How to Prepare for the Lord’s Day

15 02 2013

Puritan-Prayer_church

Because of the glorious resurrection of Jesus on the “first day of the week”, early Christians began gathering corporately on Sundays (Acts 20:7, 1 Corinthians 16:2).  In the New Testament Sunday is referred to as the “Lord’s Day” and I’d like to take a few moments and explore how we can better prepare ourselves for the weekly corporate gathering of the local church.This post assumes a few things.  It assumes that you agree with the New Testament example and mandate to gather regularly with the local church to worship God.  It assumes that you understand the Christian “Lord’s Day” is not the exact same thing as the Old Testament Sabbath. Finally, it assumes that you understand that the Lord’s Day is something that is a priority for the Christian.

How can we better prepare our hearts for gathering together with God’s people to worship? I’d like to explain that by going over specifically how the folks at First Baptist Oppelo can prepare to worship together this Sunday, February 17th, 2013.  Hopefully you’ll find these suggestions practical for your own life.

First, it will helpful to look at this Sunday’s Bulletin: February 17th, 2013 Bulletin

Know the Songs:

You’ll notice we have listed the songs we are singing Sunday.  Have you considred looking up those songs, reading over them, reflecting on their meaning and purpose?  Perhaps you could even sing them together as a family sometime before Sunday.  The lyrics to each of these songs can be found here:

Knowing the songs before Sunday will help you to sing well and worship well understanding what the song is about and knowing what the words are conveying.  Perhaps you can’t access your church’s bulletin online.  You could try talking to your church’s worship leader and see if you could get a copy of the songs for Sunday early.  Make this easy on him! Maybe you could meet him somewhere every Thursday afternoon, etc.

Pray for your music and worship leader:

Maybe you can’t get access to the songs that will be sang Sunday. Maybe the worship leader doesn’t even know what the songs are going to be until Sunday morning!  Well, you can still pray for your church’s singing.  Spend some time meditating over Colossians 3:16 to see the important role singing plays in your church.  Take some time during the week to pray for the congregational singing. Pray that the people would sing to worship the One True God and not worship a particular style of music.  Pray also for your worship leader. Pray that he would lead the people to worship together in spirit and truth.  Pray that he would pick out songs that are God and Gospel-Centered (see here for more).

Meditate on the sermon text:

This may be harder for some depending on your pastor’s preaching habits. Our pastor does not necessarily publish what his next text will be but going through the book of Colossians our people know he finished with Col. 1:29 last Sunday and that he will pick up with Colossians 2:1-? this week.  If you attend Oppelo, then you know that you can begin digging into Colossians 2.  You can begin meditating on God’s truth revealed in this chapter.  This will prepare your heart to get the most out of Sunday’s message. If you don’t know what your Pastor’s text will be for the coming Sunday, you could ask him.  Pray through the text and pray that the people’s hearts will be saturated with the Word of God. Pray that the Holy Spirit would do His work in His people’s lives, breaking them, encouraging them, sustaining them, pointing them to Christ, etc.  Pray for the lost that may be attending your church and that through this week’s passage God will reveal to them their great need for Christ and lead them to repent and believe the Gospel.

Pray for your pastor:

Your pastor needs your prayers! Not long ago Kevin Deyoung wrote a great post about this here. Pray that your pastor would have ample time to spend in prayer and preparation for the sermon.  Pray that your pastor would medidate on the passage he is prepearing to preach and that God would reveal the truth of the passage and your pastor’s need for it first before he thinks about preaching it to the people.  Pray that your pastor would be clear on the Gospel and point to Christ, no matter what section of Scripture he is preaching from.  Pray that your pastor would feel his great inadequacy for the task at hand but also that he would feel encouragment from the Holy Spirit that he is empowered by God Himslef to fulfill this task.

Your pastor may need encouragment from you to keep preaching the Gospel faithfully no matter the response from the people.  There may also be some tangible things you could do to help ensure your pastor has enough time to pray and prepare for Sunday’s sermon. Maybe you could print the bulletins this week? Make a visit for him? Take up some of the other duties that distract from preparation for Sunday?

Guard Saturday Night:

Don’t stay out late on Saturday night.  Inevitably this may happen from time to time but don’t make it a habit.  Being well rested to gather with God’s people is important.  How many times have you woke up late on a Sunday morning only to fight with your spouse, or kids, rushed hurridly off to church, only to feel tired and irritable the whole morning.  God is not honored in that.  We should desire gathering with God’s people (more here)! So, plan late outings for Friday, or a different night of the week.

