Withdrawal or Emergence – A Sunday Issue

Jeff Church Life, Cultural Observations, Relationships, Sundays

Most Sundays I awake with a strange mixture of anticipation and concern.  The Lord’s Day means so much to me and I am always looking for God to accomplish something before my eyes that I will remember forever.  I anticipate each Sunday that this might be the day when someone I’ve long prayed for will commit themselves to Jesus Christ.  Perhaps this will be the day that one of the hurting families to whom I’m lending counsel will experience their breakthrough.  Maybe God will bring to our gathering someone who will prove to be an integral part of the next phase of the ministry here.  Perhaps this is the Sunday when God will grace me with high privilege of being mightily used to speak hope to someone who is caving in and losing their grip.  Yes, on Sunday there is always a high level of anticipation in my heart of some good thing.  It is also good for me to acknowledge that Sundays produce within me a weighty sense of sobering concern.  My pastoral heart has a recognizable measure of worry over lives that remain unchanged from week to week.  There is some anxiety for those who spend another week going through religious maneuvers as they mouth the songs with a disengaged heart and ape their way through the various components of the service with little sense of the substance of worship.  I confess that I worry over church members who give no indication that they are members of God’s family, not knowing that these are two vastly different realities.  So, because of these two tensions in my heart, anticipation and concern, Sundays are usually a source of deep pleasure and measured conflict for me.  In the end, I must declare that Sunday is my favorite day each week because it is a miniature, less than perfect, microcosmic, forward-looking picture of what will be the heavenly reality for all of eternity: God and His children gathered together for the express purpose of celebrating His glory and our redemption.

“Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!”- Psalm 133:1

The Word declares that when we meet together in common purpose and shared pursuit we experience something good and pleasing.  This is not up for vote because God has removed the doubt when He declares in the above verse that it is unequivocally so.  He even adds that emphatic “Behold!” which instructs us that this is something worthy of our scrutiny and fixed gaze.  Many in our day protest that local gatherings of worship are devoid of substance and purpose.  They romanticize the early church and state that we have now moved downward into some defunct version of what was once a noble and pure endeavor.  The excuses of hypocrites now being in the church serve to provide them reason why they may omit themselves from joining heart and hand with their brothers and sisters in Christ.  Interestingly, the oft-idealized first century church had its fair share of hypocrites and impostors too – this is not a new reality for local gatherings of believers.  They gathered then as imperfect people and did so even under the danger of death and persecution.  Yet, we see in our day a falling away as Individualism is the newly crowned king.  Mavericks are our new breed of heroes and Lone Rangers who diminish the significance of the collective whole are smugly satisfied that they don’t need the church to experience God…

…And they have forgotten that we need them.  They have let go of the truth that we are one.  They turn a blind eye to the rich biblical history that shows clearly that the Father is pleased when His own kids purposefully unite in shared purpose in His presence.  They miss the pleasure of visible oneness for the safety of sequestered singularity.  No risks.  No sacrifices.  No accountability.  Just…me…and…my God.

I’m not the guy to change that trending but I will ask all of us to consider our attitude concerning the church.  Is it possible to rejoice in Christ but dismiss His bride?  Has He nothing to say about this possibility?  Can we adore the Head but dismiss the Body?  Do we have permission to bow before His eternal throne but elbow out of the way others who are bowing there also?  I am convinced that, in doing these things, we set ourselves up as living paradoxes – people who attempt to live in mutually exclusive truths.  It has never been about the bricked building on the corner with the steeple so please refrain from taking that easy exit from this point of concern.  This is an issue of the never ending war between self-sufficiency and sacrifice.  It is a small indicator of how we regard the very people for whom Christ left heaven, entered earth, lived and died in selfless sacrifice, emerged triumphant from the tomb, ascended back to glory and promised to return and claim as His everlasting own.  Simply put, He loves these people in a manner that He loves nobody else.  He loves them with covenant love which can never end.  This is no small thing.

Find your brethren on this day of corporate worship – go to them as He went to you.  Gather with them and sing to Father with them.  Serve those men and women, boys and girls.  Band with them in mutual purpose which is only shared by the children of God.  Be suspicious of anything within you that resists or resents this inestimable privilege.  You are His.  So are we.  Come alongside us today and get a glimpse, albeit a flawed one, of what Heaven will be.  Take deep satisfaction that you belong to something bigger than your singularity and embrace the reality that you have been born twice to die once to autonomy and independence.  He’s graced you to be so much more.