About Jesus    Steve Sweetman

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Going To Church

 

Brian was a well respected CEO of a corporation headquartered in Chicago.  In his mid 50's, his hair was streaked with gray, which gave him the look of a man who was aging well, successful, and intelligent.  He was all three.  Having met with congressional leaders  concerning a pending deal with the Israeli government, he was now sitting in Washington D. C.'s Reagan National Airport, heading for Atlanta Georgia.

 

Brian wasn't just a successful businessman.  He was a fervent Christian, or, in his words, "a follower of Jesus".  Like many good words, he felt the word "Christian" had long since lost its real meaning. 

 

Brian just exited his email account on his laptop when he turned around in amazement.  "Is that you John"?     

 

"Sure is Brian", replied John in unbelief.  "It's been 28 long years since our Bible college days".

 

While getting re-acquainted the two men discovered they were on the same flight.  After a few flattering words to the ticket girl, they managed to sit together.  Once settled, John asked the all important question that Christians seem to think they need to know the answer to.  "So where do you go to church these days Brian"?

 

Brian hesitated.  He dreaded that question.  It implied such an unscriptural concept of church.  To avoid an answer, Brian turned the question back to John.  "How about you John"?

 

"Well, I graduated from Bible college with a degree in pastoral studies.  Then I graduated from seminary with a master of theology degree.  Soon after I became a Baptist minister, that is until I got interested in the gifts of the Spirit.  You know Brian, 1 Corinthians 12.  That was a problem with the church's board of directors and so I was subsequently fired".

 

"Sounds typical", Brian thought.

 

"I applied to be a Pentecostal pastor and got the job.  Five years later we had a big church split".

 

"So what's new", Brian muttered under his breath.  "Pastoring is a job, and splits grow the church, or so they say".

 

"At that point I lost half of my church and more importantly, I lost half of my income.  I then found a preaching job in the Nazarene church but they were a bit too reserved for my liking, so I left to start my own community church.  I answer to no one, and if need be, I'll fire the church before they get to fire me.  Now what about you Brian?  You do go to church, don't you"? 

 

Brian was deep in thought.  He didn't attend a Sunday morning meeting and he knew that would be crucial to John's thinking about church.  Should he avoid the question or try to answer it honestly at the risk of getting dragged into a frustrating debate, or worse still, an agitating argument.  He made the plunge.          

 

"Well John, I know what you're asking.  You want to know what traditional church I'm affiliated with.  The problem with your question is that it presupposes an unscriptural concept of church".  There, he said it.  The cat's out of the bag, so to speak.  He had to answer now.

 

"Brian, you haven't forsaken the assembling together with the saints have you?  Doesn't the Bible say somewhere, "don't stop going to church"?  

 

Brian cringed as he wondered how a seminary graduate could misquote the Bible so badly.  "You're thinking of Hebrews 10:25.  I know it by heart.  The NIV says, "let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another Ė and all the more as you see the Day approaching."  I donít see the words 'going to church' anywhere in that verse John".

 

"O come on Brian.  I know it doesn't say those exact words, but that's what it means".

 

"That's interesting", Brian thought.  He's not interested in knowing what the Bible 'exactly' says.  Mere generalities is close enough".  So, at the risk of being branded the newest heretic on the block Brian replied, "no John, it doesn't mean that at all". 

 

"So what do you think it means Brian"? 

 

Brian took a deep breath and wondered why he let himself get involved in this conversation. "We've got a problem in the western church today.  Christians don't take the Bible seriously.  Then, when they do read it, they try to understand it through the lens of our 21st century western cultural concepts.  The Bible was written centuries ago in cultural settings and languages that few of us know or understand.  You can't impose your 21st century thinking into a 1st century Greek New Testament, or an even older Hebrew Old Testament.  That does great damage to the text, and even more damage to your understanding.  No wonder we have church all wrong.  When we read about church in the New Testament, we think in terms of our western church that has been diluted with traditions and doctrines of men for centuries. We need to get out of our head space and get into the head space of the New Testament writers".   

 

John interrupted.  "You think I've got church all wrong Brian"? 

 

"Hebrews 10:25 was written to first century Jewish Christians John.  Put yourself in their shoes.  They were suffering great persecution for their association with Jesus.  The temptation was to avoid meeting together for fear of both the civil and religious authorities.  If seen in groups they could be  arrested and killed.  A gathering of the saints back then was a serious matter, and despite the possible problems, they were still encouraged to get together.  That's the cultural setting for Hebrews 10:25". 

 

Brian went on to say that Hebrews 10:25 was meant to encourage Jewish Christians to meet together as Paul taught in 1 Corinthians 14.  The gathering was all about mutual support in the presence of persecution.  "And by the way", Brian added, "1 Corinthians 14 probably looks nothing like your Sunday morning meeting John".

 

With a tone of voice that sounded more like pleading than anything else, Brian continued.  "John, those people weren't gathering to be entertained by a well polished seminarian and the latest contemporary Christian rock band.  The thought of 'going to church'' never entered their minds, and it certainly wasn't a matter of routine because that's what Christians do on Sundays.  Those saints were in bad need of support from each other.  The executioner could be on their doorstep.  The gatherings encouraged in Hebrews 10:25 was a matter of life and death for those Christians, and it might be for us too as 'that Day approaches'.  Is that why you and your congregation 'go to church' John?  Do you really think your meetings have any relevance to Hebrews 10:25 or 1 Corinthians 14"?         

 

Forgetting what 1 Corinthians 14 actually said, John replied somewhat nervously. "Wow Brian.  You've put me on the spot here".    

 

"Sorry John.  No, I take that back.  I'm not really sorry.  The New Testament is clear.  It doesn't speak of church in terms of 'going to church', and it's not a matter of semantics as you suggest.  Our understanding of  the Bible determines how we live as Christians.  It's clear to me that how we're living shows we have little understanding of Biblical truth.  I live and  work in the rough and tumble corporate world.  I see way too much of that world in the church.  Church is Bob and Judy being joined relationally to Joe and Ashley, who in turn are joined to Justin and Sue, who in turn are joined to Richard and Sarah, and on it goes.  We're bones in the 'literal' Body of Christ.  We've been joined together for mutual support while we work at representing Jesus to a depraved world.  Hebrews 10:25 is speaking to you and I John.  It's telling us that as the Day of the Lord's return gets nearer, which it is, we can no longer just sit in our pews and watch the performance.  We can no longer just 'go to church'.  There's some pretty nasty stuff on the horizon, and being networked to a few brothers in Jesus is no longer optional".   

 

Atlanta was now in sight.  John's head was swimming.   He didn't expect such a heavy duty commentary on one short verse.  All he wanted to know was where his old friend went to church, and he still didn't know.  The only thing he thought to say as the two men departed was, "if you're still in Atlanta this Sunday and you want 'to go to church', here's my business card Brian".

 

Senior Pastor, John McCabe, B.A., M.A.

Song of Blessings Community Church

"a 21st century church for a 21st century people"

Sit back, relax, and enjoy the experience

 

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