Act of Faithfulness
Can you imagine what it must have been like to be part of that first church in Jerusalem? Instantly, the dozen apostles had a congregation of three thousand following that first gospel presentation on Pentecost. Yes, many of those new converts would have been from out-of-town, but there would still be a huge number of new Christians needing guidance, training, and discipling. They immediately started meeting in one another’s homes, sharing meals, praying, listening to anything an apostle could teach them, and they were sharing and help one another with any difficulties they might have. It was a glorious, simple, and loving gathering of the Way – all new followers of the risen Messiah, Jesus. They were the body of Christ, the family of God, and each one of them were the church of Jesus Christ. Their get-togethers were fellowship, meal sharing, and supporting one another through encouragement, edification, and equipping – always and with everything under the umbrella of love.
Over the centuries things changed. Gathering together became formal worship and church was something you went too rather than exemplified. Church family was replaced by an institution called “church” that needed support and loyalty, and attendance became the definition of faithfulness. Thus, “the faithful go to church” became the mindset rather than the church is those who are faithful. Buildings replaced being built into the image of Christ. The support system became a system to support. Church stopped being a family and turned into a symbol of faithfulness. Preachers preached about “Going into a church building doesn’t make you a Christian any more than going into a hen house makes you a hen,” and everyone laughed. But, many still defined their walk with God as church attendance. Even today, there are many who show up every time the doors are open but they have no loving relationships with the family of God and have no plans to make it happen. For them, faith is getting your Go To Church ticket punched. For them, a stay-at-home pandemic is a disturbance to their schedule rather than separation from a spiritual family they deeply love and miss.
Whenever I’ve talked about this, people have warned me that I’m telling everyone that “church attendance” isn’t important. Totally wrong! It’s not important – it’s essential! It’s God’s plan that we learn to love one another and thus learn how to love Him. (Read 1 John 4) Church family is His formula for growing in love, grace, and godliness. It is His planned support system for every one of His children who are seeking to draw closer to Him. This is more than just semantics. It’s a systematic tradition that allows people to feel super faithful without ever accomplishing the single purpose for being part of a church family! It may sound simple or even trite, but it’s all about love – because love is all about God and His church is all about Him. Anyone can say “Lord, Lord,” but not everyone is doing the will of the Father. (Matthew 7:21) I can do lots of things that may declare me “faithful” but without love, it’s nothing. The only thing that counts is “faith working through love.”