Tag Archives: community

How Long Do You Stay at Church After the Service Ends?

The Best Christian Community Happens After the Service Is Over

Enjoy Christian Community: How Long Do You Stay After the Service?Last week I asked, Why do people show up for church late? My wife and I try to arrive ten minutes early, a practice we developed when we visited fifty-two churches in a year. This allows for time to interact with others, to enjoy a bit of Christian community before the service begins and to prepare ourselves to connect to God.

Another thing we observed during our 52 Churches journey was how people acted after the church service ended. Some people make a beeline to the door as fast as possible without saying a word to anyone. And a couple of times we saw people leaving before the church service had even ended. But at most churches people take a few minutes to say “Hi” to their friends, talk with others, or attend to some church business. But within five or ten minutes most everyone is gone.

However, a few churches are a notable exception. There people hang out for quite a while after the church service ends. Sometimes this is for a potluck or a social time around coffee and snacks, but other times it’s simply for an extended period of connection with their church family. When Candy and I visited fifty-two churches, we determined to make ourselves available to linger in Christian community—assuming there was one. Several times this lasted longer than the church service itself, sometimes for a couple hours.

Some people think sticking around after the church service ends is foolish. But others—such as myself—think hanging around afterword is how it should be.

The reasons for these two perspectives stem from our reasons for going to church.

Three Reasons to Go to Church

1. A Duty: For those who go to church as an obligation, leaving as soon as possible makes sense. They performed their duty, now they want to get on to something else, something that interests them more.

2. To Sing or Learn: For people who go to church to listen to a teaching or sing to God or about God, they see no reason to stick around after the benediction. The purpose for being there has ended, so now it’s time to leave. Yes, they’re polite in their exit, but they have no reason to tarry. Other activities beckon, such as Sunday dinner or an afternoon nap. People who go to church for the community, realize that the service itself doesn’t allow for much connection to happen. Click To Tweet

3. Spend Time in Christian Community: For people who go to church for the community, they realize that the service itself doesn’t allow for much connection to happen. To realize the community they seek, they arrive early and are willing to stay late—sometimes for an hour or two. That’s when the real community happens. That’s when they can share life with each other. For me, that’s what church is all about: community.

When Should You Change Churches?

Changing Churches Should Be Rare, Not Commonplace

When Should You Change Churches?In our Facebook group we discussed the post “When Not to Change Churches.” Justin asked a pertinent question: “When should you change churches?”

I knew part of the answer, but I needed to contemplate how far to take my response. Part of my hesitation stemmed from the reality that sometimes I changed churches for the wrong reasons.

I’ve changed churches eight times in my life. Some of you might think that’s a lot and others might think that’s not much at all. Of the eight times, five were for the right reasons, while the other three fall into a gray area and may lack a sound motive.

Here are the reasons for when you should change churches.

Change Churches When You Move

When you move out of the area and it’s no longer practical or feasible to continue going to your old church, it’s time to find a new one. Don’t delay. Set about finding a new church right away. Each Sunday you take a week off from church makes it a little bit harder to return to that practice. And if you wait too long, you may never go back.

Change Churches If Yours Closes

Each week churches close. It’s a statistical fact. And if it’s your church that shuts down, then you’re faced with the task of finding a new one to plug into. Churches seldom shutter abruptly. There’s usually plenty of warning. They’ve been dying a slow death over months, years, and sometimes even decades.

It’s sad anytime a church closes, and there may be a time of mourning over what you lost. In addition to not having a place to go each week, the friends you’re used to seeing typically scatter and end up at various churches. So, in addition to losing your church home, you’ve also lost your church family.

When this happens it’s time to find a new spiritual community and make a new church home.

Change Churches If You’re Called to Do a New Thing

Sometimes one church will start another one. It may be a satellite location or planting an independent church. You may be part of the launch team. Though this could be a short-term responsibility, it’s usually a long-term commitment.

Another scenario occurs if God calls you (that is, the Holy Spirit prompts you) to move to a different area and help start a new church. Whether in name or in function, this is being a missionary. Leaving one church as a missionary is an obvious time when it’s appropriate to change churches.

