Summary: Church is not a place we go. Church is who we are.
Let me begin with a question. I won’t ask you to raise your hand or answer out loud because my purpose is not to embarrass anyone. I just want to make us all think a little bit. Here’s my question:
Why are you here this morning? Just think about that for a moment and answer that question honestly to yourself. Why are you here this morning?
This week I read a really good article by David Fitch titled “6 Reasons Not To Go To Church”. Perhaps as I share this list, you would honestly have to say that you’re here today for one or more of those reasons. Let me go through them quickly:
1. Out of duty/obligation. While spiritual disciplines are important in our growth they too often become duties that are devoid of life.
2. This is what it means to be a Christian. Being a follower of Jesus is far more than what happens during this hour or so each week.
3. To get my needs met. As Fitch correctly points out, if you think some problem is going to be solved or some need met by “going to church”, you are setting yourself up for disappointment.
4. To feel good/to get inspired. While that may often be the result of our time together, our relationship with God needs to transcend our feelings and emotions.
5. To perform. This tendency isn’t necessarily limited to me or the worship team. Anything we do to get noticed or get accolades from others is really just a performance.
6. To get something from the expert. While I don’t consider myself to be an expert, am certain that God has called me to preach His Word and He has gifted me to be able to do that. However, real spiritual development comes from responding to and working out the implications of God’s Word within the body of Christ, not just from getting information from a sermon.
I would agree that those are some bad reasons to go to church. But the main point I want to make this morning is that you shouldn’t “go to church” at all. Now before you all agree with me and get up and leave, let me explain what I mean by that.
Church is not a place we go. Church is who we are.
As we explained in our New Members’ Class yesterday, the word church always refers to “called out” people, never to a building or and organization. So a church is really not a place you can go.
And I think that is the message that we’ve been exposed to in the book of Nehemiah for several weeks now. As I was thinking this week about our journey through that book so far, I was struck by the thought that even though the gathering of the community there in Jerusalem for the purpose of corporate worship was relatively short compared to the time required to rebuild the wall, Nehemiah devotes a disproportionately large part of his book to that gathering.
So I think it’s fair to conclude that the gathering of the people for the purpose of corporate worship was indeed significant. And as we read through that section I never get the feeling the people “went to church”. But I think I can make a good case that they were being the church.
This morning we’ll wrap up our study of that section that began back in chapter 8, by looking at chapters 11 and 12. Since this is another section with several long lists of names, I’m not going to attempt to read those 2 chapters in their entirety. But I’m going to ask you to have your Bibles handy and open to those 2 chapters so you can follow along as we focus on several passages in that section.
While you turn to Nehemiah 11, let’s briefly review what has occurred so far as the people gathered to worship.
• In chapter 8, Ezra read the Book of the Law of Moses. The people responded to God’s word with physical acts of worship like raising their hands, bowing down and shouting “amen”. When they became aware of God’s commands regarding the Feast of Booths, they immediately made preparations and celebrated the Feast.
• In chapter 9, the people began the process of repentance by confessing the sins that had been revealed to them in God’s Word.
• In chapter 10, the people completed the process of repentance by making a covenant to live their lives according to God’s Word.
In chapters 11 and 12 we’re going to look at six essential elements of corporate worship. My prayer is that we’ll be committed to making sure that both individually and as a body we do whatever we need to do to make sure our corporate worship is characterized by these elements.