Hebrews 10: 19-25
Is the local church necessary or even important within the landscape of Christianity?
If I had asked that question 25 years ago, you would have looked at me and probably laughed – what kind of question is that?
In the last few years, more and more people are asking that question. So it deserves not just an emotional response, or a haughty response but a Biblical response.
Is this a Biblical pattern? Let’s look at Hebrews 10
The major theme of the book of Hebrews is the move from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant. Vs. 9 it says he sets aside the first covenant to establish the second covenant
Scripture: Hebrews 10: 19-25 19 Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.(NIV)
Let us draw near to God 22
Let us hold to this hope 23
Let us spur one another on 24
Let us meet together 25
The birth of the church in Acts 2 after Peter’s sermon at Pentecost was a cataclysmic event in church history. After those 3000 people made a commitment of their life to Jesus, they began to ask: what do we do now?
Acts 2: 42-47 42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (NIV)
tells us that they began to gather in clusters – listening to teaching, worshipping, taking communion, fellowshipping, giving to each other. Communities of faith.
From this dozens then hundreds and thousands of clusters began to gather wherever the people of God found each other. We call these gathering: churches which is a little bit of a misnomer as there is a sense in which there is only now and has always been only one church. The church is made up of all those who claim Christ as their Savior – but that one church has many different settings in which it meets. A more accurate name for our group would be Bayside Community Congregation of the one Church of the Living God. (kind of a long title to fit on a business card)
The Greek word is Ekklesia – you are probably getting tired of hearing me say this but the word occurs 110 times in the NT and 84 of those times it refers to a local congregation. Paul wrote to congregations in Asia Minor, Thessalonika, Corinth, Ephesus, and Phillipi among others. At first they met in houses then later as the numbers grew larger, they established places of worship. The concept of a local congregation is 2000 years old. To paraphrase one of our forefathers.
Two millennium ago, Christ brought forth on this continent the church, conceived by his blood and dedicated to the proposition that all people were created equal and invited into his family. Now we are met on a battleground between God and Satan testing whether Bayside Congregation or any congregation so conceived and dedicated can long endure. If the local congregation is a Biblical concept then:
Why do people feel as if they don’t need to connect to a local congregation?
Multiple answers to that of course but those who are proposing a lone ranger Christianity without the benefit of the local congregation say that church is
boring and sometimes it is. Sound bite/selfish society
Irrelevant to their lives many times we answer questions that people aren’t asking and wonder why they don’t come. Nothing more relevant than big issues of life.
All they talk about is money – giving is a participatory experience of this church or such organization that attempts to reach into its community. While we don’t major on money, it is necessary for the work of the church to go forth. We will never withhold services from anyone because they do not contribute to our offerings. However, we may have to withhold services from someone else if you don’t give.
Self centered all they think about is themselves
If that is your idea of church, I don’t blame you for not wanting to connect. Why should I connect to Bayside or any local congregation all local congregations should pass this test:
Bayside is a place where we find a framework of truth
John 8: 31-32,36
31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (NIV)
Prior to the 1960’s people in America for the most part had a Christian mindset – didn’t all become Christians but there was a reverence, a respect for Christianity. Beginning somewhere during that time with the advent of the Viet Nam War, social protests, religious scandals, sexual revolution, Watergate and other political scandals, assassinations, the rise of non Christian religions, we began to question everything that we had believed. In the midst of that chaos, loyalty, respect and reverence was lost. We moved from being one nation under God to a nation of every person for themselves without God. Everyone did what was right in their own eyes.
One of those foundations was “truth” – people came to believe there is no absolute truth –only 24% believe there is an absolute truth - everything is relative – what’s true for you may not be true for me. How do you build a life on shifting values without a foundation? How do you make ethical decisions, choose a lifetime partner, treat relationships without a framework of truth?
In the midst of this, evangelical congregations proclaim something different. There is an ultimate truth – it is the Word of God – the scriptures – as we grapple with it we can discover principles that can guide our lives.
Bayside is a place of transformation Rom. 12:1-2
1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.(NIV)
Our highest goal at Bayside is transformation. This transformation takes place at two levels. We believe the Bible teaches we have all sinned against God and are in need of redemption. We must make a conscious decision to ask God for forgiveness and accept his son Jesus as our personal deliverer or Savior. Salvation transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of God’s son. Changes our destiny.
That is not the end of our transformation. Rom. 12 says it is pleasing to God that we present ourselves to him as a living sacrifice. This process of growing in the grace of God is sometimes called sanctification. God wants to transform your life – from secular to spiritual thinking about things; from self centered to Christ centered lifestyle; he wants to enable your habits, attitudes, and your lifestyle to reflect his glory. It is a journey of faith.
Bayside is a place of authenticity Eph. 5: 8-16
8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord. 11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 13 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. 14 This is why it is said:
“Wake up, sleeper,
rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”
15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.(NIV)
What is authenticity in the Christian life?
Be authentic in the way you live. Occasionally I will receive some information that someone in the congregation is doing something they think is ungodly and what am I going to do about it?
Hearing that always disappoints me but it doesn’t surprise me.
It’s my role as Pastor to present the concept of a holy lifestyle acceptable to God. It is also my role as pastor to help you when you don’t meet that goal.
That is authenticity. Not pretending to be who we really aren’t but working toward what we want to be.
I grew up in a church that was not authentic. People pretended nothing was ever wrong in their lives – their families were perfect – never struggled with any sinful problems. I discovered as I grew older that people in that setting hide their troubles, sins, and their faults and pretend they don’t exist. Over time they get so guilty they give up and cover it up by blaming the church or they do something out of character and harm themselves or someone else with a bad choice.
Being authentic means we are all working on something. We are not yet what we want to be but we are not what we were. In process.
This is a place that will challenge you to a consistent holiness lifestyle but also be a place where if you mess up, you can find love, acceptance and forgiveness and a helping hand.
How do I connect to Bayside?
Participation: Eph. 4: 11-13
11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.(NIV)
If you really want to connect you have to get involved. There are general ministries where everyone can participate and there are specific ministries that fit you area of giftedness and interest.
Giving Bible tells us that God loves a cheerful giver. That we are to bring our tithes into the storehouse – where we get our food so that people will be blessed.
Worship not a matter of style or preference but when we come together as the family – we pause and remember it is because of Christ we are here. Worship is always God centered. Worship is not a spectator sport – it is a participatory experience.
Communion when we take communion we join together with people over the last 2000 years that have remembered the sacrifice of Jesus.
Prayer It is easy to get selfish in our prayers – most of us have to fight that tendency. In a group setting we remember the needs of others. We pray not just for physical needs but for the spiritual well being of others.
Fellowship There are people here who share your value system; your stage of life; your stage of spiritual development. As we communicate with them, search together, socialize with them, a bond begins to develop.
Our goal for you is simple: find God; find a friend, and find a ministry.
A symbol of our connectedness.