Change Churches If Jesus Isn’t Part of It

Jesus is central to Christianity, and he must be part of every church that bears his name. If you go to a church that has pushed Jesus aside or fails to acknowledge him and what he did for us, then question if it’s truly a Christian church. A church without Jesus is a church that doesn’t warrant your attention. If Jesus isn’t there, you probably shouldn’t be there either. It’s time to change churches.

Change Churches If Your Present Church Is Hindering Your Faith

This one is harder to define, but sometimes we may find ourselves in a church that is so misaligned with who we are and where we are in our walk with Jesus, that it gnaws at our soul. Persevering in that environment pulls us away from God and threatens to derail our faith. I would never encourage anyone to persist in a church community that is damaging their relationship with God. If this happens, it’s time to find a new church community. Seek one will help you draw near to God and encourage you in your faith.

Are There Other Times to Change Churches?

What about other beliefs? Christianity is filled with various viewpoints on faith and theology. If Jesus remains the core, I encourage us to accept one another for our other differences in belief and practice. Yes, some people view these differences as heretical, but I don’t think Jesus does. Based on what he prayed in the Bible (John 17:20-26), I know that he wants us to get along, to remain united, and to act as one. Leaving one church because we disagree with an element or two of their religious platform is a bad reason to leave.

Of the eight times I’ve change churches four were because of moving and one was for a church plant. The other three were more dubious. The first was because I was bored, the second was because our kids weren’t plugged in, and the third was to fulfill my deep desire to go to church in my community, with my neighbors, and worship with my family. The first was selfish—though I did meet my future wife there—while the other two were more laudable, even though they fall outside my list of five reasons to change churches. Leaving one church because we disagree with an element or two of their religious platform is a bad reason to leave. Click To Tweet

This implies there may be a sixth reason to change churches, but it’s one that’s hard to define. Its subjective. And any time something is subjective it means that our emotions can replace logic, which allows us the latitude to make about any determination we want. And usually that decision leads us to change churches even though we probably shouldn’t.

But regardless of the reasons of why you want to change churches, before you do, take a careful look at when not to change churches. Pray about it, and ask for Holy Spirit guidance. If he says it’s time to move on, then move. And to help you on this new adventure, check out “How to Find a New Church.” May God bless you in your search for a new church home and guide you to the place he wants you to be.

What’s More Important: Spiritual Introspection or Spiritual Community?

A Vibrant Spiritual Faith Looks Inward and Shares OutwardWhat’s More Important: Spiritual Introspection or Spiritual Community?

I have a Sunday morning routine. This gives me structure to how I start my day, and it provides me with the best opportunity to make it be a great one. Aside from attending to the normal needs of life, there are two parts to my Sunday morning practice.

Between waking and heading off to church, I spend an hour or two each Sunday morning writing. But this isn’t just any writing. It’s writing about God, the Bible, and church. And that writing ends up as a post on this blog. For the past several years, I wrote ninety-five percent of everything you’ve read here on Sunday morning.

Some days this writing time feels a bit too much like work, but most times it flows with effortless joy. But every Sunday, the effort draws me closer to God. It’s great preparation for what happens next.

Then I segue into the second part of my Sunday morning routine. I go to church. Unlike writing, however, sometimes I enjoy this experience and other times I don’t. Sometimes it draws me to God and other times not so much. The biggest value of church for me, however, is in connecting with other people before and after the service. Church is about community.

In simple terms, the two aspects of my Sunday morning routine are spiritual introspection and spiritual community.

Spiritual Introspection

When I write about God, the Bible, and church, it’s a time of deep contemplation about these three topics, what they mean to me, and how they might connect with others. Spiritually and intellectually this is a time when insights develop, hopefully with Holy Spirit guidance. It’s a time when God helps me take raw thoughts and move them toward clarity. And I get to share it with you here.

I relish this time of introspection. It’s personally rewarding, both comforting and confronting. Often this stands as the spiritual highlight of my week. And as an introvert, it’s tempting to stay in this place, just God and me, with no one else to distract us or pierce my time of connection with the Almighty.

But spiritual introspection is also an isolating experience. It can be lonely. This isn’t to imply that a relationship with God isn’t enough, but he created us for community. And this isn’t just community with him; it’s also community with the other people he created.

