The Isolated Church

I’m still here at Ft. Jackson; it can get lonely and easy to let myself get isolated. So it came as no surprise that Sunday morning I did not want to get up and go to a church service. Yep, you read it correctly; I did not want to leave my room to go to a church service. I know more than most how valuable that time together as a community coming together to worship our creator is. Yet I found myself giving the same laundry list of reasons so many people use to stay home and ‘rest’ on the Sabbath.

Just like I do when I don’t want to work out and make myself do so anyway, I motivated myself to get out knowing that it was good for me. Just as I figured, I left feeling amazing and so very glad I came. You see, the reason we come together as a church body is not to make ourselves feel better but so many times it is the very thing we need to lift ourselves up out of our own life problems and rejoice in the fact that Jesus has defeated death, overcome the world, set us free from our sins, and has given us new life!

Sadly, so many people fall prey to the same excuses I almost did (and I promise this was not the first time I struggled with those same issues). We work so hard during the week and we party so hard on Saturday that Sunday has become the one day we leave to just resting. And guess what, we should rest! I do, however, see a big problem in believing that giving up 1-2 hours of my entire day to gather with other followers of Christ will keep me from resting. Yet this question still remains, can’t I worship God with my family at home?

Yes; and yet no. Let me give you a true story to explain what I’m getting at. When I was in college there was a small group of the students in the college ministry I managed that met every Sunday morning for breakfast at a diner. At first, it was an incredible ministry because they did a small devotional together before they went to the larger church gathering. They grew closer relationally, they drew closer to God, and their lives were uplifted. It was a real big deal and we celebrated their achievements.

Over time things changed; they stayed longer at the diner, showed up late to worship services, and began to care so little for the larger church gatherings that soon they quit coming altogether. Their reasoning to me was that they could worship God in their small group. I agreed with them but promised them that they were missing out. I wanted them to enjoy their small group time but still gather together for large worship services.

What happened next is a common occurrence that I’m sure you can guess; they still gathered on Sundays but their Bible study slowly faded away. They spent all their time just talking about life and being friends that they left God out of the picture. Eventually they quit meeting altogether and as of today, none of them is plugged into a church community these 15 years later.

Why did that happen? Can’t we worship the same in small group settings as we can in large group ones? The simple answer to that is no. There are things that God wants for us that can only happen in corporate worship settings. The largest problem with doing only small group gatherings is that accountability falls out the window and people become lazy in their faith.

I have stolen a question from my good friend TJ Green when other people tell me that they can worship just as easy at home or in their small group as they can at a large worship service. The question is simple, “Do you?” Do you actually worship when you are in that setting? The answer is sometimes is yes, but often they are not worshiping the God of the universe. They are instead worship the television, their friendships, food, etc. It all boils down to a desire to make myself comfortable rather than gathering to serve one another.

This was not the attitude of the first century Church. Why look at them for an example? Because they were the ones who walked physically with Jesus while he was on Earth. They knew more than anyone what was best and how to keep the main thing the main thing in our spiritual walk. Consider what they did they met:

[42] All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer.

[43] A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. [44] And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. [45] They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. [46] They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity—[47] all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved. (Acts 2: 42-47 NLT)

 

This brings me to my Big Truth for today:

Believers Gather to Learn, Grow, and Serve

I want you to notice these three things that came because they met as a large group:

  1. They learned from the Apostles teaching

This is perhaps the most important part of a large group gathering; we come together to learn from a knowledgeable teacher. The first century Church had the privilege of meeting with the very people who wrote the Bible! You cannot get this from simply reading a book. The Holy Spirit has blessed certain Christians with the gift of teaching and he uses them to teach us. Even if you are a teacher you still need to be taught!

  1. They grew as a community

There are things we simply cannot do in isolation or as a small group. If you don’t believe me, go to a huge concert and compare that to a single person playing and singing. The two do no compare. There is a sense of deep worship that comes only from gathering together as a large group. Living in spiritual isolation keeps us from experiencing this.

  1. They were empowered to serve the community around them

If the 6 people that I meet with as a small group each gave money to serve our community or did as service project that would be awesome! Instead, think about what could be accomplished if a community of hundreds or thousands of Believers gave. What could be done with that much money? Think of all the people who could have their needs met? The reason the early Church made such an impact in their community is because they invested their time, talents, and treasures into it.

Where does that leave you? If you are like me, I need to be reminded that God wants us to have three components to our relationship with him: personal, small group, and large group. We meet personally to commune and grow but we were never meant to try and follow Christ all on our own. Community holds us accountable, keeps us growing, and allows us to worship the God of the universe in ways that are impossible in small groups.

I encourage you this week to not be satisfied just living the Christian life in isolation. Do not fall into the trap of excuses like I have in the past. Get off the couch, get in the car, and gather this week with the Body of Christ in your area. I promise you that it will fill you up in ways you cannot imagine and it will empower you to serve your community in ways that you simply cannot on your own. Remember our Big Truth for this week:

Believers Gather to Learn, Grow, and Serve

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