Congregational Worship and COVID-19

Virtual worship: Should you live stream, do a podcast, or send an ...

Congregational Worship and COVID-19

By Joe R. Price

“The more things change, the more they stay the same.” So the saying goes. Indeed, there is nothing new under the sun (Eccl. 1:9).

The present COVID-19 pandemic reminds us of valuable spiritual lessons we may have taken for granted until this moment of crisis. For instance, God, in His providence, continues to furnish our needs so that our faith does not turn into anxiety (Matt. 6:24-34). Also, while we have free will with its choices and consequences, we still live under the unexpected reality of “time and chance” (Eccl. 9:11-12). Such times warn us to turn to God with all our heart (Joel 2:12-14). And, we call to mind that “Thy will be done” must be our north star as we navigate life (Jas. 4:13-17).

Even as 9-11 brought new travel screenings and requirements, this event is likely to produce its share of social changes as we move beyond the temporary “stay at home” orders. Social or physical distancing may continue to impact going to large crowd events, restaurants, doctor’s offices, etc. Education continues to be affected. Sure, online study courses have been around for a long time. Now, online learning has increased to accommodate the stay at home orders prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction (Chris Reykdal) recently said to expect distance learning to be in place “for quite a long time” (“State schools chief: Expect to use distance learning ‘for quite a long time,’” James Drew, The Bellingham Herald, April 6, 2020). Restaurants are introducing no-touch food delivery systems to prevent food contamination. Tele-med services are on the increase and may become a more standardized way of visiting doctors in the future. These are just some of the innovations and changes happening as we pass through this temporary crisis.

The COVID-19 crisis is also affecting churches of Christ. Many have temporarily rearranged or canceled worship assemblies. Online Bible classes have multiplied to fill this space. Each congregation is making these temporary decisions for the safety of its members (much as they do when extreme weather prevents safe passage to its place of assembly).

The COVID-19 pandemic has seen a surge of internet activity among brethren. Most congregations have been providing online sermons, Bible study, and teaching material on their websites for years. During this time, many brethren have turned to additional online methods of communication like Facetime, Skype, Messenger, and internet conferencing services like Zoom to facilitate teaching God’s word.

Perhaps it will be helpful to review the meaning of “virtual” within the context of the internet and computer world. Virtual is defined as:

“being something in essence or effect, though not actually or in fact” is from mid-15c., probably via sense of “capable of producing a certain effect” (early 15c.). Computer sense of “not physically existing but made to appear by software” is attested from 1959” (Online Etymology Dictionary).

The Concise Oxford English Dictionary says of virtual computing, “not physically existing as such but made by software to appear to do so.”  It also notes that to “virtualize” is to “convert to a computer-generated simulation of reality” (Ibid).

Merriam-Webster corroborates the definition of virtual as “being on or simulated on a computer or computer network…occurring or existing primarily online… of, relating to, or existing within a virtual reality” (merriam-webster.com).

By definition, the virtual world is simulated; it does not physically exist. It is not an actual world. The internet is a medium (a network) by which we communicate through computer-generated codes (and many things that go way over my head)! But I do know this: I have not changed my location when I am online. I am at my keyboard in front of a monitor (or using a smartphone or some other internet device). I am in virtual reality (the virtual world), but I am actually (really) still in a physical or material location.

That said, our purpose here is to issue a gentle warning to avoid letting the temporary become the norm. Just as our country and the world must return to regular activities, so also must local churches. As the virtual world becomes more and more useful and used, we should be careful not to change the nature of the local church of Christ as we use the bandwidth of cyberspace.

In other words, we must not take Bible authority for granted as we used the internet. Even in the virtual world, we must have Bible authority for whatever we say and do (Col.. 3:17).

The Bible is a book of patterns to which we must conform and hold fast (2 Tim. 1:13; Phil. 3:17; 4:9; 2 Thess. 2:15). By doing so, we obey the commands of Christ’s apostles (2 Thess. 3:4; 1 Cor. 11:1).

Holding fast to Bible patterns is another way of referring to having and applying Bible authority (God’s authority). Just as God told Moses to build the tabernacle and its furnishings “according to the pattern” shown him on Mt. Sinai, we are charged not to alter the gospel of Christ (Heb. 8:5; Gal. 1:6-9).

When we follow God’s word, we will hold fast to the pattern of work for the local church that He approves and blesses. For example, God commanded King Saul to utterly destroy the Amalekites as God’s act of just punishment for their sins against Israel (1 Sam. 15:1-3). God regarded Saul’s failure to follow His revealed will (His pattern) as disobedience and rebellion (1 Sam. 15:9-11, 22-23). Saul changed the nature of his conduct into rebellion when he failed to follow God’s pattern. As a result, God rejected Saul as king.