That’s why it’s important I then move into the next phase of my Sunday morning routine. I go to church.

Spiritual Community

Church means different things to different people: an obligation, a habit that they’d feel guilty breaking, a chance to partake in Holy Communion, an opportunity to praise God and worship him, and a time to learn more about God, the Bible, and faith. It’s been all these things to me at one time or another.

However, the one thing missing from this list is community. I wonder if community isn’t the real point of going to church—the ultimate reason to be there. The music and message have value, but I think they stand in second place behind community.

Our Sunday morning community should look up to God and look out to others. He created us for this: to be in relationship with him and in relationship with others. He never intended for us to pursue life alone but with others: with him and with other people at our side.

Spiritual Introspection Can Fuel Spiritual Community

Though my time a spiritual introspection occurs in isolation, it’s not meant for me alone. Yes, I share the insights God gives me with you on this website, but I feel it’s even more important that I appropriately share it with others in person.

When is the time to share it with other people?

It’s when I’m in community with them. This is where we can enjoy meaningful, spiritual interaction, such as before and after church on Sunday morning. (Of course, it can happen other times as well, but we must be intentional in forming these times and open to opportunities as they present themselves.)

This, however, doesn’t mean I need to spew forth by blog post to everyone I see. But this doesn’t mean that the words God gives me are just for me alone. Instead, I need to be alert for appropriate opportunities to share what he reveals to me to others who might benefit from it. My Sunday morning routine starts with a focus on God, which helps me to better share with others. Click To Tweet

Fortunately, this is not for me to determine alone. All I need to do is listen and obey the gentle prompting of the Holy Spirit. When I do this, it makes the time of community with others more meaningful and deeper. And when this happens, it enhances the community we all need. My Sunday morning routine starts with a focus on God, which helps me to better share with others.

Of course, we shouldn’t just look for times to share our insights with other people. We should seek to connect with them in other ways, too. We can pray for one another, we can share our joys and burdens, and we can simply enjoy each other’s presence. This is the community God created us to crave and that we need to move into.

Do You Want More From Life? Seeking a Spiritual More

Do You Want More From Life? A Spiritual More?

  • I’m not talking about more money, power, or prestige.
  • I’m not even talking about more love or respect.
  • I’m certainly not talking about the latest gadgets, a new car, a nicer home, tastier food, or better sex.Do You Want More From Life? Seeking a Spiritual More

I’m talking about more from a spiritual standpoint. I yearn for a “spiritual more.” I suspect—deep down—you do, too. Everything else is a hollow substitute for what God has to offer, not just any god but the God revealed in the Bible: biblical God.

But we don’t often find this “spiritual more” at church—at least not how today’s society practices church. We may not even find biblical God there. Most churches fall far short of what God intends for us to experience. We’re drinking Kool-Aid, and he’s offering us wine.

Though I do go to church, I often wonder why. The purpose of church isn’t the music or the message; it’s about community. True church is connecting with God and connecting with others. It’s an intimate spiritual community with true friends who matter, mean something, and stick around. This is where we find a “spiritual more,” as part of a community of like-minded Jesus followers who diligently pursue the God revealed in the Bible. I call this biblical spirituality. This is why I write and blog.

I’m not a guru and may not even be a worthy guide; I’m a fellow pilgrim. Let’s journey together as we pursue biblical God and seek to grasp this spiritual more. It starts when we follow Jesus—and if you’re not ready for that, come along anyway; it will be a great trip.

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Pursue Community Bible Study

Personal Bible Study is Essential; Group Bible Study is Even Better

Study the Bible in community.When I study the Bible, it’s usually by myself. Though I seek the Holy Spirit to guide me, I seldom have the input of other people. Though there’s value in personal Bible study—which everyone should pursue—greater value comes when we explore Scripture in community.

Here’s why:

Community Bible Study Allows for Equal Participation

A true group Bible study has no leader. Anyone can share their perspective, and no one guides the process. It is egalitarian, with everyone an equal participant. The words fairness, balance, and equality come to mind.

