Summary: A sermon for National Back to Church Sunday adapted in part from the Purpose-Driven /Life. Alliterated and expository from Acts 2. PowerPoint is availble if you e-mail me.
BACK TO CHURCH SUNDAY
Scott Bayles, pastor
First Christian Church, Rosiclare, IL
It is so easy to hit the snooze button on Sunday morning when the alarm sounds at seven o'clock, roll over and go back to sleep. Maybe you had every intention of going to church, maybe Sunday School, too...even had your clothes laid out, but your sleepy side wins and you satisfy your conscience with the thought, "Next Sunday."
Then again, why do we even go to church?
You go to school to get an education so you can make a living. You go to work to make money so you can pay the bills. You go to the gym for exercise and better health. You go to the mall to shop for clothes and the grocery store to buy food. You go to the lake to fish, the ball game to cheer, and golf course for fun.
But church? Why go to there? Why get up early on one of your few off-days? Why go through the hassle of dressing up and the getting the kids ready? Why go to the trouble of finding a parking space near the front and pew space near the back?
Why go to church?
If you've ever found yourself wondering about that little question, you're not alone. Surveys tell us that as many as 79% of Americans identify themselves as Christians, yet only 20% of Americans attend church regularly. I guess some people look at going to church as a bother—an unnecessary burden to be avoided whenever possible—a perfectly good hour wasted in order to keep a wife or a preacher or a parent off their backs. Others see it as sort of like punching a spiritual clock or earning brownie points with their Maker.
But to someone who understands church and what it's really all about, going to church can be the most spiritually fulfilling, inspiring thing you do all week.
The Book of Acts tells the story of how the church got started. Fifty days after Jesus rose from the dead, he sent the Holy Spirit to empower his disciples. They went out and began preaching about the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus—the Good News. Millions of people listened, thousands believed. Then at the end of Acts 2, we find this short snapshot of what life was like in the early church:
"Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church that day—about 3,000 in all. All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord's Supper), and to prayer. A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord's Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity—all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved." (Acts 2:41-47 NLT)
If we could pause and look intently at this poignant paragraph, I think we'd finally begin to realize the real purpose of the church and why we meet together every week. Looking at the example of this very first group of Christians reveals five reasons why the church exists and why you should be a part of it. The first thing that church brings into our lives is membership.
In other words, the church gives us a place to belong. The passage we read in Acts is absolutely flooded with fellowship. The Bible says, "All the believers devoted themselves... to fellowship, and to sharing in meals...and all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had." Jesus gave these new believers a sense of community, belonging and togetherness at a level that you cannot find anywhere else in the world.
All of us need a place to belong. All of us need to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. All of us need to experience family and fellowship. Vance Packard calls America "a nation of strangers, and studies show that 4 out of 10 people experience feeling of intense loneliness. Our American culture produces people who more closely identify with characters on a weekly TV series than with their next-door neighbors. Everywhere you look, there are signs that people are hungering for fellowship, community, and a sense of family. Beer commercials don't sell beer; they sell fellowship. Advertisers don't portray someone drinking alone; it's always in the context of enjoying each other's company. People long to be connected.
There are many analogies for a Christian disconnected from a church: a football player without a team; a soldier without a platoon; a tuba player without an orchestra; a sheep without a flock. But the most understandable and biblical pictures is that of a child without a family. That family is the church. God does not want his children growing up in isolation from each other, so he created a spiritual family on earth for us. A Christian without a church family is an orphan.