Wake up early Sunday:

I’m not saying you have to wake up at 5am or anything.  I’m just saying wake up early enough that you have time to pray, read the Word, and prepare yourself for Sunday morning. This may just mean setting the alarm an extra 30 minutes early.  If we wake up on Sunday at the last possible second and then rush around to get ready, are we really ready once we enter the place of worship to meet with God?

Schedule your week around the Lord’s Day not the Lord’s Day around your week:

Don’t leave stuff undone for Sunday.  Clean, mow, wash the car, etc. on other days of the week instead of putting them off until Sunday.  Your mind won’t be so anxious to rush out the door Sunday morning if you’ve prepared well throughout the week, setting aside Sunday for the priority of corporate worship.

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
Hebrews 10:24-25

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Crucial Aspects of a Disciple Making Pastor

4 02 2013

These are my notes from Mark Dever’s session on the  Centrality of the Church in Disciple-Making at the 2013 Desiring God National Pastor’s conference. I listened via live-stream and you can do so too by clicking HERE. To hear audio of the message click here.

4 Crucial Aspects of a Disciple Making Pastor:

  1. Preaching: Don’t think that making disciples is something that happens in just 1 on 1 meetings.  The most fundamental way for a Pastor to make disciples is through preaching God’s Word. God uses His word to create faith- 1 Thess. 2:13, Heb. 4:12, James 1:21.  God creates His people by His Word.  If you want life, health, and holiness in your local church it must be done God’s way- through His Word. We must teach our congregations to value God’s Word over programs.  Preaching God’s Word is primary.  The heart of your public ministry as a Pastor is your private study of God’s Word; pouring over it, praying over it.  You must give yourself to the study of God’s Word. What did Paul say to Timothy? “Preach the Word!”
  2. Prayer: In your personal life, pray. In your home, pray. In your meetings with others, pray. In your public services devote so much time to prayer that nominal Christians are bored with so much time committed to talking with the God they claim to know. Lead your people into praying to God.  Diligently call upon God by prayer, so that you may able to teach and exhort with wholesome doctrine. Prayer shows our dependence upon God.

How should pastors pray/what should they pray for?

      •    Prayers of Paul 2 Thess. 1, etc. Allow the prayers of Paul to guide your prayers.
      •    Pray that your preaching the gospel would be faithful accurate and clear.
      •    Pray for the increasing maturity of the congregation- growth in love, sound doctrine, etc.
      •    Pray for sinners to be converted and the church built up through the preaching of the Gospel
      •    Pray for opportunities for yourself and others for personal evangelism.

Dever also gave these practical examples: In Capitol Hill’s regular gathering of believers they have 3 different types of prayers offered publically during the service- Prayers of praise, prayers of confession, Pastoral prayer of intercession.  Dever also suggested to use church directory to pray for church members individually , prayers for church members don’t have to be long, just biblical

3. PersonalDiscipling Relationships: If you’re in the type of congregation that people get upset about the pastor having “friends” confront that and call the people to repentance. Through your discipleship relationships the church as a whole will be built up.  Suggest a book to others and go through it together weekly, or every other week, or as often as you can.  The goal is to get to know them and to love them and to be a blessing to them spiritually. Initiate these types of relationships. Personal discipleship is another channel in which the Word can flow into people’s lives. Encourage a culture of discipleship within the church. What do you mean that you are following Christ if you’re not helping others follow Jesus? Hard-bake that into your definition of being a Christian. Another byproduct of personal discipling relationships is it will help in breaking down the resistance some may have to your leadership as a Pastor. Helps break down the “we vs. him” barrier.

4. Patience: Run at a pace your congregation can keep. The key to having patience is having a right perspective of time, eternity, and success.

      1. Time: Think in terms of 10, 20, 30,40, or even 50 years of ministry! We don’t often have this type of perspective. Are you in it with your church for the long haul or moving up the ladder by taking another church? Are you building a congregation or a career. Stay with them. Keep bleeding, keep loving.
      2. Eternity: One day we will be held accountable by God for the way we fed His lambs.  He will know how we handled His sheep. Shepherd the flock in a way that you will not be ashamed before the Lord (cf. Col 3:23ff).
      3. Success: If you define success by numbers you will result to methods that draw crowds without the preaching of the Gospel.  If you define success by faithfulness then you are freed to be faithful to God and His Word and let Him do His work.  Confidence in the Christian ministry is in the presence, power, and promises of God.  Confidence comes from the power of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit makes us adequate through God’s Word (2 Tim. 3:16). Stake your ministry on the power of the Gospel.  Success in ministry is faithfulness in that. So, be patient.