This is far different from a typical church service where one person speaks and everyone else listens. One person’s opinion, often presented as a singular truth, becomes the perspective that the faithful must adopt. Anyone who dares to disagree risks being labeled a heretic or effectively run out of the church.

Community Bible Study Provides Multiple Perspectives

Having everyone participate in an equal manner results in differing points of view, or at least it should. (If you’re in a group where everyone agrees, then there’s no need for the group. Find another one.)

We should acknowledge that there is no one right response to any given passage in the Bible. Instead there are many responses. It’s like studying a piece of art. Look at it from different angles, at different distances, and even at different times. Each experience can emerge as a new one, providing fresh insight.

So, it is when we study the Bible. A quick way to get multiple perspectives comes from seeking the opinions of others in a group setting.

Community Bible Study Promotes Dialogue

In a group Bible study, discussion can take place. One person shares their perspective and another one responds. They may agree, disagree, or—even better—build on each other’s comments.

This dialogue seldom takes place in a typical church service. How richer, fuller, and deeper it is to immerse ourselves in a group Bible study. Having a community with every member participating stands as a strong force to prevent heresy. Click To Tweet

Community Bible Study Prevents Heresy

Some people think only trained clergy can teach them about the Bible. This is in error. Through Jesus we are all priests, and through the Holy Spirit we each have a guide to direct our study of the Bible.

People who think all their spiritual instruction should come from ministers, in a church setting, worry that heresy results when those outside established religious organizations take on the task of understanding the Bible. However, in the last 2,000 years, every major heresy has come from within the established church, perpetuated by trained clergy.

Having a community with every member participating stands as a strong force to prevent heresy. This is because in a group setting, the people in the group can quickly squelch a heretical idea. But in a church, especially with a charismatic leader, dissension is much less likely to occur. Then, before long, the dynamic leader has the congregation metaphorically drinking the Kool-Aid.

Join a Community Bible Study

Personal Bible study is essential; group Bible study is even better. If you’re not already in one, join a Bible study.

Embrace the Biblical Story Arc

Though God Doesn’t Change, the Way People Perceive Him Does

 Embrace the Bible’s story arc.I enjoy a good book, one with a satisfying story arc. The Bible has an arc, too, a biblical story arc.

Some people see the Old Testament as focusing on God’s rules and judgment, with the New Testament focusing on God’s love and freedom. Though there’s some truth to this, it’s simplistic. The Old Testament also has its share of God’s love and freedom, while the New Testament gives us some new rules (though not as many) and contains judgment (check out Revelation).

However, on a more nuanced level we see changes that occur throughout the Old Testament and even the New. But it’s not God doing the changing, it’s people. As the biblical story arc progresses, the way we interact with God changes.

Aspects of the Biblical Story Arc

Intimacy with God: In the beginning is Adam and Eve, basking in the Garden of Eden and hanging out with God each evening. How cool would that be?

Distant from God: Then Adam and Eve are kicked out of paradise. Their relationship with God changes. It’s their fault, not his. From then until the time of Noah, people aren’t close to God at all. He seems quite distant.

Rescued by God: Then God looks at humanity and how they messed up his creation. He considers Noah and makes a plan: a boat, a flood, and a rescue. God is at work. He makes a promise to Noah. Man seems to be back on track with God, but not for long.

Promises from God: The next notable biblical character is Abraham, Father Abraham, a man of faith. Abraham has a closer connection with God and a deeper faith. God makes a new covenant with Abraham and promises he’ll be the father of many nations.

Guidance from God: Then we witness another transition with Moses. Moses sees God face to face. They hang out. They talk. Moses glows. God gives guidelines on how to live, moving his people beyond the barbarism of the world around them. God promises to bless others through his people, but they don’t do their part. They fail to live up to their potential. They don’t do much to bless others.

Closeness with God: Then David comes on the scene. He has the heart of God. God promises that from David’s line will come the messiah, the savior, who we know as Jesus.

Patience from God: But things go downhill after David. Future kings make a mess of things. But from the prophets we see God’s love for his people (us), his despair over their (our) actions, and his patience toward them (us). A cycle occurs: human despair, godly rescue, embracing God, backsliding, and repeat. Over and over. It’s a dark time spiritually. But this is the people’s doing. God’s always present.

