Dear Brother Nationsbacktochurch, I agree with you wholeheartedly. We need to get back to Church! However, it has been my prayer that we go back the Church God intended. Today, going to church is arriving in the morning, maybe a few cordial "hellos" and "how are you doing" and small talk before Sunday School, then more small talk before service begins. A time announcements; an opening prayer; a few hymns and praise songs; maybe a children's moment; then the offering; the reading of the Scripture for the day; the Sermon; a closing hymn or song; the benediction then more meaningless small talk or gossip; then home. Do I have a problem with this order of service? No. It is not the order of service that I have a problem with but that going to God's House to worship has no soul and delight and it is nothing more than a routine. Worse, if the worship leader makes us stand for too long we have people frowning and fidgeting. Before the sermon is over, we have people looking at their watches anxious to leave and if the Pastor speaks for too long, people get annoyed and usually complain because the missed the game or Sunday brunch. If this is what we mean by getting back people back to Church, I am afraid that it will change nothing. I am not anxious to going back to that church and I am a pastor!
Acts tells us that the early believers, met daily, they broke bread together, they fellowshiped, they shared deeply and they sought to build each other up in Christ. They prayed and they praised and they rejoiced in the Lord. They testified of God's goodness and they were hungry for the Word and could not get enough. They opened up their hearts to each other and they exhorted, corrected, and encouraged each other. Church was not the place that they brought unbelievers so that the elders (pastor or youth leader) would bring them to Christ. It was place where they brought their friends to experience the wondrous joy of the family of God. They were the evangelists, everyone of them and they did not need an occasion or a program to reach the lost. They just did it, all of them. The Church was family and the place where they would be built up and learn so that they may go out to share the Good News. the church was not their place for evangelism, although I believe that evangelism went on there too, but their neighborhoods, their marketplaces, their fields, their shops, and their places of work and their wells where people met were their places of evangelism. That is the Church I want us to go back to. I do not mind if they met on Sunday or some other day or everyday, I want us to return to God's Church and it begins in our hearts.
Can you imagine it? Brothers and sisters in Christ excited about going to Church because it is when they get to see and meet with their Spiritual family. People coming early, sincerely inquiring of each other how they are doing ... lovingly concerned and excited. Not just small talk about golf, and work, and crafts, and family, but real heart to heart conversations. Yes they may share about golf, work, crafts, family and even the game but the sharing is genuine and deep and they center around how God was worked in their lives and how each other are really doing. They inquire of each other not for juicy gossip but out of deep abiding love and concern, a deep desire to be a blessing and a deep desire to be blessed. When the time draws close for Sunday School, they cannot wait to dive into God's Word, to learn and to study in fellowship, to be edified and to edify.
When the service begins the Family of God is excited and reverend at the same time, filled with holy joy and anticipation. When the announcements are shared, they cannot wait to hear what other opportunities the Family has planned for more fellowship, more learning, more prayer, more opportunities to serve and to reach out because they are anxious to gather again and Sunday is not enough. They are anxious to be God's hands and feet in a broken world.
When the opening prayer is offered, every heart is bowed and every soul is surrendered joyfully anticipating meeting God and worshiping Him. As the music begins and the hymns and worship songs are sung, they sing in praise, they dwell on the words and they delight in God's awesome grace, mercy, and love. It does not matter if they stand or sit or kneel because their hearts are lifted up to God. It does not matter if the music is out of key or if someone is not as musical. They are lifting up praise to God. It does not matter if some raise their hands and others bow their heads, all their hearts are lifted upwards. Every voice is inviting His presence. Worship lasts as long as the Holy Spirit prompts and it may be short or long because time is of no consequence, God is there! Brothers and Sister testify and share God's Goodness and everyone rejoices. Prayers are lifted up and offerings are made. When the offerings are made, they are given with joy and generosity they cannot wait to give back to God and His work. Hearts are prepared for His Word. Eyes, ears, minds and hearts are softened waiting in anticipation for the message that the Lord has given through their shepherd, the elder or the pastor or the priest. It does not matter what he or she is called. It is the person whom God has anointed for leadership and the preaching of His Word. When God's message is shared time looses its significance, their hunger for His Word is alive and the Church crackles with its thirst. Afterward, no one wants to leave, they have brought food to be shared, they want to fellowship more and they cannot wait till the evening service. When at last each must go to their homes, they are filled and excited to go and share the good news that they have heard. They cannot wait to tell their friends and neighbors and they cannot wait to be able to bring them so they can experience the wondrous joy of the Family of God in His House.
If this is the Church we pledge to bring people back to. I cannot wait!