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Summary: Myth: All I need is Church.

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Intro

As our oldest son is in his Junior year of High School....we have begun our first initiation into the process at looking at colleges. (Joke: I've set up a special offering bucket in the back.)

In that process I took a look at the growing mass of online educational programs. I discovered that they have their share of criticism. With a little thought I suppose we can imagine the limitations...why some can do well in such programs...and some not. What might be a limiting factor? (It requires an unusual amount of self initiative...and it tends to be more limited to learning the facts... without as much practical process and application.)

> There are similarities to our process of spiritual growth. We can do it online...but without some real community sharing in the process.... it's limited to our own moods...and tends to be more removed from the qualities of real relationship.

> That is why there is something so significant about gathering together weekly as we do.

As we focused on last week... God has designed us to be individuals always connected to others. We are individuals but never just individuals... we are always bound with others...never absolutely autonomous or self-existent.

We are connected by the common grace of God. We need each other's perspective and influence. We grow through an interdependence on each other's gifts and roles.

Together we share a new life. As we read last week...

1 Corinthians 12:27 (CEV)

"Together you are the body of Christ. Each one of you is part of his body."

We find life together. In fact... studies have found that those who gather most regularly in community worship ...are happier, healthier and live longer.

Recently, the New York Times had an article on "The Benefits of Church" that stated [1]

"ONE of the most striking scientific discoveries ... in recent years is that going to church weekly is good for you. Religious attendance boosts the immune system and decreases blood pressure. It may add as much as two to three years to your life."

Another report stated:

"Not only do Americans who attend a church... report having higher wellbeing in general, but they also get an extra boost to their emotional state on Sundays -- while the rest of Americans see a decline in their mood."

So last week we engaged the myth: 'I don't need church.' But today we're engaging another myth...

MYTH: All I Need Is Church

This might be expressed in similar ways such as:

Going to Church makes Me a Christian.

If I go to church I'll be a strong Christian.

If I go to church I should be growing in my spiritual maturity.

..or perhaps the more negative outworking of such assumption...

If I'm not growing I need to go find a new church.

What all these ideas have in common is the idea that church is something we go to...and that going to 'it' is the essence of what it means to be a Christian...or to grow spiritually.

The great disconnect we have been trying to face is our tendency to equate our gatherings as being the church. As we have been trying to realize, 'We don't go to church. We are the church.'

When we reduce church to a place or event... we divide our lives into pieces.

We divide Sunday from Monday... worship from work...spiritual life from secular life.

What is the church?

When Jesus spoke of what gets translated as "church" he used a Greek word "ekklesia" which is more often translated as "assembly." Naturally it has led to easily thinking of a Sunday gathering in a modern church building. However, it was most commonly used as a political term... as an assembly of those who represent a certain political body. He was not simply referring to any literal gathering but of those called out from the rule of this world to that of the reign of God. [2] So we can think of the church more in this light:

The church is the calling out of live from the reign and rule of this world to that God's Kingdom ruled by Christ. As such, the gatherings identified as reflections of such a “church” are centered in Christ's calling...but do not necessarily define where any individual is in that calling.

The gatherings associated with the “church” serve as a partner not a provider of spiritual life.

We can think of the qualities we gather around.

The church is a people who enter the life Jesus made possible, a life that includes,

• new liberating rule of Christ (over the powers that have ruled us)

• new grace (reconciliation with God through Christ),

• new identity ("born again" as "children of God".. with a "new self")

• new mission (to be those "sent" as "the light of the world" revealing the "kingdom of God"), and

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