The New Testament pattern for the work of the local church is spiritual. The local church’s work is evangelism, edification, and benevolence to needy Christians (cf. Acts 2:42-46; 4:32-35; 6:1-7; 1 Thess. 1:8; et al.). When we change the pattern of work for the local church, we have changed the nature of that work into disobedient rebellion against God. Surely, God is no more pleased with us when we change His pattern of work for the local church as He was with Saul when he did not follow God’s command.

When we follow God’s word, we hold fast to the pattern of worship for the local church that He approves and blesses. For example, the fire Nadab and Abihu offered God was “strange” because God “had not commanded it” (Lev. 10:1). They changed (corrupted) the nature of worship when they offered unauthorized fire. Their worship became “strange” (profane, foreign) and unacceptable to God.

The New Testament reveals a pattern for the worship of the local churchLocal churches assembled to pray, to sing, to eat the Lord’s Supper, to give as they have prospered, and to hear the word of God (Acts 2:42; 20:7; 1 Cor. 14:15; Eph. 5:19; 1 Cor. 16:2). When we change the pattern of worship for the local church, we have changed the nature of that worship into “strange fire” that God has not commanded. Surely, God is no more pleased with us when we change His pattern of worship as He was with Nadab and Abihu when they changed the fire He commanded.

When we follow God’s word, we hold fast to the pattern of congregational worship that He approves and blesses. Each Christian is responsible for his or her worship. And, God has provided the congregational arrangement for us to express our individual worship responsibilities. For example, the church at Corinth came “together…as a church…in one place…to eat the Lord’s Supper” (1 Cor. 11:17, 18, 20). (Unfortunately, their worship became corrupted, which the apostle addressed.) Each Christian was to eat the Supper while gathered together (1 Cor. 11:23-34). The Lord arranged the assembling of ourselves together as a feature of regular worship (Heb. 10:24-25; 1 Cor. 14:23, 26; Acts 20:7). And so, when we come together as a church in one place, we are following the New Testament pattern of congregational worship.

During this period of temporary suspension of worship assemblies, we should realize we are not attempting to reconstitute the congregational worship assembly when we arrange a virtual Bible study online. We are individuals in different places, not in one place, communicating via the internet. The internet is no more an actual “place” we gather any more than the old telephone party line was an actual place we met. Both the party line and an internet conference call are forms of communication individuals use at the same time when they are in different places. We may indeed “meet” on the phone or online to converse, but we are not in “one place.” When we “come together to eat,” it is contrasted with and different from activities done “at home” (1 Cor. 11:33-34).

God’s pattern reveals some acts of worship are designed exclusively for when the church comes together in one place. The Lord’s Supper and the weekly contribution are of this nature (1 Cor. 11:17-22, 33-34; 16:2). Other acts of worship (singing, praying, and listening to the God word) are included in, but not limited to, a congregational context (Jas. 5:13-16; Acts 20:20).

We understand and practice this when a Christian is sick and unable to attend the worship assembly. We do not take the Lord’s Supper to them, because the word of God places the Supper in the assembly of the local church. We do not take the collection plate to the sick Christian, either…

Let us remember that honorable intentions do not equate to God’s approval (Bible authority). There was a time when many Christians would take the Lord’s Supper to brethren who were shut-in in nursing homes. Though well-intended, this practice overlooks the congregational arrangement for the Supper. And, perhaps unwittingly, it reflected an undue elevation of the Supper to a near sacramental status as the most essential part of worship.

Just here, it helps us to recall King Saul’s impatient disobedience in 1 Samuel 13. When Samuel did not arrive at Gilgal in the time expected, Saul went ahead and offered a burnt offering. When Samuel came and questioned Saul, he replied by describing the circumstances he faced, then explained, “Therefore I FELT compelled, and offered a burnt offering” (1 Sam. 13:11-12). But in truth, what Saul did (however good his intentions) was foolish disobedience (1 Sam. 13:13).

Good intentions do not equal Bible authority and God’s approval. In our zeal to actively maintain a connection with our brethren through online Bible studies and prayers while going through the temporary suspension of our assemblies, let us be careful that we do not change the nature of God’s pattern of congregational worship.

After this current situation passes, it will still be a violation of God’s word to forsake the assembling of ourselves together. Arranging a virtual worship service at the lake (or at home) instead of coming together as a church will not suffice (Heb. 10:24-25). If this is incorrect, then let us simply abandon the actual assembling of ourselves and transition to virtual assembling and virtual congregational worship. Or, if there is no distinction, then let us provide a “tradition” worship assembly (so as not to offend the older, more traditional brethren), and also arrange a “virtual” worship assembly (for those who are more comfortable with a new reality). But, to do these things changes the nature of the worship assembly. When we change the nature of congregational worship from actual to virtual, it amounts to offering God “strange fire” that He has not commanded.

