Summary: There’s a right way and a wrong way to "do" church. The right way is the one that takes the most work.
A woman once told about her good friend and fellow parishioner who had just bought a house that was between the preacher’s house and that owned by the chairman of the deacons. I teased her a bit. "Now you must really walk the straight and narrow," I said.
"On the contrary," she replied. "I expect to go to heaven on the updraft."
APPLY: You know, that’s the purpose of church – to create an “updraft.” By that I don’t mean to say that going to church saves you – only blood of Jesus Christ can save you. But church was designed by God to be a place that would create an “updraft” for Christians. A place where we would be strengthened and empowered in our faith.
Hebrews 10:24-26 tells us "And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another— and all the more as you see the Day approaching. If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left."
Notice that God created “church” to be a place where
… we are to encourage one another
… to challenge one another
… and to help one another deal with the struggles of life and the schemes of Satan
I. Church was to be a place where we practice “one anothering”
(thoughtfully…) “one anothering.” God is big on “one anothering.” Consider these passages:
Love one another (John 13:34)
Serve one another in love (Galatians 5:13)
Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. (Romans 12:10)
Honor one another above yourselves. (Romans 12:10)
Live in harmony with one another (Romans 12:16)
Accept one another… just as Christ accepted you (Romans 15:7)
Be kind and compassionate to one another (Ephesians 4:32)
Bear with each other (Colossians 3:13)
Teach and admonish one another (Colossians 3:16)
Offer hospitality to one another (I Peter 4:9)
Encourage one another daily… so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. (Hebrews 3:13)
Build each other up (I Thessalonians 5:11)
Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs (Ephesians 5:19)
II. That’s a lot of “one anothering”
It would lead you to believe that that type of behavior was important to God! And if you believed that: you’d be right! Because the early church was built upon fellowship (REREAD Acts 2:42-47 and stress the examples of fellowship as you read).
ILLUS: I just read about a church building that was recently constructed in California costing over $160 million dollars. It was intended to be a cutting edge building designed by one of the leading architects of our age. It was, indeed, a huge, awesome sanctuary that was different than any other ever built. But one of the comments in the article caught my attention. This church building was "to offer a space where people fell more able to isolate themselves from daily life." One of the terms that the writer used to describe the building was that it reflected "monasticism." It’s a cathedral built to help create a sense of solitude for the worshipper. A building designed to help the worshipper feel they were alone with their God.
You CAN have a church BUILDING like that… but you can’t have a church like that. (repeat)
Unless a church has people determined to be involved with each other – you don’t have a church, you just have a building. Unless a church is determined to love each other, encourage each other, accept each other, be devoted to each other… etc. - you haven’t got a church. All you’ve got is a façade.
ILLUS: If you were to visit one of those movie sets where they filmed the old Westerns something would probably disappoint you. Most of the store fronts along the street were just that – fronts. There were no buildings behind the front wall of the dry goods store, or the sheriff’s office. In behind, there were long wooden braces holding the façade (or front) of the building in place. It looked nice on the outside, but behind the scene it was nothing but emptiness.
Likewise, a congregation that doesn’t work at having fellowship, that doesn’t practice “one anothering,” is a façade. Perhaps very attractive on the outside, but disappointingly empty inside.
ILLUS: John Bisagno tells of candidating for a small church located in downtown Houston, TX. He said that when he walked in, he was met by a few people in a dimly lit sanctuary. During their worship service, the songs they sang were like funeral dirges and the whole atmosphere was a depressing experience.
Now, later that day, he was walking around the downtown district of Houston and he saw that a jewelry store was having a grand opening. He went in and was met by a bright and cheerful atmosphere. They were playing upbeat and happy music, there were friendly and enthusiastic people greeting him. They offered him some punch to drink and showed him around the store.