Focus of Faith

Sep 29th, 2013 | By | Category: Spotlight, Sunday Sermon
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Church is more than a place, a building, a service, a fellowship, or sense of connection to a more expansive body of believers.

Church is more than a place, a building, a service, a fellowship, or sense of connection to a more expansive body of believers.

Worship a Worthy God

This past weekend, like almost every Sunday on my calendar for the past twenty-five-plus years, I was in the midst of the one place (other than my own home) where I never tire of being found: my local church body. Being at church is more than visiting a certain place for a specific amount of time. Though the use of the reference to “church” includes a place and a time, church is more than just a place. Our home church is housed in a particular building and a specific location in town, but that was not always the case. For the first five years our family attended Discovery, we met as a church in a public school facility. Church refers to a building, but its meaning refers to more than a mere structure.

On this particular Sunday, as in Sundays past, there was a particular order and structure to activities at church. Children in fifth grade and under attended Sunday School (toddlers and infants are supervised in childcare), middle-schoolers attended a special class for their age group, and high school students and adults attended “big church” in the sanctuary. Big church generally consists of a service containing music during worship, a greeting, prayer, more music, communion meditation, prayer, a sermon, a chorus of response, announcements, offering, a closing song, and a final word from the pastor. All of this happens three times each Sunday during about seventy minutes each service. And that is the business of church, and not all that is contained in the matter of attending church.

Church is also a time of fellowship where believers, seekers, and some non-believers gather together for a specific purpose: to hear the Word of God, grasp biblical concepts in application to our lives, have questions answered, and to respond to the call of the message in whatever way the Spirit may move. Some folks hear a calling on their lives to change their behavior or attitude. Many are moved to help someone else in need. Others receive spiritual nourishment, just like replenishing their physical bodies by eating a nutritious meal with family and friends. A few sense the call of God upon their hearts to move from inaction to action in response to the gospel message of salvation, redemption, atonement, and grace—to confess their sins and proclaim Jesus as their Lord and Savior—to dedicate or rededicate themselves to following God. And there are those who are drawn to move closer to God through baptism, study, service, or ministry. Fellowship, then, describes church in a greater sense of what takes place each week; but church is still more than that.

Every weekend, most often on Sunday, sometimes on Saturday (and for some churches during a specific weekday), Christian church is held all over the United States and throughout many parts of the world. Believers of diverse cultures and languages, denominations, ethnicity, and practice meet in their respective church bodies to honor God through the universal church body, that is, the Body of Christ. Connected by faith in Jesus Christ through the love, grace, and mercy of God, congregations great and small meet at a place called “church”, in a manner of church, as a church body, and through the divine practices of church observances in order to participate in the one thing that distinctly defines the purpose of gathering at church: to engage in Corporate Worship.

While it is true that a believer can opt to worship God in any place or circumstance individually, or in a small group setting, generally speaking, nothing quite compares with the assembly of Christian believers in a single locality for the purpose of worshiping God corporately. Church, in this respect, is more than a place, a building, a service, a fellowship, or a sense of connection to a more expansive body of believers by virtue of agreement in a commonly-held belief. Church ultimately is the worship (focus of faith) upon the only One worthy of receiving it. And through the natural expression of belief in worship, God supernaturally meets with His entire church through the Body of Christ.

Worship is more than the acknowledgement of something beyond our understanding. It is the genuine trust and belief in a specific and authenticated (by witness testimony in Scripture) Spirit Being, who calls Himself God, who is LORD over all, who created the natural world, and who rejects all other lower beings claiming godhood therein, as well as any would-be contenders in the spirit realm. Scripture reveals this One, who calls Himself “I AM”, who by virtue of His very creative nature, draws all creation to Himself in relationship through worship, and is pleased by it.

The very good news is, as long as one remains alive on Earth, God’s unconditional love remains an open door for the repentant sinner. God is in the business of reconciling sinners to Himself through Christ. The universal Christian church belongs to God and was His idea from the beginning. God longs for a relationship with His created children and has provided a means and a place to fulfill this desire. His church is a place of refuge for those whose lives have been shattered and shipwrecked; whose paths have wandered into despair and darkness; whose falsehoods and fallacies about God have been overturned; whose hopes and hearts have been restored; whose lives and liberties have been renewed; whose sins and shortcomings have been forgiven, all because of Jesus’ suffering. And all because God loves them and you.