Please understand, we are not charging anyone with deliberately and willfully changing the nature of worship. Not at all. By all means, we are thrilled to see many Christians having online Bible studies and sharing video sermons to spread the gospel and edify the saints. There is a needed place for such worthy endeavors. As we do so, may we be cautious and not allow our temporary, virtual practice to redefine (or replace) the actual practice of congregational worship.

We pray for a swift reversal of this present crisis, for the sake of saving lives and so that Christians may soon come together in one place for the congregational worship God designed (Heb. 10:24-25).

 

http://www.bibleanswer.com/2020_Vol_22_No_14_12Apr.htm#Congregational

 

What is WORSHIP on the 1st day of the week?

 

WORSHIP on the Lord’s Day is on the 1st day of the week when the saints gather together.

2 Types of worship.

  • Daily Glorification of God in our godliness. Cr. Acts 16:25
  • 1st Day of the week with 3 unique things.
    • Lord’s Supper. 1Cor 11:17-33; Acts 20:7
    • Contribution. 1Cor 16:1-2
    • Gathered Together in one place. 1Cor 11:17,18,20,33

ONE Another is together. 1Cor 11:17-33; Acts 20:7; Heb 10:25; Eph 5:19; Col 3:16

REQUIRED of God. John 4:24, Heb 10:24-25 (with exception to CRISIS)

  • Control is not yours. Paul in custody Acts 27
  • Real, not made up. ‘my ox fell in the ditch.’ Who pushed it in?
    • Lu 14:5 And answered them, saying, Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, and will not straightway pull him out on the sabbath day?
    • Ex 23:5; De 22:4; Lu 13:15
  • Illness, Lev 13:46 outside of the camp.
  • Storms & other dangerous events
  • Infectious, Lepers.
    • Lev 13:45-46 face covered.
  • Sometimes, not habitual or customary
    • Heb 10:25 manner of some

SUPPER of the Lord has 2 elements [Exo 12; Luke 22:14-21 & a few conditions [tarry for one another 1Cor 11:33]. 1st Day, together, Spirit & Truth.

  • How do you forsake assembling of ourselves together if it’s incidental? Heb 10:25
  • How do we sing to one another? Eph 5:19, Col 3:16
  • How do we tarry for one another? 1Cor 10:33

HAVE no fear, some say. Does being fearless also include being reckless? Consider Paul who was not afraid to die, but avoided death on a few occasions. [Acts 9:23-25, 21:13; 23:11-22]

  • “God’s in Control” & “If it’s my time to die…”
  • Then play with rattlesnakes in the freeway.
  • “don’t tempt God.” EXACTLY! Don’t tempt God by being reckless. If you wish to be reckless, do it for yourself!

INDIVIDUALLY together. We come together, but God examines each heart individually. cf. Rev 3:4; Heb 4:12

PLEASING to God has to first be authorized. Gal 1:10; Mark 7:7; Phil 3:19; Col 2:23. 2Sam 7:1-7

It’s not necessarily Pleasing to God when it just feels good in our heart.

 

CLOSE; 1Cor 1:10 Paul Pleading with a divided church.

Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.

Watch video here.

4 Keys to an Exciting Worship

 

You’ve heard it before, people saying, ‘church is boring.’ Some have even said, ‘I didn’t get anything out of the worship.’ This is one of the main criticisms of the church of Christ is that it’s too boring.

One visitor said, “this isn’t for me.” Another person said, “I’m not drawn to God by the bands, the food and the entertainment, but I would never go to church without them.” More frequently you’ll find folks comparing amenities between ‘churches’ like they choose options when buying a car.

Perhaps you’ve had similar thoughts. There are a variety of reasons people give as to why

their attendance drops off. The preacher is boring, the singing is flat, the building is ugly, the people are cold & unfriendly.

Allow me to make a bold statement, none of these are the reason. You and you alone are the reason worship is boring!

I’ll prove it to you by showing you the 4 keys to VAIN worship and the remedies for making worship exciting.

The 1st reason some find worship boring is they don’t like the old ways. It’s not in VOGUE with today’s music & styles. They’ll also be critical of the building, the pews & any number of things that appear old fashioned.

REMEDY #1; Remember that worship is ordered by God our creator. [John 4:24]. When we stylize worship to our taste buds, we become guilty of worshiping our bellies or our own selves.

Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.” [Phil 3:19; cr Col 2:23]

We must do all in the name of Jesus, that means by His permission. We worship the way we do by the scriptural authority of Jesus, the one who purchased the church with His own blood. Remember that, and you’ll instantly see a boost in your excitement.

Reason #2 some find worship cold & boring is that they impugn others motives. They act as mind readers which is impossible. Communication is difficult under the best of circumstances and nearly impossible when you make up thoughts others are having and ATTACK them mentally. Are you not being judgmental yourself?