Supernatural Provision from God: As we transition from the Old Testament to the New Testament and consider the books of the Apocrypha, we see a new level of spiritual engagement emerge, with supernatural acts. It’s as if the people finally see and accept the Holy Spirit at work. This is a great primer for what happens next.

Saved by God: In the New Testament Jesus becomes the star, as God always intended. Need I say more?

Community with God: In reading the Gospels, we gain a fresh perspective of God’s plan for us. Yet this viewpoint shifts as we move through Acts and more in the epistles. The people live in community and connect with God like never before.

Restored to God: By the time we get to Revelation our perception morphs yet again. We witness a supernatural battle, victory and judgment, and a new heaven and a new earth. Intimacy with God is restored. Just as God intended for us all along. God doesn’t change, but how the people in the Bible perceive and approach him does. And it’s a beautiful thing. Click To Tweet

This is a most pleasing biblical story arc.

Yet from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22, we see consistency in God and his desire to live with us. God doesn’t change, but how we perceive him and approach him does. And it’s a beautiful thing.

What is Post-Denominational?

Dividing the church by forming denominations isn’t biblical, and it’s time to move past it

Jesus prayed for our unity, that we would be one—just as he and his father are one. He yearned that his followers would get along and live in harmony. Dividing into religious sects wasn’t his plan. Yet that’s exactly what we’ve done as we formed 43,000 Protestant denominations.Be one in Jesus.

Instead of focusing on our similarities, our common faith in Jesus, these denominations choose to make a big deal over the few things they disagree about. They should get along, but instead they develop their own narrow theology, which they use as a litmus test to see who they’ll accept and who they’ll reject.

How this must grieve Jesus.

While there has been some disagreement among the followers of Jesus almost from the beginning, the divisions started proliferating 500 years ago with the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. And since that time, it’s escalated out of control, with a reported 43,000 denominations today. This represents the most significant degree of Christian disunity ever.

The push for denominational division traces its beginning to the modern era. While the modern era assumed that reason would allow us to converge on a singular understanding of truth, the opposite occurred. Instead, the pursuit of logic resulted in wide-scale disagreement. And this is perhaps most manifest among the followers of Jesus, who love to argue over their individual understandings of theology.

Yet there’s a sense we’re moving away from denominations and the divisions they cause. The word to describe this is post-denominational. Just as we are moving from the modern era to the postmodern era, we are also moving from a time of denominational division to a time of post-denomination harmony.

In understanding postmodern, we don’t consider it as anti-modern but instead “beyond modern.” The same distinction rightly applies to post-denominational. Post-denominational is not anti-denomination, as much as it is “beyond denominations.”

So, what is post-denominational? Post-denominational moves beyond the Protestant divisions that proliferated in the last 500 years, during the modern era. Post-denominational sets aside the man-made religious sects that divide the church of Jesus. In its place, post-denominational advocates a basic theology to form agreement and foster harmony. This allows the followers of Jesus to live together in unity, which will amplify their impact on the world around them.

The people who follow Jesus are beginning to realize this. Many new churches label themselves as non-denominational. This reflects a general mistrust among today’s people for the brand-name Protestantism of yesteryear, that is, denominations. People are weary of the criticism, finger-pointing, and disunity that denominations have caused. Click To Tweet

They’re weary of the criticism, the finger-pointing, and the disunity that denominations have caused. That’s why the label of non-denominational is so attractive to many people. This includes those who go to church, those who dropped out, and those who have never been. They don’t want to align themselves with a denomination anymore. They want a spiritual experience in a loving Christian community, one without denominational division.

For the sake of Jesus and our witness of him to our world, can we set our denominations aside and agree to work together to move forward in unity?

It’s a lot to ask, and it seems humanly impossible. But Jesus already prayed for our success (see John 17:20-26.) May this generation be the answer to his prayer. May we be one.

The Bible Informs Our Understanding of God

We get to know God better as we read about him in the Bible

The Bible helps us understand God. Read itIs the Bible a book about God or a book about his crazy people? The answer is yes. In combining these two ideas, we can say the Bible is a book that addresses God’s relationship with his creation. Therefore we can better understand God by reading about how he interacts and deals with people.