Worship of God is promising, passionate, pervasive, positive, and prayerful. It is earth-shattering, enthusiastic, enlightening, effervescent, and earnest. God asks us through the act of worship to be obedient, objective, obliging, open-hearted, and observant. Standing, sitting, or kneeling; singing or dancing; hands raised, clapping, or clasped in prayer; silent, soft, or shouting; crying or laughing; in reverence and reverie—God invests the praises (worship) of His people and is faithful to engage those assembled in His Presence. It is the most intimate act a believer can engage in before God. And in that intimacy, God draws the believer closer than naturally possible; in fact, it is a supernatural experience!

Some may say that believing in a God who cannot be seen is foolishness. I would argue that there have been a good many people who worship things that can be seen that are absolutely worthless. Perhaps I cannot see God face-to-face in the natural world. Still, there are certainly many observable things in the universe, the natural world, the animal kingdom, and within the human body that point to an indisputable semblance of order, design, purpose, and function that run contrary to godless, man-made theories and skeptical explanations.

The true focus of faith is worship. Worship is how believers learn to relate to a supernatural God through a natural expression of gratitude, exultation, and reverence. What or whom do you worship? That is the question that really matters to God in eternity. Life is too short to end up worshiping something (other than God) that cannot save your soul. Jesus offers you a window of opportunity to meet God on His terms through prayer and worship. All that you need is a little faith.

Church is a great place to worship a worthy God. May God be pleased to find you faithfully searching for Him now and for the rest of your days.

(copyright 2013, Gregory Allen Doyle)

 

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2 Comments to “Focus of Faith”

  1. Gadfly says:

    Dear Pookie,

    When I joined the Army as a teenager, I began a spiritual odyssey in search of God and the right church. I visited several different churches from Pentecostal to Jehovah Witness, having already experienced the Church of the Nazarene and Baptists as a younger boy. I saw merits in some fellowships and a departure from Scripture in others. Quite frankly, some churches scared the hell out of me. But that did not discourage me from seeking God or a church fellowship that I felt at home in. I was convinced that the longer I looked, the more likely I was to find the right fellowship.

    My first word of encouragement to you is this: Don’t lose heart. It was not until I was 30 and more settled in my neighborhood and job that I found the church in which I have been a member for over 25 years. It began with an invitation from a neighbor. Then I heard the music and it agreed with my hunger for God. And the preacher taught directly from the Bible. His sermon spoke to me in such a clear way that I thought he had been following me around with a video camera all the week prior. In other words, the message spoke directly into my life. That was when I knew I had found a great church home.

    I am confident you will find what you are seeking as long as you continue to ask God for guidance. My other word of encouragement regarding church is the matter of service. Once you find the right place, volunteer to serve. Part of belonging to the Body of Christ is being the hands and feet of His ministry in Christ’s command to “love your neighbor as yourself.” Serving at church will open up new friendships to you and a support system, as well as avenues of awareness for the needs of others. Being in God’s service will give you a deeper sense of fulfillment and greater purpose in your walk.

    Thank you, Pookie, for sharing your experiences and concerns. I hope this response has been helpful to you and others who stop by.

    May God find you seeking Him today.

  2. PookieB says:

    I believe being with like-minded people who want to better themselves is ideal. Once you’ve been touched by God this fact becomes so obvious and necessary. But church gives me anxiety, makes me feel judged, and generally uneasy. I realize a lot of this is just me. However, it is based on experiences too. What do you suggest for people like me? One church I attended, for the first and last time, passed out pie charts that broke down dues. It felt wrong. Prior to that, it was lovely. Singing praise was joyous and uplifting. But my feelings about church in general are hard to ignore. I suppose this is fear based, in addition to being wimpy! So what do you suggest? Have you ever dealt with these feelings before?
    Pookie