REMEDY #2; Leave the mind & heart reading to God. We’re not good at it. All we can do is go by their actions & words. Instead of thinking poorly about one another, we’re allowed to think loving thoughts.

“(Love)…thinks no evil;” [1Cor 13:5b]

Reason #3 that folks give is that the people are unfriendly. Really? Let’s see how the typical person enters the building. They come in and walk IMMEDIATELY to a rear pew, on the outside edge speaking to no one as they enter. Then they hold court as if on a “throne” expecting the rest of the congregation to come to them for a greeting. And you’re calling the rest of us cold?! It reminds me of the Pharisees; “Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces.” [Luke 11:43]

REMEDY #3; Here are 5 simple tricks you can do to instantly feel welcome while making others feel welcome also; SMILE.

  • Stand up, don’t race to sit down.
  • Make eye contact with us. You’re allowed to say hello.
  • Interest in others is a gift you give another.
  • Listen to them & they will listen to you.
  • Expect that others will like you instead of assuming otherwise.

Reason #4 some dislike worship, is that they’re NEEDY.  Needy people sound like this, “I didn’t get anything out of the worship.” What if everybody thought that way, where would the giving be?

REMEDY #4; We need to be NEEDY to give. Jesus said it’s more blessed to give. Worship is designed for givers.

  • Give teaching in song. Eph 5:19, Col 3:16
  • Give of means for spreading gospel. 1Cor 16:1-2
  • Give edification. Eph 4:29-32
  • Give heart to God. Mat 22:37-39, Mark 7:7
  • Give attention to scripture & doctrine. 1Tim 4:13

If you take this in the heart it is given, you will INSTANTLY find more joy in the worship that God has designed.

I love you all.

—Spencer

HE IS ABLE TO DELIVER THEE

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An enormous golden statue was raised up in the land of Babylon, and King Nebuchadnezzar commanded that all the people should worship the image upon hearing the sounds of the “cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king hath set up: And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth shall the same hour be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.” [Dan 3:5-6]

At least 3 captive Jewish men ignored the command and were set to face the furnace for their faith. They were Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (their Israelite names), better known as, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego [Daniel 3:12]. Faithful men who refused to bow down to any image or person except God.

What’s interesting to me about this whole event are the words spoken by these young men as they faced the fiery furnace being given the chance to worship the image & live or stand fast & die.

O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.” [Daniel 3:16-18]

Here’s a summary of what they were saying…

  • We have no need to give you a new answer
  • Our God whom we serve
  • Is able to deliver us, and He will deliver us
  • But if not, (if God doesn’t deliver them)
  • Know this, we WILL NOT serve false gods, nor worship the golden image.

This is a remarkable response from these 3 young men to an all-powerful King. They understood that all Nebuchadnezzar could do was kill their body, but not their souls. [cf. Mt 10:28] In other words, never let fear override your faith.

There are 5 lessons we can learn from this simple example:

  • There is no amount of pain on earth sufficient enough to match the severity of hell.
  • There is no amount of worldly pleasure great enough to surpass the joy of heaven.
  • God is able to deliver us & reward us in this life, but if He doesn’t, don’t miss heaven over it.
  • Standing firm in your faith is going to make someone very angry, stand firm anyway.
  • Standing firm for your faith may change someone’s mind.

After they were thrown into the furnace with haste, God did deliver them, and Nebuchadnezzar became a changed man. Let’s read what happened. [Daniel 3:26-28]

Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the mouth of the burning fiery furnace, and spake, and said, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, ye servants of the most high God, come forth, and come hither. Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, came forth of the midst of the fire. And the princes, governors, and captains, and the king’s counsellors, being gathered together, saw these men, upon whose bodies the fire had no power, nor was an hair of their head singed, neither were their coats changed, nor the smell of fire had passed on them. Then Nebuchadnezzar spake, and said, Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who hath sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him, and have changed the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God.”

Today we face different challenges to our faith. However, the lessons of these faithful 3 can help us. Peter wrote about the suffering that Christians face and how we ought to respond.

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:” [1Pet 3:15]

You see, people see the confidence in our hope during the persecutions of Godly living and want to know why.

 

–spencer

Making the Best Choice!

“If you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

 

“Thus saith the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest? For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the LORD: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word. He that killeth an ox is as if he slew a man; he that sacrificeth a lamb, as if he cut off a dog’s neck; he that offereth an oblation, as if he offered swine’s blood; he that burneth incense, as if he blessed an idol. Yea, they have chosen their own ways, and their soul delighteth in their abominations. I also will choose their delusions, and will bring their fears upon them; because when I called, none did answer; when I spake, they did not hear: but they did evil before mine eyes, and chose that in which I delighted not.” Isaiah 66:10

God, speaking through the prophet Isaiah, was very angry with His people because of their poor choices. It wasn’t as if He hadn’t given them clear direction on making good choices. God gave them, and us, all that we need for life and godliness [2Peter 1:3]. Look at what He spoke to the children of Israel about repentance and turning back to Him.

