  Yes!
      • does God still use it, even with it’s problems? Yes!
    • As Paul reminds us in Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12, we are the body of Christ, and individually members of that body. We are connected, joined together by the salvation God has given through Jesus Christ, therefore the Church is the place where God loves, and moves, and breathes. This body is God’s vehicle for spreading life and community. It’s a marriage, whereby God is joining himself to us and us to him. 
  • Isn’t the Church a group of people with serious problems trying to help people with serious problems?  How is that not BACKWARDS?!
    • People often say, “Why should I go to church, it’s just full of a bunch of sinners and hypocrites!”  And they’re right, to a certain extent.  But what they fail to understand is that Church is God’s way of forming us into the image of Jesus Christ, an image each of us was created to resemble; As we worship together and work together, God works out the lumps in the dough; each of us is smoothed out and made ready for a heavenly living, a godly life; without exposure to such things, you can only attempt to form yourself, which 10x out of 10x proves fruitless.
  • Two common sayings we hear are, “I don’t get anything out of church,” and, “I’m not being fed.”
    • Remember, we make up the members, the parts of the body. If a part of your body serves little to no purpose and is just along for the ride, then what good is it? Each part plays a role, adding to the ability and mobility of the body. But do not fall into the trap of believing that church is about consuming. A consumer mentality means that we are here solely for ourselves instead of here for God. God will gift and grant life and peace, but that is experienced best through our willingness to COMMUNE rather than CONSUME. 
    • The not being fed part is tough to hear as a pastor.  Ultimately, through our worship and service as a body of believers, it is God that feeds, if we are obedient. For those who feel that they are not being spiritually fed in their churches, I offer this challenge. 
      • A colleague I worked with in a previous church was struggling with their new pastor. She missed the lessons and teachings of the former pastor and confessed she wasn’t being spiritually fed. We talked several weeks later and she revealed that a lot had changed. I asked her what was different and she said, “I prayed: I prayed that God would change my heart and reveal himself to mr because I knew that it was God I needed to come to hear from.” Over time, her focus shifted from wanting to be spoon fed by her pastor to seeing God in the entire worship service. 
      • Our problem often times is ourselves, not our pastors or teachers or music. If we will participate in our services of worship and come in order to hear God speak, I promise we will walk away full and not lacking. 

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We dove straight in last week in CHURCH LIFE with our “Why Church” portion, addressing questions and comments like, “Why do I need to go to church,” “Isn’t church filled with hypocrites and sinners,” and “I’m not being fed” or “I don’t get anything out of church.”  Over the next 3 weeks we’ll theme each Sunday with LIFE IN, LIFE AROUND, and LIFE OUT.  Today, LIFE IN will address comments that surround common practices and disciples that are needed in order to maintain a spiritual life and a life within the Church.

