One of my favorite “empty phrases” that I hear Christians say is, “You need to go to church!” Well, what is “church?” So often, we associate “church” with the one hour worship service that we attend on Sunday morning or we quite often are referring to the building itself. But what is “church?” What was is its original intention? Why do we go? Why DON’T we go? These questions are some that I recently posed to my high school students.
I started by asking them what words or phrases came to mind when they heard the word “church.” Here are some of their responses:
House of God, people, place of worship, communion, redemption, baptism, faith, music, weddings, funerals, Christmas, holidays, family, pastors, Bible, Bible studies, youth group, home, love
These are all pretty good answers. My next question was pretty pointed. I asked them, “Do you think we have a growing and vibrant church?” A loaded question for sure, but my kids are well trained to know I don’t necessarily pull any punches, nor do I expect a traditional “Sunday School” answer to my questions. After a few seconds of awkwardness, a few students responded “no” or “not really.” You could feel the tension in the room. Had they just admitted something negative about our church?!?! If we’re all honest with ourselves, our churches/ministries probably are not growing at the rate that they could be and there’s always more that we could be doing. I told them, “What if someone had the blueprint for a vibrant growing ministry? Would you want to use it?” As most people would, they responded that they would love to. I told them to open their Bibles to Acts 2:42-47.
“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.”
I’ll ask you the same question I posed to the students: Do these verses describe our/your church?
If we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll probably say “no.” So does that mean we have to return our churches to the time before electricity and live our lives like people did in 33 AD? No, but there is a lot that we can take away from these verses that we can apply to our ministries.
When you break it down, these verses bring out six different points: Teaching, Fellowship, Prayer, Forgiveness, Meals, and Worship.
If you attend a church, you probably get the teaching and worship portion, but for those that don’t attend a church on a regular basis and think that “by golfing on a Sunday morning, I am spending time in God’s creation,” you are missing out on the important aspect of fellowship.
In your personal life, are you offering forgiveness to those around you and do you spend time in prayer every day? These are not only things you should do privately, but also with the community of believers. When you pray together and forgive each other, you grow in your faith as a group. You are lifting each other up as opposed to bringing each other down. You are invested in the lives of those around you, and your faith grows exponentially. You are able to share your successes and your shortfalls with each other and create an environment that puts God first.
When it comes to meals, are you eating together on a regular basis? Some of the best moments in our youth ministry happen when we take the kids out for wings and burgers after youth group. Conversations get stirred up. News, both positive and negative, gets shared. Community is built. If you look back at Jesus’ ministry, some of the most impactful ministry events happened over meals. It’s no different in 2017. Eating a meal together can leave a lasting impression with someone.
Teaching, Fellowship, Prayer, Forgiveness, Meals, and Worship. Do our ministries and churches reflect and encourage these elements? Is “church” a place where believers come together to grow in the knowledge of Christ, or is it just a building?
As a youth ministry, each week we are finding more ways to look like the Acts 2 church. We have been finding that the more we mirror these verses, the more new students are being drawn to the group. Who would have thought?