DEUTERONOMY 30:1-20

1-10 God had given clear direction to the children of Israel before He brought them into the land. If they chose to obey His commands, He would have compassion on them, protect them from their enemies and give them prosperity.

11-14 He tells them that His commands are never too difficult, never too far away, but are accessible by all so that they can keep it.

15-20 Here He makes a contrast between the BEST CHOICE and the worst. To Love the Lord thy God is the BEST CHOICE, and to walk in His ways and to Keep His commandments, statutes and judgements. By this He gives a promise of blessing.

However, by making a BAD CHOICE, that is, to turn away from hearing His commands, to worship false gods, then He will DENOUNCE them, remove His protection and not allow them to keep the land.

In verses 19-20, He makes it clear about the two basic CHOICES. Life is to CHOOSE GOOD, which is serving Him, or CHOOSE BAD, which is death. Choosing wrong is a matter of life or death.

“Who is wise, and he shall understand these things? prudent, and he shall know them? for the ways of the LORD are right, and the just shall walk in them: but the transgressors shall fall therein.” [Hosea 14:9]

THESE 2 BASIC CHOICES ARE STILL BEFORE US. Peter said, “We ought to obey God rather than men” [Acts 5:29]. Jesus said, “If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour” [John 12:26]. Do you see the connection of God’s blessing to the one who follows?

These TWO BASIC CHOICES, following God or turning away from Him, are before us in all our day to day decision making…

  • The WORK we choose to earn our living. Eph 4:28
  • The FRIENDS we choose to keep. 1Cor 5:6; Gal 6:7-9
  • Our choice of SPOUSE. 1Corinthians 7
  • In how we choose to spend our MONEY. 1Timothy 6:17-19
  • In the way we WORSHIP God. John 4:24
  • By the way we choose to spend our TIME. Eph 5:16; Col 4:5

Don’t be confused, all this is to point out that we have free will. Just because we have choice doesn’t mean that God will accept that choice when we go against His commands. We can choose to ignore them, and when we do, we will pay the consequence of our BAD CHOICE.

God is not, as some suppose, a micro manager. He isn’t deciding whether you go to a specific place or another. He is letting you make those decisions. Those TWO BASIC CHOICES are ever before you. To do GOOD or to do BAD.

“And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.” [Colossians 3:17]

Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life [John 11:25; 14:6]. When He appears, this world of sin and doubt shall be dissolved. Since this is true, Peter asked, “what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness?” [2Peter 3:11]

“But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness. I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness. For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness. What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death. But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.” [Romans 6:17-22]

THAT’S NOT PUNNY!!

that’s punny

We all groan when somebody tells a pun. For example; Where is the first baseball game in the Bible? In the big inning. Eve stole first, Adam stole second. Cain struck out Abel. The Giants and the Angels were rained out.

Merriam-Webster defines pun as, “a joke exploiting the different possible meanings of a word or the fact that there are words that sound alike but have different meanings.”

Would it surprise you to know that some folks use bible puns to confuse and excuse sin? No, not the regular audience that reads this paper. It’s no joke, and it’s certainly not funny.

One of the most common ‘BIBLE PUNS’ is the word JUDGEMENT. When a person has a sin pointed out by another, who cares for them and wants them to go to heaven, they might tell this pun; “Judge not that ye be not judged.” Did you catch it? They switched the meaning of judge (to form an opinion or conclusion) with the meaning of judge (to condemn to death). To understand the difference, read these passages [Mat 7:1,2; 1Cor 6:1-5; 10:15; 14:29; 2Tim 4:1-8].

NOT FUNNY (PUNNY)

These kinds of Bible Puns aren’t very funny at all, as a matter of fact, they’re dangerous. Another common BIBLE PUN involves the word church and it goes something like this; “Quit bugging me about going to church, don’t you know that we are the church?”

Did you catch the switch on this one? They switched the scriptural idea and command of a local assembly of the church of Christ (going to church) with the also scriptural idea of the universal church of Christ (we are the church).

UNIVERSAL & LOCAL CHURCH OF CHRIST

Before we go on, it’s vital we understand the difference between the universal church of Christ and the local churches of Christ. [Rom 16:16]

God adds to the UNIVERSAL church, believing & obeying people [Acts 2:38-47]. This UNIVERSAL church includes every living Christian (CHRISTIAN is another pun the ridiculer tells, but that’s for another article). It also includes all the dead in Christ. “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:” [1Thess 4:16]. To be in Christ is to have ‘put on Christ’ in faithful baptism [cf. Gal 3:27]. John was told; Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth [Rev 14:13]. So, the UNIVERSAL CHURCH includes every Christian both alive and dead. Because the UNIVERSAL church of Christ includes both the living and the dead in Christ, we are never and can never activate the UNIVERSAL church for any work. All work is done by the LOCAL churches of Christ.

