Summary: Fourth in a six-part series of living intentionally and not just letting life happen to you.
Intentional Life: Going to Church
This week, we will continue our series on living an intentional life. Remember: An intentional life is one with purpose. The purpose is followed with a bold and steady determination until the desired outcome is realized. In other words, an intentional life has three foundational characteristics—purpose, discipline and vision.
So far, we have looked at the fact that God works intentionally. That means he is always in control and has never had an accident. We have also considered an intentional spiritual life and intentional family life. Today, I want to pursue a topic that is actually an ingredient of our spiritual lives—going to church.
I. Purpose in the church—What are we here for?
A. Teaching—“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching…”
1. The focal point of the church is the word of God. Everything we do is governed by this book.
2. Romans 10 tells us that “faith comes by hearing the word.”
a. Your faith grows and matures in response to the word of God.
b. Notice that I said growth and maturity takes place in response to the word. It is not enough to sit through a sermon. The word must be acted upon and put into practice. James 1 tells us that if we fail to do what the word says we deceive ourselves.
B. Belonging—“They devoted themselves…to the fellowship…”
1. The church is a place where everyone belongs. In other words, it is a place where everyone is welcome. The church is to be a place with open arms. We accept everyone because God accepts us. We love everyone because God loves us. We forgive everyone because God forgives us.
2. Church should provide a sense that says, “I belong to something bigger than myself. I’m not alone in this.”
a. When I went off to college in Louisiana, I quickly found people with whom I had something in common. I found people who were from my district. (Explain districts in the AG.) Even though these people were not from my home town, (and many were not from my home state), there was a sense of the familiar. We had a common bond that supported us 1,400 miles from home. We were no longer isolated individuals out on our own for the first time, we became friends because we part of something bigger than ourselves.
b. When I have been out of the country on missions trips, there has always been a sense of “I can’t wait to get back home to the US.” Besides missing my family and home, there was a sense of missing our culture and way of life. This longing could temporarily fade if we happened to meet someone else from the states. It didn’t matter if the person was from Maryland or Hawaii, they were from my country. Normally, we concede that Marylanders and Hawaiians are somewhat different people with different ways of life, etc. But for the few brief moments you could chat all that mattered was “we’re from the same place.” We felt that way because we part of something bigger than ourselves.
3. Church should do the same for everyone who walks through our doors. We are all different people with different backgrounds, lives, personalities, family make-up, etc. But when we gather together, we understand that though we are different, we are not alone in serving God. There are others and we all belong to the family of God and it is bigger than any individual.
C. Worshipping—“They devoted themselves…to the breaking of bread…”
1. This would be a meal that believers shared together and more often than not would include what we now call communion.
2. Church is also a place where God is worshipped. Worship can take many forms. We can sing hymns, we can sing choruses. We can stand, we can sit. We can be loud, we can be silent.
a. The form of worship is not nearly as important as the object of our worship—God himself.
b. When Krista and I went to take our first position in youth ministry, we left my home church in Delaware. It was a church that had a wonderful worship leader and an excellent band. We had keyboards, guitars, a bass, trumpet, trombone, violin, French horn, saxophone, flute, clarinet and drums. The music was always appropriate whether it made you want to jump to your feet and clap your hands or just quietly wait in God’s presence. The worship team always provided a terrific atmosphere for our services.
We went to a tiny church in Virginia where the pastor’s wife did her best to play the organ and a gentleman from the congregation occasionally accompanied her on the out-of-tune piano. After our first service, I was horrified. I thought, “How in the world will I ever be able to worship God here? These people have no idea what they’re are doing!” As the weeks rolled by, my attitude during “worship” got worse and worse. I characterized our song service as a half-inning—three hymns and you’re out. There seemed to be no time spent waiting on God and no opportunity to express yourself to him.