Summary: Preach and pray, love and stay. We will never be faithful ministers if we only consider the ministry in terms of this life. “I know the vanity of your heart, and that you will feel mortified that your congregation is very small, in comparison with those of your brethren around you; but assure yourself on the word of an old man, that when you come to give an account of them to the Lord Christ at his judgment seat, you will think you have had enough.” 19th Century Scottish Pastor, John Brown





Random thoughts on Church Service length

19 07 2012

This post is the conclusion from a series of blogs I wrote last year working on answering the question: How long should a church service be? You can see the whole blog series in .pdf format by clicking HERE. Probably would be helpful to read some of the other blogs in the above .pdf to understand the full context.

1.  How many churches are more concerned about the “time” issue than they are about answering the 3 foundational questions (Who and What are the services for? What elements should be included?)

Sadly, many churches (including leaders and members) are more concerned about their schedule than they are about what goes into a weekly gathering of Believers.  Immediately I think “big” churches come to mind here.  These churches may be televised or have multiple services and/or sites.  These churches are on a strict schedule and plan each segment of their service so that everything flows as smoothly as possible and they can finish on time.  Now, planning is not an evil thing!  I am certainly not advocating laziness in planning.  However, for these type of services how much freedom do we give the Holy Spirit?  It seems we’ve basically “planned” Him out of the way.

I said that “immediately” I think of big churches, but small churches are just as guilty.  The small church mentality  seems to be less planning and more “this is the way we’ve always done our services, why fix it?”  So, the small church has opening song, announcements, more songs, offering, special music, and then preaching. The schedule is not thought about or tweaked because it’s always been done that way.  For some small churches time may seem a non-issue, but mainly because for decades (or longer) it’s always been the same.  There’s no self-examination within the Body to see whether or not the services contain a healthy amount of prayer, scripture reading, singing, preaching, etc.

2. The “seeker sensitive” movement has gotten the church off track in regards to this issue

This too affects all sorts of churches.  We’ve been so concerned about creating an inviting, inoffensive atmosphere that we’ve lost track of who and what the service is for.  I want to put this proposition forward:  If the Word is being faithfully preached, and the people are faithfully receiving the Word, don’t you think the bathrooms are going to look respectable!?  In other words, the answer is not to make sure everything in the church is clean and inviting so that visitors will come back.  The answer is to faithfully PREACH THE WORD!  Heart change will affect our outward actions.  There is so much more I could write about this “seeker sensitive” topic.  Churches have forsaken corrective discipline, membership standards, etc. all for the sake of “reaching more people for Jesus.”  Where’s that got us?

3. The “attention span” argument doesn’t work

The human mind can only endure 15-20 minute sermons.  Or so all the “new research” suggests.  I have several problems with this argument.  1st- we live in a fallen world.  How many true Christians where surveyed in this research?  See, the Holy Spirit is “recreating” us!  We are being restored to the full image of Christ (this is called sanctification).  So, even if fallen man can only endure that much, I would have to think Christians can endure (and desire) more.  2nd-  How many college/university professors do you know cutting down their lectures based on this research?  There may be a few, but I’m saying the majority are not.  3rd-  Practically, this research doesn’t affect our entertainment world.  We’ll endure concerts, movies, sporting events, etc. for hours on end.

4.  Let’s remember Sunday is the Lord’s Day

Or it used to be.  Then it got knocked down to the Lord’s “Morning and Evening”.  Then it was moved back to the Lord’s “Morning”.  Now it’s just the Lord’s “1-hour or less”.  Yes, you should have time with your family on Sunday.  Yes, you should have time to rest on Sunday.  But the corporate gathering of believers is priority number one.  It is the ONE day that we set aside to gather with our church family.

Conclusion:

I know this post has been somewhat random in it’s ordering, so let me conclude with this.  The question “How long should a church service be?” should be irrelevant to mature believers.  There are certain priorities, and elements, the Bible commands us to pay attention to in our weekly gatherings- that is what should concern us, NOT the time.  How can the Body of Christ, with a straight face, spend hours every week in front of the television, sporting events, and other recreational activities, but complain about the extra 15 minutes at church?  Can we really faithfully fit all the elements we’ve discussed with the right priorities into a pre-packaged 1-hour service?