The LOCAL church of Christ is where the living Christians of a city or town assemble (church means assembly cf. Acts 19:32,39) as commanded by the Lord. [John 4:24; Acts 20:7; 1Cor 11:17-34; 16:1-2; Heb 10:25]. Saul of Tarsus had been added to the UNIVERSAL church of Christ when he obeyed the gospel [Acts 22:26] but had to join the LOCAL church of Christ with the aid of Barnabas. “And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join (kallao = to cleave, keep company) himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple” [Acts 9:26,27]. Then later, Barnabas brought Saul (later Paul) to Antioch and, “that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch” [Acts 11:26].

MORE THAN SEMANTICS

This bible pun is more than just a subtle distinction, it has a profound impact for 4 reasons.

  • As was pointed out it confuses the scriptural teachings about the church of Christ. [Mat 16:18]
  • It implies that a Christian has no command to assemble with the LOCAL church of Christ because they are a part of the UNIVERSAL church of Christ, which is a violation of God’s will. [John 4:24; Heb 10:25]
  • It condemns any who, out of love for another, tries to encourage them to worship with the saints. [Gal 4:16] (Ironically, it violates their own view of the ‘judge not’ bible pun.)
  • It lets everyone know that you’re unhappy with the church of Christ (His members and His doctrines 2John 1:9). No one ever says we’re perfect, we need help, and you are demonstrating to us all that you don’t want to help. [Gal 6:1-2]
LOVE THE BRETHREN

We ought and DO love one another, but we often fail to do it well. Christ said that our love for one another would be a demonstration of our discipleship [John 13:35]. Part of that love is to encourage one another for love and good works. And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works [Heb 10:24].

We’re not saying we’re perfect when we try to encourage one another to do better or to assemble. No, we’re poorly saying, “we need your help.” No, none of us is perfect. Part of the reason we assemble is to get better, and we need all the help we can get.

For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ [Eph 4:12-13]

I love you all.

Finding the Right Church

The following article is completely satirical…or is it?

8 Steps To Finding The Right Church
Statistics indicate that if you live near a major metropolitan area, there are literally three million churches in your neighborhood alone, making your choice of where to worship each Sunday that much more difficult.

Thankfully, the variety of churches also means there’s probably a church designed to your exact specifications and built from the ground up to cater specifically to you.

The Babylon Bee is here to help you whittle down the search with this checklist of essentials to look for in a potential church match, and hopefully get you plugged into a congregation sometime in the next decade or two.

1.) Anything less than hand-crafted pour-over coffee is a red flag. Jesus died for the church, and yet they’re only able to muster up an unevenly brewed pot of drip coffee? Puh-lease. This is an indication that they don’t care about the gospel.

2.) Make sure the worship band only plays the genre you like. If you’re into industrial metalcore and the band’s playing late-90s soft rock, it’s time to split. Remember what worship is really about: you and your modern sensibilities and preferences.

3.) If the preacher makes you feel uncomfortable, run. Preachers, above all else, should refrain from sounding preachy. If he starts calling you to self-examination and repentance, make the emergency signal to your spouse, go get the kids, and book it out of there to the nearest restaurant.

4.) Speaking of the preacher: if he doesn’t have at least 20,000 Twitter followers, you’re in the wrong place. You need a church that has a pastor who is not only well-known and cool, but who also specializes in short, sweet, entertaining messages. Look him up on Twitter and verify that he has at least 20,000 followers to confirm both of these attributes.

5.) The youth room must have a fully stocked video game arcade. We’re talking the classics: Galaga, Pac-Man, NBA Jam. This is a non-negotiable if you want your kids to grow up in a Christian environment they love and not walk away from the faith in college.

6.) Shop around for the church with the very best swag to give away. A free donut and complimentary coffee are really the bare minimum at this point. What you’re looking for is a church giving out free T-shirts, stickers, aluminum coffee mugs, carabiners, and those cool pens that can write in space. God gave us every spiritual blessing in Christ—the least the church can do is load up His people with some nice swag.

7.) Pick a church where everyone pretends to be happy. If anyone breaks down sobbing or insinuates that they need prayer for some sort of malady or ill fortune, everyone will understand if you excuse yourself to check out the other church down the road. You want a place where no one will burden you with their personal struggles. You don’t need that negativity in your life!

8.) Remember: it’s not you, it’s them. It helps to keep things in perspective: your specific perception of what a church should look like is probably correct, while their congregation is just jacked up if they don’t fit into that vision. Make sure to let them know this on a comment card or email to the pastor after you leave, so they’ll be edified by your brief presence.