The Bible mentions God thousands of times. He appears in every one of its books,  (though his presence in the book of Esther is implied). His being permeates every page of the Bible.

To better understand God, we need to set aside the world’s unbiblical view of him. Humanity has a skewed perception of his character. And often they are just plain wrong. Popular culture is not a good source to learn about God. The Bible is.

Love: The prevailing theme I see in the Bible is love. The Bible shows God’s love of us and looks at how people respond to that love.

God loves us and we can love him in return. That’s what he wants. Though he won’t force us to love him, he does desire us to choose to do so. It’s called free will.

In the Old Testament, we see this love for him borne largely out of a healthy fear. In the New Testament, our love comes from the mercy he offers us through Jesus.God patiently waits for us, scanning the horizon in hopes we will come home to live with him. Click To Tweet

Patient: Though the Bible contains a plethora of themes that reveal much about God, I see patience as a key one. God is patient with us. Like a loving parent, he gives us chance after chance. He wants us to learn and to do what is right. Like the father in Jesus’s parable of the wayward son (the Prodigal), God patiently waits for us, scanning the horizon in hopes we will come home to live with him.

Personal: It’s clear God wants to have a relationship with us, so we can be in community with him. He walked with Adam in the garden. He revealed his being to Moses. He affirmed David’s heart toward him. He talked to Paul. He gave visions to many. He guided people to write about him and then compile these writings into the Bible we enjoy today. And, most importantly, he dispatched Jesus to point us to him and provide a means for us to be with God.

Eternal: The Bible shows God as existing outside of the time-space he created. Though beyond comprehension, he is eternal, with no beginning or ending. And he wants us to join him in that.

Though the Bible reveals much more about God, these four traits are a great start: God loves us and patiently waits for us to have a personal connection with him that will last through the rest of eternity. And that’s good news.

Do You Have These Misconceptions about Church?

Many people carry misconceptions about the purpose of church, and we need to set aside that thinking

Do You Have These Misconceptions about Church?Last Sunday in “What is Church,” I suggested we are the church. Church isn’t a place we go—not really. It’s who we are. As the church we should be about worship, community, and helping others.

There’s a lot I didn’t mention. That was intentional. Contrary to the actions and attitudes of many, here is what a church is not:

Church is Not an Obligation: We must never think of church as an obligation. Though most people, at one time or another, make a conscious decision to attend a Sunday morning gathering when they don’t feel like it, that falls under the category of being self-disciplined. But if the only reason we ever go is out of a sense of obligation, then our motivation is wrong. God is not impressed.

Yes, the Bible commands us to persist in meeting together (Hebrews 10:24-25), but that doesn’t necessarily mean a Sunday church service. I think it means hanging out with other believers. That should be fun, not an obligation to fulfill.

Church is Not a Means to Appease Guilt: Some people only attend a religious service on Sunday morning because they’d feel guilty if they stayed home. They were trained from an early age that church is what you did. If the church doors where open, they were there: Sunday morning, Sunday evening, Wednesday night prayer meeting, Thursday visitation . . .

Guilt is a powerful motivator. The avoidance of guilt can propel us to positive action, but it needs to have a benefit greater than appeasing a shame-filled conscience.

Church is Not a Routine: Many Sunday services proceed with a rote precision that attendees follow mindlessly. They come, they go through the motions, and they head home. For them the entire time holds no significance. While their body acts, their mind drifts, and their spirit remains untouched. Routine is the enemy of meaningful worship and true community.

An almost parallel aspect of routine exists, called ritual. Though the word ritual carries negative connotations, a positive aspect of ritual is one seeped in deep spiritual mystery. Some people are drawn to this type of almost-mystical ritual, a sacred practice that supernaturally connects them with the Almighty.There’s a distinction between meaningful church community and a social get together. Click To Tweet

Church is Not a Social Club: Some people pursue church meetings as nothing more than a social gathering, void of spiritual significance. They miss the true meaning of us meeting together. They dishonor God and marginalize his community of followers.