Let me conclude with 3 thoughts for church leaders:

1.  Do everything you can to NOT waste time during a service.  If your service is going long just because people aren’t prepared, and things are messing up with sound, media, etc. this is not good.  Cut out the time wasters.

2.  Don’t forget the Holy Spirit.  Yes, it’s good to plan, plan, plan.  Be disciplined in your preparation for Sunday mornings.  But don’t be so rigid that there is no room to adjust during the service.

3. Repent.  Let us repent and lead our people to repent of our concern for our own time.  May we be a people who will truly worship the Lord in Spirit and in Truth.





What makes a church a church?

14 07 2012

I’ve been reading RetroChristianity lately by Michael J. Svigel, and wanted to share some helpful things he said about what makes a local church an actual church.  There has been some heavy emphasis lately in the evangelical world on the fact that the church is “not a building.”  While this is certainly true, it only identifies what the church is not, and doesn’t help us define biblically what the church is.  Just because you sound the mantra “We aren’t a building, we’re a people!” doesn’t necessarily mean the group of people you gather with constitutes a true church.

Svigel says “An authentic local church is supported by two pillars: the essential marks and the essential works.”

The marks of the church are as follows:

  • Orthodoxy– “Orthodox believers are those who hold to the essential truths of the Christian faith – those fundamentals of the faith that have been believed everywhere, always, and by all.”
  • Order– The local church has to have leadership.  “Order emphasizes the necessity of properly trained, trusted, and tested pastors, teachers and leaders of the church, to whom the orthodox faith has been entrusted to pass on to the next generation.”
  • Ordinances– These ordinances are Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.  Svigel rightly states that the ordinances “are closely associated with the growth, discipline, and purity of the church’s members.”

The 2nd pillar of the church is its “works.”  Of course it doesn’t mean the church “works” to be saved, but rather a true church will bear fruit, and this is what that looks like:

  • Exaltation– “The purpose, goal, and focus of the church- to glorify God the Father, through the Son, by the power of the Holy Spirit.”  Another good term would be “worship” but that was taken by Rick Warren 🙂 and it doesn’t fit with Svigel’s alliteration.
  • Edification– The church is to be “building up believers in love and good works.”  Edification is not focused on the outside, i.e. the world. Rather, it is focused on Believers, discipling them, growing them, teaching them… “in edification, the disciple-maker’s role is to teach and model.  The disciples role is to learn and follow.”
  • Evangelism– This “focuses on the unsaved world, balancing both local and global missions.”  The church is to go and tell!  We must communicate the Gospel in our local context and to the ends of the earth.

A church, is more than just you and your buddies hanging out on the golf course.  It’s more than just “fellowshipping” with some friends at the lake.  The church is a people but these people are organized with a common purpose and common goals, having the glory of Christ as their highest aim.  I still like this definition from Vintage Church:

“The local church is a community of regenerated believers who confess Jesus Christ as Lord. In obedience to Scripture they organize under qualified leadership, gather regularly for preaching and worship, observe the biblical sacraments of baptism and communion, are unified by the Spirit, are disciplined for holiness, and scatter to fulfill the great commandment and the great commission as missionaries to the world for God’s glory and their joy.”

So, is your church a church?





What’s the #1 Problem in the Church Today?

10 07 2012

I honestly don’t know.  But, I’d like to mention what I think it’s NOT.  The #1 problem in the church today is NOT that there is too much accountability, which is often referred to as “judging” in the church world.  Unfortunately, I come across several Facebook/Twitter comments like the one below regarding the church at least a few times every week:

“There is a lot of controversy in churches these days. Not much compassion. And a lot of judgmental behavior…”

Obviously, it’s hard to interpret this sentence without context but I take it to mean, as many of these comments do, that we need more “love” in the church, and less “calling people out” because of Sin.  After all, we are all sinners, right? Let him without Sin cast the first stone!

No beloved, I don’t believe this is the #1 problem in the church today. In fact, far from it.  While it is true we struggle with legalism in our own lives, as well as trying to excuse our own sins, while holding others to higher standards, and while the church will certainly be served well if Believers, like myself, would better deliberately cultivate love and compassion towards one another expressed in tangible ways, the church’s worldliness in our day is rampant.  Yes, we MUST repent of any unloving attitudes or lack of true compassion, grace, and humility towards others.  However, let me just quote a passage of Scripture at this point:

But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.” 1 Corinthians 5:11-13

Do you believe this passage of Scripture? If you know your Bible then you remember that it is in this passage that Paul is commanding the church at Corinth to excommunicate one of Her members.  Excommunicate? Ouch.  Sounds harsh.  Sounds unloving. Kinda sounds like the archaic practice of (key scary music) Church Discipline!