There you have it. Now you have no excuse. Go find your perfect church and get plugged in!
http://babylonbee.com/news/8-steps-finding-right-church/

The Babylon Bee is a satirical website dedicated to mocking everyone. I am in no way promoting them. However, this “humor” hits so very close to what you may hear when you ask what folks are looking for in a church. As the “bee” mocks modern day denominationalism, modern day denominationalism mocks God. Every point of error in this article has been preached from this pulpit.

FOOD? What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the church of God? 1Corinthians 11:22

MUSIC? Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. Colossians 3:16

SERMONS? Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. 2Tim 4:2

PREACHERS? For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal? 1Corinthians 3:4

FUN / FROLIC? And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. Acts 2:42

WHAT’S IN IT FOR ME? the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. 1Timothy 3:15b

BEARING BURDENS? Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2

SELF DIRECTED WORSHIP? These things seem to have a sort of wisdom in self-ordered worship [BBE] Colossians 2:23

Getting Ready for Worship

One Sunday morning I woke up the 3 boys to get them ready for worship. They were quite a bit older at this point, so I just gave the one notification. I then went and got myself ready, had a cup of coffee, some breakfast and looked over my lesson.

I knew the boys weren’t getting ready, but today was lesson day. You see, we had been through this routine several hundred times since Diane and I became Christians. We had been attending Sunday morning worship “religiously” (pardon the expression) ever since.

Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. [Hebrews 10:25]

We had gotten into “the same thing happens every Sunday” routine. But today was lesson day, the day the boys would learn that we were going to worship NO MATTER WHAT. There was no alternative, no excuses, no other activities scheduled. This is what we do, had been doing and plan to continue to do for as long as it’s within our power to do. They weren’t ready for worship, and today was lesson day.

So, I went to the door, called to them and said, “I’m Leaving, and so are you!” Now there was some activity, a lot of it. You see, in our house, skipping worship just wasn’t an option. Oh sure, when one of us was legitimately sick we might miss a service, but not out of habit. If you were well, you went. So, we went. The 3 boys hustled to the car, “church clothes” in hand, unwashed, bed head and all. We arrived alive and on time with a curious look or two. We worshiped. Here’s the rest of the story; we were never unprepared for worship again, NEVER.

THEN I HEARD ABOUT THIS ONE FELLOW.

Years have since passed, the boys have grown up and moved out, and I heard another similar story of a family who was always struggling to make it to worship on time. This family had children too. This family had to hustle to get everyone together and moving in the right direction. Mom needed to get a roast on, Dad going over his bible lesson for he was leading a class that morning. The children were behind on memorizing their weekly bible verses. You know, the “same thing happens every Sunday” routine.

During one of the more hectic mornings, spilled milk, whiny children, stressed out dad and minutes before they HAD TO LEAVE, mom said, “don’t worry, we’ve got time. I set the clocks ahead 15 minutes because I knew this would happen.” Dad looked at her with disbelief and said, “I noticed the clocks were 15 minutes ahead, so I set them back to the right time.” Panic followed as the family piles into the minivan to race to be 10 minutes late for worship.

Upon their arrival, the parking lot was empty save the old sedan of one of the more senior members who was getting out of his car to walk to the building. They had no idea what was happening. They pulled up beside him and he says, “Hello, I see you’ve decided to get a head start on worship this morning.” Dad asks, “how is that, we thought we were 10 minutes late.” “Ha ha” the old man laughed, “you must have forgotten that today was the end of Daylight Saving Time and didn’t set your clock back 1 hour, YOUR 50 MINUTES EARLY!”

After the embarrassed chuckles dad asked, “But why are you hear so early?” The wise old man said, “I’m always here early to spend some quiet time in prayer to GET MYSELF READY FOR WORSHIP. Why don’t you join me?”

GETTING READY FOR WORSHIP

That phrase means something so much different than what it ought to mean. Getting ready for worship means, for most of us, we take a shower, get some nice clothes and fix our hair so we can be presentable to the brethren. But that’s not what God is looking at when we worship. When men are looking on the outer appearance, He is looking at the heart.

for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.” [1Samuel 16:17b]

Oh sure, there is a clothing that is appropriate for the worship, and we ought to get those things ready for worship. However, let us never be found guilty of not having our HEARTS ready for worship. Jesus said,

This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.” [Matthew 15:8]

Those hectic mornings do little to get our hearts ready for worship. Often, they lead to car fights. You know, the fight you have on the way someplace, that only verbally ends when you arrive. We can tell. We can see it in your faces. Oh, don’t worry, we have them too. All of us have at some point in our lives, and I hope we’re working on them.

Let us come to worship with HEARTS and body’s ready to worship. Do our bible lessons earlier in the week, lay out our clothes the night before or set an earlier alarm. As our brother Mike often says, “As Christians we know there’s no better place to be on a Sunday morning.”