Though one of the characteristics of us as church is community, there’s a distinction between meaningful community and a social get together. Yes, community contains a significant social aspect, but more importantly it involves intentionality in how we treat one another. The New Testament gives us over thirty “one another” commands, which starts with the expectation that we love one another.

Church is Not a Business Promotion Vehicle: Some people become members of a local church as a means for commerce. They join so they can sell, not serve. They go through the motions of worship, and their engagement with community consists only of networking for business.

When my bride and I were first married, another couple from our local congregation invited us to their house. We were ecstatic. Then my mother-in-law shared that this couple had recently signed onto a large multi-level marketing company. When I asked them directly of their intention, they confirmed my fears that we would experience a sales pitch. We didn’t go, and they never talked to us again. That’s not church. That’s not even good business.

Church is Not a Place to Amass Knowledge: For much of my life I reasoned that the real purpose of a Sunday service was to learn about God. I dismissed the worship part because it bored me. I didn’t see community because it was all social. And, as an inward looking body, we didn’t do any service. That left the sermon.

But what happens when the sermon doesn’t provide any new information? Does that mean I wasted an hour, or more? But recall the verse that says, “Knowledge puffs up” (1 Corinthians 8:1). Amassing knowledge is not the reason we should go to church. That takes me back to worship, community, and serving others.

We are the church. We gather to worship God, live in community, and serve others.

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What is Church?

The church of Jesus needs to focus on three things and master them all

What is Church?In our normal usage, church is a building, a place we go to—often on Sunday mornings. I’ll be there later today. Other definitions for church include a religious service, organized religion, and professional clergy.

Yet a more correct understanding is that we are church, both individually and collectively. We, the church, are an organic body, not an institution, religious service, or profession. If we are the church, we can’t go there; we take church with us everywhere we go—or at least we should.

As the people who comprise the church of Jesus—his followers—I see three things we ought to be about, three things that warrant our focus:

Worship: Life isn’t about us; it’s all about him. Or at least it should be. As individuals and as a group we should worship him, our reason for being. Though God doesn’t need our praise and adoration, we should need to give it to him. We worship God by thanking him for who he is and what he does. We worship him by praising him for his omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent greatness. This can happen in word, in attitude, in action—and in song.

Singing to God about him is a common form of worship. Yet at too many church services this musical expression of faith has turned into a concert. While this is not necessarily bad if the concert connects us with God, it is bad if all it seeks to do is entertain us. By the way, when we say we don’t like the music at church, we’ve just turned the focus away from God and back to us, to our desire for entertainment over worship.

Beyond this we can also worship God in silence and through solitude, two pursuits that most people in our culture fail to comprehend. In fact, in our always on, always connected existence, even a few seconds of silence makes most people squirm, whereas solitude drives them crazy. Yet we can worship God in both.

In addition we also worship God by getting along with other believers and serving those outside our group.

Community: The church as a group of people should major on community, on getting along and experiencing life together. Community should happen during our Sunday gatherings, as well as before and after, just hanging out. Community is following all of the Bible’s one another commands, which teach us how to get along in a God-honoring way.

At some church services people scurry in at the exact starting time (or a few minutes late) and flee with intention at the final “amen.” They miss the community part of church; they miss a key reason for going. Remember, it’s not about us.

If we don’t like spending time with the people we see for an hour each Sunday morning, then something’s wrong: not with them, but with us. So, before we point fingers at others, we need to realize that the problem of why we shun spiritual community lies within.Worship is about God, and community is about our fellow believers. Click To Tweet

Helping Others: Worship is about God, and community is about our fellow believers. What about others? If we only focus on God and our local faith gathering, we stop too soon and fail to function as the church Jesus intended. Jesus served others, so should we. And we shouldn’t serve with any motives other than the pure intent to show them the love of Jesus. Loving others through our actions may be the most powerful witness we can offer. And history is full of examples where this indeed happened, when the world saw Jesus through the tangible love of his followers.

A church body that looks only to God and at each other is selfish. A church that only gazes heavenward or internally is a church that is dying. We need to let our light shine so that the world can see (Matthew 5:14-16 and Luke 11:33). The world watches us; they hope we’ll come through; they want to see Jesus in us.

That’s what church is. We worship and we build community so we can love others in his name.

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