Truth is, we live in a society that the one wrong thing to do is to say someone else is wrong, and this has crept into the church. (Side note: D.A. Carson’s new book The Intolerance of Tolerance is very good!). So, in many evangelical church’s today (especially in the South- where I’m from), there are Deacons who’ve been through questionable divorces, members who participate in drunkenness, couples having sex outside of marriage, affairs, questionable business practices, etc., etc., etc,.  And these are just a few of the “known” sins in the community at large.  And yet, the “worst” thing the church could do (from the perspective of many) is to actually go all Biblical and point these things out.  Beloved, human depravity knows no bounds- thank God for His grace.

We have a crisis in our churches where many “Christians” are basically indistinguishable from the World! And in the above passage Paul says to pass judgment upon them.  Now, this is NOT a “I get to say who’s saved and who’s not” judgment. Or a “I’m better than you” judgment.  This is an “As a church, we’ve compared your life to what the Bible says a Christian is and you’ve been found lacking, repent and believe the Gospel, or membership here is no longer an option for you” judgment.

What’s the #1 problem in the church today? I don’t know, but I do know that the recovery of biblical church discipline is a must.  I’ll conclude with a brief outline on just some of the purposes of corrective, Biblical church discipline:

    • It’s part of discipleship- We need one another to guard ourselves from the deceitfulness of sin (Heb. 3:12-13)
    • It’s loving- If someone where about to put themselves in harm’s way, and you did nothing is that loving? Sin is harmful.  It hurts individuals AND the Body (1 Cor. 5:6)
    • It’s for reconciliation. Matthew 18:15-17. The goal isn’t to “kick people out” but to keep people in, focused, and pointed towards Christ!
    • It defends the purity of the church. The World should see a difference between Believers and themselves (cf. 1 John 2:15-17)
    • It defends the teaching of the church. 2 Peter 2:1-3. False teachers are a reality and must be dealt with.

John MacArthur’s church, Grace Community Church, publishes a pamphlet on church discipline that says this: The purpose of church discipline is the spiritual restoration of fallen members and the consequent strengthening of the church and glorifying of the Lord.

Resources:

Maybe you’re not convinced on the necessity of reclaiming corrective church discipline in our churches today.  Here are two short books on the subject that I’d recommend you read:

Jay E. Adams, A Handbook of Church Discipline

Jonathan Leeman, Church Discipline

Also, here is a blog by Jonathan Leeman entitled A Church Discipline Primer

A few other passages to study- Galatians 6:1-3, Hebrews 12:1-14, Proverbs 12:1, 27:5-6, 2 Thessalonians 3:11-14, 1 Timothy 5:20, Luke 17:3-4, Titus 1:10-11, etc.

I would chalk the failure of corrective church discipline in many churches to the “practical” denial of the sufficiency of Scripture- which may just be the leading candidate for the #1 problem in the church today.





What should we do on Sunday mornings?

5 07 2012


This post is from a series of blogs I wrote last year working on answering the question: How long should a church service be? In this post we’ll look at what should be included during our weekly gatherings. You can see the whole blog series in .pdf format by clicking HERE.

The elements to be included in the weekly gathering of the Local Church must be Word driven.  In other words, what we should be doing as the Body on Sunday mornings is Word ministry.  John 8:31 says

So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples ……

We cannot worship God, and we cannot edify the brethren if we are not abiding in the Word on Sunday mornings.  What’s amazing is that God is not silent or intentionally ambiguous about what should be included in our services!  He plainly reveals these truths to us in Scripture.  So, let’s now discuss what His Word reveals that we should be doing in our regular gatherings:

