19 Therefore, my friends, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh), 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.Hebrews 10:19-25
Last week we began this sermon series where we are taking a look at the vow we take as members or disciples of our local church community.
We began by looking at PRAYER.
We discussed that when we make a commitment to pray, we commit to a deep relationship with God. Extending that out means we pray for the people and ministries of this congregation and extended community. We keep them in our hearts and minds at all times.
As a reminder, when we talk about this particular vow within our relationship to the entirety of our covenant, we think about how we are serving God through this local church community. This creates the concept that we are called to “faithfully participate in the ministries of the church.” The question we are answering in this series then is how do we do that?
Having explored the first manner of ministry participation, prayer, we now move on to the second manner this week:
“As members of this congregation, will you faithfully participate in its ministries by
The church is a community for a reason.
We gather TOGETHER as the church. Faith is an individual life, lived out in a community.
Our commitment to a church, any church, has a large basis in our presence. This is physically being somewhere and attentive to what is happening and active.
Last week in our focus on prayer, we talked about spiritual support by how we are praying for the local church. However, our commitment to church cannot and should not be maintained at such a personal level.
God created us to be with our local community of believers.
To commit our presence to the church means that we will be there, and be supportive. This means we are active; going to worship services, serving on committees, attending bible study, and all the sorts of other things that happen in the life of the church.
Community in Hebrews 10
When we engage with passages like the passage before us from Hebrews, we can seek enlightenment on community. We read:
“And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”Hebrews 10:24-25
These words are written in the midst of a section called, “A Call to Persevere.” This entire section goes from verses 19-39, and much of it can be summed up in this brief section. The author of Hebrews is attaching this manner of faith to this calling of community.
It boils down to the old adage “You can’t do this life alone.” When we neglect to gather together, to be present with one another, we forsake the nature of the community we have been called by God to be an active part of.
Within the local church community, we are stronger because we can lift each other up, support one another, teach one another, and learn from one another. That doesn’t happen when we try to go about this journey alone, or we don’t engage in the communal aspects of presence.
So yes, part of this covenant is that we are faithfully present within the church community and we are attentive to what is happening and active while we are there.
Present at Church
Now, a little disclaimer:
I always said I never wanted to be one of those pastors who annoyed people and guilted them into attending church, because I know annoying and guilting people doesn’t work. However, I am here to encourage you to be an active participant in this community. I hope you are encouraged by what your presence in this community means and how important your presence is. Therefore, I’m not gonna stand here and tell you that you need to be here or you need to pay attention, but I will tell you what you can get out of being here and participating.
Let’s look at what it means to faithfully participate in the church with your presence.
The question we find ourselves asking is “Why?”
- Why should we be here?
- What is the point of coming to church?
- Why is activity important?
- Why can’t I stay home?
- Why is it more important for me to be here and present than doing something else on a Sunday morning?
It is important because of what we offer to God and what we in turn receive when participating in the local church.
Let’s start with the first aspect of that:
What we offer to God.
In our presence here in church we offer ourselves to God. We offer our praise and worship to God. We begin by saying that God is worth our time and that we are not seeking to put anything before God in our lives. Therefore, our worship and our actions and activities in our congregations say to God that we are not only willing to take that first step, but we want to continue walking and journeying along.
When we neglect our presence within our community we neglect that God is as an important part of our lives as we could seek to make him.
This is also important because participating in our presence also benefits us.
Our participation in the community helps us to grow, mature, and strengthen our relationship with God and with others. However, when we neglect this commitment we can strain the relationship we have within the church and can prevent our learning and growing in faith.
The bottom line is that we need each other.
Church community is about encouragement, and our presence in that community is about our participation and reception of that encouragement. Without the community, we can suffer and lag as Christians. Not because we are unfaithful, don’t study, or any other number of reasons, but because of the importance God places on the community as a means of spiritual growth and even spiritual action.
We read in Genesis when God created man that man was lonely and it was not good, so God created woman so man could have a companion. Even Jesus’ surrounding himself with disciples is a sign of how ministry is done with other people and is not a solo venture. We lift each other up when we are with one another. Whether you are an extrovert or an introvert.
As I read some material in preparing for this sermon I came across this story about Dwight Moody who was an Evangelist in the late 1800s. The story goes:
“It is said that one cold and gloomy day, Dwight L. Moody visited a man who had expressed some interest at one of Moody’s meetings. Moody was ushered into a comfortable room with a fire blazing on the hearth. After some gracious preliminary conversation, the man began to argue that it was possible for a person to be a Christian without participating in the life of the church. As he made his elaborate and detailed arguments, Moody leaned forward in his chair, took the poker and pulled a flaming coal from the fire out onto the stone hearth. Moody watched as the coal slowly dimmed and went out. He then turned and looked at the man, without saying anything. After a long pause, the man said, ‘Mr. Moody, you have made your point!’”Story of Dwight L. Moody, Evangelist
The reason this speaks so deeply is that we want the church to be so easy that our presence doesn’t truly matter, but the fact is that without other people we can struggle to keep our flame lit. It is that concept of community that drives our continued faith journey. It is a fact that we have to make sacrifices to be at church. However, to covenant with this community, means you’ll be with us.
When we commit our presence we are saying that we want to be a part of this community. We want to be an active participant. We are saying that we will make it to church, that we will be part of a small group or study group, that we will be present in the ministries of the church, and even that we will show up and serve with this local church.
Our activity and participation in the church is the essential basis of how we grow together and we make people feel welcome.
The Church is about being the body of Christ. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 12:
“Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many…But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many members, yet one body.”1 Corinthians 12
Most times we look at this we often think that this is Paul saying that God calls different people to the church. It is true, that we all have different roles. However, I invite you to look at it from another angle today. God is calling you to be a part of that body. Do not allow intimidation to get in the way, but fully commit to being present within your local church.
Your presence means that you are honoring God and growing in your own faith journey as well. I’m not going to get on you and get angry when you don’t come to church, because I know there are often extenuating circumstances. However, I will tell you that when you miss church you miss out on an opportunity of community and an opportunity of spiritual growth. When you miss events and opportunities to fellowship and serve with this community, you miss the chance to grow the communal spiritual bonds of this body. When we fail to be present, we may lose out altogether of the love and grace we are called to have, not just for one another but for all persons.
We are called, not only through our membership vows but by God, to be active participants in our Christian communities. When you allow yourself to be an active participant in a church, to be at worship, to be active in its missions, to be active in discipleship, to really be a part of a local church you allow God to work in you through this community.