Every NT Scripture authorizing Instrumental Music in the Worship

Years ago, as we were beginning our walk as children of God, we had a few ‘why’ questions. Why don’t we have crosses on the building? Why does everyone correct us when we say, “going to church?” One of the why questions was, “why do we sing Acapella music without instrumental accompaniment during worship?”

The gospel preacher at this congregation would always give us a bible answer to all our questions, but this time, the bible answer was so different than all the other answers he had given. He said, “I’m going to read to you every single passage in the Bible authorizing instrumental music in New Testament worship.” And he did.

The lesson was so powerful that I have used it myself when others have asked this question and I want to share it with you. The chart below lists every single passage in the Bible authorizing instrumental music in New Testament worship.

New Testament Scriptures Authorizing Instrumental Music in the Worship

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(this page left blank intentionally)

 

That’s it, every single passage. You may be saying, “but the chart is blank” and I would say, “yup, because that is what God has said about instrumental music in New Testament worship, NOTHING.”

Speak when the Bible speaks, and remain silent when it’s silent

There can be no clear instructions, no command keeping if we don’t have a respect for silence. “The bible doesn’t say I can’t” is NOT a valid reason to play an instrument during worship of God. If silence doesn’t restrict our actions, then we can’t get upset when Mcd’s gets our order wrong. All they need to say is, “you didn’t say we couldn’t.”

God The Holy Spirit told us what He wants in our worship regarding music, VOCAL. “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;” “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” [Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16]

When you tell your child to make his bed, and later you find out he made it and painted it, are you going to accept, “you didn’t say I couldn’t?” Certainly not! Why? Because what is expressly stated eliminates all other options and additions. Imaging trying to give instructions if you also must include all the things you DON’T WANT.

Some will say, “Well David used instruments to worship God.” Really, you’re going to follow an OT example? [Colossians 2:14] Are you going to also slaughter bulls and goats, because that’s what David did? Here’s a question for you, did God authorize David’s use of the instrument? David also had multiple wives, can I do that? What did God think of David’s use of the instrument? God rebuked His people in Amos 6:5 saying, “Who sing idly to the sound of stringed instruments, And invent for yourselves musical instruments like David;” It seems God was no more happy with David’s instrumental music than He was with the multiplying of wives [Acts 17:30], and you want to use that for permission? Let’s just do this, respect what God has commanded, and leave what He hasn’t said where He left it…SILENT.

I Can Worship Alone

We’ve all heard someone say, “I don’t need to go to church to worship God.” Or, “I worship God alone, because all organized religion is wrong anyway.” Others will say, “Our entire life is worship, so it doesn’t matter if I go to church or not.” Is there any truth in these statements?

For you to offer these folks better answers, below are 7 Reasons why Public worship is better…

  1. It’s Commanded. This should end the discussion, but in this day and age, the commands of our Lord are often ignored.

John 4:24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him MUST worship him in spirit and in truth.

Matthew 18:20 For where TWO or THREE are GATHERED TOGETHER in my name, there am I in the midst of them.

 

To do something “in the name of the Lord” is to do it by His command or with His permission. Doing whatever we want and attributing it to God is the sin of presumption [Deuteronomy 18:20, Acts 15:24].

  1. It’s what the 1st Century Christians did. One of the ways we understand the commands of our Lord is through the examples of the Apostles and the first Christians as revealed in the New Testament. They gathered on each 1st day of the week.

Acts 20:7 And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.

1Corinthians 11:20-34 When ye come together therefore into one place… [1Cor 16:1-2]

  1. The only time we are authorized to take the Lord’s Supper. Paul wrote to the Corinthian brethren about their perverting the Lord’s Supper. He reminded them of the command of the Lord on this matter.

1Corinthians 11:23-26 For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.

  1. We are strengthened when we come together. Paul warned the brethren that many are weak and dying because of failure to worship properly.

1Corinthians 11:29-30 For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.

  1. Not worshipping together is called “FORSAKING THE ASSEMBLING.” If private worship is acceptable, then there could not be a forsaking of an assembly.

Hebrews 10:25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

  1. We teach and admonish one another in public worship. One of the five acts of worship is to sing (A Capella) psalms, hymns and spiritual songs for the purpose of teaching each other. Your voice is needed.

Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

  1. Private, in lieu of public worship is vain worship. Any time we replace the command of our Lord with our own, our efforts become worthless. Jesus warned us to always do His will.

Matthew 7:21-23 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

When we’re sick, or circumstances beyond our control, prevent us from attending the local body of Christ, we have not sinned. It’s when we have opportunity and willfully choose to skip it, or replace it with a private worship that we have disobeyed the Lord.

One more thing…If we’ve failed to obey the gospel [2Thess 1:8-9] no amount of worship will help us. Worship is only acceptable when it’s done by the FAITHFUL and is AUTHORIZED. On the back panel of this bulletin answers the question, “What Must I Do to Be Saved?”

– Spencer