  • 1. Preaching the Word (2 Tim. 4:1-2)  This is first for a reason.  The preaching of God’s Word is essential.  It should be central and priority to all other things happening on Sunday morning.  Perhaps you do all the rest on this list on Sundays, but if you leave out this one out you’ve missed the “main ingredient” to God’s intent for our gatherings.
  • 2. Singing the Word (Colossians 3:16)  This doesn’t mean you have to find a chapter in the Bible and sing it exactly word for word (although that can work at times!).  But it does mean that you should actually be singing portions of Scripture in your songs, and songs that are not portions of Scripture should be able to be easily “proved” to be implied by portions of Scripture.
  • 3.  Reading and Praying the Word (Acts 2:42, 1 Timothy 2:1, 4:13)  Yes, this element is included in the Sermon, but it should not just be during the sermon that the church is reading and praying the Word.  There should be other times during the service that the Word of God is read publicly and that the prayers of the Saints are prayed according to the Word.
  • 4. Living the Word–  This is the local body living out the Word during corporate gatherings (not just “go act like a Christian when the services are over”).  What I mean is that there are other elements that God says to include in our services that I am classifying here as “living the Word.”  So, these elements include:

a. Financial Giving (2 Corinthians 9:6-8)  Giving to the church is not just a “good idea” but it’s the duty of Believers!  This doesn’t mean you have to “pass the plates” during a service, but it does mean there should be at least a designated area (offering box, etc.) Where the Body can give financially in worship and obedience to Christ.

b. The Lord’s Supper and Baptism (Matthew 28:19, 1 Cor. 11:17-34)  These may not actually happen every Sunday but for a healthy church they should be happening on a regular basis.

c. Fellowship (Hebrews 3:12-14, and many others!) This does not mean eating (although, I’m down for lunch any time) True fellowship is sharing the truths of Christ with one another.  We must constantly be willing to ask how one’s walk with Christ is going and to share what Christ is doing currently in your life.





How long should a church service be? Question 2

30 06 2011

The last several weeks we’ve been looking at the question “How long should a church service be?”  To get caught up to speed CLICK HERE.  Again, we are looking at the regular meeting of the local church that should be happening at least once every Lord’s Day (Sunday). 

Today we are looking at the question “What are church services for?”  We really won’t be getting into the “elements” of the service but rather just discuss the purpose of a regular gathering of Believers.  1st, let’s look at what Sundays are NOT for:

1. Entertainment: You are not the spectator.  The service will not be tailored to your specifications.  Hopefully though, many things will be “your preference”  although some things you may in humility need to count others as more significant. (see Phil. 2:1-11)

2. Country Club:  This is not an “out of college” fraternity or sorority.  It’s not the place we come to in order to socialize and make new friends or political alliances.  Yes, there will be some elements of “socializing” going on, but much more of that should be going on the rest of the week.

3. The God clinic:  It’s not the place you come to get your “shot” of God that should last you the rest of the week!

Previously, I’ve already discussed the question “Do I have to go to church to be a Christian?” Suffice it to say that attending regularly is something Christians should do, should want to do, and need to do.

I believe the Bible is clear that the two major purposes of the weekly gathering of believers are: 1. The Corporate Worship of God and 2. The Edification of Believers

1. The Corporate Worship of God: I say “corporate” worship of God because of course Sunday is not the only day we Worship the Lord!  It is however, usually the only day of the week the whole local Body comes together to worship God.  Jesus says “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, with all your soul, and with all your strength” (see Mark 12:28-30).  I often hear Brothers and Sisters in Christ say “God is my #1 priority”.  Yet, some of these same people miss the regular gathering of the church for trivial matters.  How are we saying that God is our 1st priority if we miss gathering with the local body for something more important?  This is inconsistent.  Hebrews 10:25 is a command from Scripture.  Scripture is the command of God.  Disobeying Scripture is disobeying God.  “If you love me, keep my commands.” (John 14:15).

2. The Edification of Believers:  The synonym I’ll use for “Edification” is “building up”.  Again, just like Corporate Worship, we can’t undergo corporate edification without regularly gathering with the local body. Paul says “let all things be done for building up” (1 Cor. 14:26). Does this mean everything has to be “positive” and “encouraging”? Certainly not, but it does mean everything must be done in truth with love (cf. Eph. 4:15).  I don’t want to go too much into the “elements” necessary to fulfill these purposes (which we will cover next week) but here I must mention that the only thing that will truly build us up is the Holy Spirit using the Word.  This means we sing the Word, we pray the Word, we preach the Word, and we live the Word.  I think if i were to use another term besides “edification” I might use “discipline”.  Sundays are part of the “discipline” of the Believer.  Now, this normally carries a negative connotation, but here we are talking about the formative discipline of Believers whereby they are “discipled” through the ministry of the Word.

So, in summary up to this point we’ve established that the “church service” is for Believers, and that it’s purpose is for Believers to corporately worship God and to edify one another.  Next week we’ll look at what elements must be present in our services to fulfill these purposes.