Church Life Artwork LIFE IN

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WORSHIP GUIDE QUESTIONS

  • “Why do I need to pray?  I don’t even know how.”
    • We need to pray because it is the foundation of our relationship with God.  Those who pray are those who feel closest to God; those who do NOT pray are those that can consistently confess that there seems to be a great distance between them and God.
      • Prayer is the language spoken between us and God.  When we pray, we move close to God, slowly aligning our heartbeat with His own.  That alignment is what brings both peace and clarity to our hearts as we walk the faith walk.
  • Now, I know all this sounds “pretty,” but what does it all mean when many of us may be sitting here saying ‘I just don’t know how to pray’ or ‘I don’t know what to say.’  If prayer is the foundation of a successful relationship with God, then see prayer as the on-going maintenance of our relationship with God.
    • I don’t want you to think that prayer is easy, because it can be difficult given all the competition that exists in our world.  Both good and bad things take us away from prayer and time with God.  Sometimes it’s a good thing like our family and other times its a bad thing like our gadgets or habits.  
    • Scripture offers some very encouraging words on how to pray. Matthew 6.7–8 says, “When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words.  Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”
      • Therefore, if God already knows what we need, then we are free to spend time with God, dealing honestly with our emotions and issues instead of trying to use many words to justify them.  Think of it like this.  When something terrible happens and you have to fill someone in on all the details, it drains the life out of the conversation and wears both parties out.  But if the other person is already up-to-speed on the situation, then the moment you see them, all that emotion and feeling pours out and you are able to spend more time receiving comfort rather than re-living the bad situation.
  • Jesus offers “The Lord’s Prayer” just after that Matthew text, showing us what a right perspective looks like.  That prayer acknowledges God as God desires to be acknowledged; desires His kingdom and will; focuses on our deeper needs of food for our bodies and food for our souls; and asks for protection.  There couldn’t be a more well–modeled prayer.  At the end of the day, spend time with God.  Find intentional quiet; let the day and the noise settle (however long it takes); and let the Holy Spirit work on your heart through your time of prayer.
  • “I don’t understand the Bible?  Is it important to know it all or memorize it?”
    • Understanding of the Bible comes through study.  Proper understanding comes through studying it together.  As we build relationships with God’s word, we build relationships with each other; lasting relationships that lead to us accomplishing God’s will, which can only be accomplished together, and never alone.  As we’ve learned, God created us for relationship.
    • You don’t have to memorize your whole Bible or know every tiny piece of trivia about it.  Scripture is important because it contains all the necessary information for salvation.  Reading our Bibles and attempting to grow in our understanding over time helps us to build a relationship with it.  That relationship is important because scripture is God’s revelation about Himself, His will, and His salvation for us, all in written form.  As you learn more and spend more time with it, you learn more about God, who does in turn reveal more to you about yourself than you’ll ever be able to discover anywhere else.
    • John Wesley, founder of Methodism, said this about scripture, “…the Bible is the whole and sole rule both of Christian faith and practice.”  We live by the word of God and by the word of God we live.  Take it up and take it in.
  • “I don’t feel like I have anything to offer the church.  Do I have gifts?”
    • The Bible spends more time than we have today on various spiritual gifts and they are more formal in nature.  Today, I want you to walk away from here understanding that everything in your life can be used for the kingdom of God.  Your sense of humor, your knack for organization (some people call it OCD), your leadership, your willingness to help, your availability, your hospitality, your desire to open your home, your excess of both time and resources, and there’s many, many more.
    • The point here is to see that when we give our whole lives to God, our whole lives are then at God’s disposal.  Everything you are can be used for God’s glory but you have to be willing.  It isn’t always easy.  There is a little stretching involved.  And don’t think that you’ve learned everything about yourself or that you know yourself fully.  Through faith and ministry, God reveals things about us that we either didn’t know or weren’t ready to know until now.  Step out in faith and let the Church help you either dust off or discover your gifts.
  • I want to end with a scripture and a story.
    • Matthew 7. 24–27 — The Sand & The Rock
    • Our spiritual life is firm place to stand in a world of shifting sand.  I recently had a chance to talk with a young 15 year boy who’s popularity pulled him away from God, family, and Church.  As he talked about the many things he had done that had torn him away from all he loves, I reminded him that God’s desire is that we have a firm place to stand in order to weather the storms that life throws at us.  I told him that that firm place grows through our involvement with both God and other Christians.  As the firms place grows, we have more room to move around and take on new spiritual habits and skills.  After a while, our firm place begins to pave new roads from our hearts to our relationships; it paves it way to our schools, to our sports, to our friends, and to our families.  When we see that our firm places goes everywhere we wish to go, we then have a firm place to stand when temptation comes.  His eyes brightened when he realized that he could take his faith with him.  He liked the idea of being able to stand tall when the giants of sin encircled him.
  • “Life In” is about the important inward journey we take with God everyday.  In the coming weeks, Life Around and Life Out won’t amount to much with out our Life inward with Christ.  Work on that firm place through prayer, through study, and through your gifts.  Let us pray.

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