The Sacred Cow of Going to Church

We have seen in the wonderful Letter to the Hebrews that because Jesus is faithful and the promise is lock solid, guaranteed, at last we have something to hold unswervingly.This is the place to be. But notice how the author keeps addressing, not a lot of individuals, but a group of people. This is their place corporately. Together.

So now in chapter 10 and verses 24 and 25, he addresses how and why they met together:

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another —and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

This all leads to our author’s plea to concentrate on the care of one another. How critical it was that they should consider how to spur one another on toward love and good deeds. It was the role of everyone, not just some vicar or pastor or a dominant leader. Their meeting together—their ‘worship’, was all about encouragement and stirring up one another. In the NT the meaning of ‘worship’ is service by one another, to one another.

Here is the only place in the NT calling believers to be together regularly, but it is often quoted by clergy to keep people coming to their church. It really means something quite different.No one among the first believers “goes to church”. They were the church when together, wherever. They were together the Body of Christ present to encourage, to serve one another and to spur one another on to love and to excellent deeds!

Until the Day of his return, which seemed to them quite ominous.

Two important things stand out. First the necessity of meeting together—we cannot do without our brothers and sisters. We cannot do without expressing the Body of Christ. We must not go it alone. A hand or an eye cannot stay alive apart from being attached to a living body—to recall Paul’s metaphor in 1 Corinthians 12. They were not just a lot of individuals collected together. They were a body! A living body.

Secondly, the one essential matter when gathered was to encourage one another. If we fail to do that we have departed from God’s ordained pattern, God’s design. To follow God’s amazing design, his plans and specifications is to truly worship him. To do otherwise, is to dishonour him.

Look, we are asked to consider how to stir one another to love and good deeds. There is a pattern to follow, and the mundane details are left to us to arrange. But the pattern, most certainly, always concerns reproducing Jesus’ life, his love, his servanthood, his actions, priorities, behaviour, his perfection, his will, his purpose, his way, his truth, his life—by looking unto Jesus.

Our author is consistent with the other authors of the New Testament documents. It is clear that they did not come together to hear or see a “service” conducted by a minister. Nor did they come to hear a preacher. They did not come together to sing “worship songs” or hymns organised by a “worship leader” or clergyman.

They came together to care for one another, to weep with those who weep, to comfort one another, to encourage one another, to help one another in building up faith, to love one another, to confess their needs and faults with one another, to pray for one another, to submit to one another ….

The phrase one another appears over 40 times in the New Testament in relation to believers together.

How can we practice this if an “ordained” priest or minister or a dominant leader is present?  They will instinctively do what they have been trained to do, what they are paid to do. There is no hard evidence of any official or officers active in the churches described in the New Testament record. There is function and not form. There is dynamic action led by the Holy Spirit, his gifts distributed among his people, the organisation of the Holy Spirit.

Today, churches are frequently described in terms of their leader, pastor, priest or minister, in terms of a dominant controlling leader. Jesus sternly warned his disciples to avoid this scenario. Paul warned against this and constantly calls himself ‘a servant/slave’.  Peter echoes Jesus words that God’s people are not to be ‘lorded over’ by leaders. And so does our author.

God knows how much we are in need of him, his resources and how much he has to give us through our brothers and sisters when we submit to one another in the fellowship of Jesus.

We need all the help we can get, eh?

2 responses to “The Sacred Cow of Going to Church

  1. richard lamont

    Thanks Ian for your posts this year. In my Christmas letter I explained to my family and friends that I have left the institutional church but that I meet with christian friends on a Sunday
    It is very real. We had our christmas lunch today

  2. Just fantastic Ian. Thank you, something we so much need to hear. Please write a book!

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