It may be useful to know that Blue Monday was in fact created in 2005 by a British holiday company. The idea was derived not from the results of any in-depth research, but instead by using a calculation involving such factors as current weather conditions and debt levels. However, while it had no basis in science, the idea caught on, and now many of us have come to dread it.
Imagine a church that was advertising a worship service like this……….would you attend?
- Service will last 3 hours in total.
- The typical posture being standing throughout the majority of time if you are physically able.
- There were no musical instruments. (Sorry no piano, drums, guitars, band, choir or orchestra.)
- The Lord’s Supper is observed every single week.
1st Segment of the Worship Service – “The Service of the Word”
- This will be open to three groups of people:
- Baptized believers
- Those needing and receiving instruction and leading in the Christian faith
- We will also allow those who were merely curious about what we believe. Possibly seeking Christ.
- Order of the 1st Segment
- Opening greeting from pastor and response from the congregation.
- Old Testament scripture reading by a deacon.
- Singing of a song (usually a psalm)
- New Testament scripture reading by a deacon from one of the 4 gospels.
- Sermon will be delivered by pastor, congregation can be seated.
- Dismissal of all but baptized believers.
2nd Segment of the Worship Service – “Prayers and the Lord’s Supper”
- Only open to believers who had been baptized. The rest will have to and be given time to leave.
- The church body understands congregational prayer as “participating by the Holy Spirit in the glorified Christ’s own heavenly ministry of prayer”—something unbelievers could not share in since they did not have the Spirit.
- Order of the 2nd Segment
- Prayer time
- Pastor will announce prayer topics and the church will pray over/about them silently.
- Pastor will ask for prayer requests from congregation and voice prayers for these petitions.
- Pastor will repeat this pattern with new topics.
- The Lord’s Supper
- The church will participate in communion by breaking bread and taking of juice. (wine)
- Closing Prayer and Dismiss
- Prayer time
Now if you are being honest, based upon what I have seen and experienced in the last 17 years of ministry in the church, I think I lost most of you at 3 HOURS IN TOTAL and STANDING MOST OF THE TIME.
Let me go ahead and ease your fears, this is not our plan for a new service at FBJB, it is the order of service and description for a typical church service in the late 1st century to 2nd century.
Honesty time here….One of my greatest struggles as a pastor who is called to serve the church with the Word and in love has been to look around at the church in the 21st century and realize that it looks so different from the 1st church in so many ways; how we worship together, being only one of those areas. What defined the early church and early Christianity is not what defines Christians today in my opinion. What I read in scripture is not what I see in His people by and large today…..and that is concerning and troubling.
In my experience, the 21st century church here in the West is characterized by:
- Having very little compassion for the poor.
- Very little motivation to share the gospel and personally fulfill the Great Commission.
- Not faithfully giving of their time, treasure or talent for the work of Christ and furtherance of the gospel.
- Having a very rudimentary understanding of the bible, if not being somewhat biblically illiterate.
- AND YES….having worship services that are more for entertainment purposes than honoring Christ Jesus on high and drawing into Him.
Reasons People Go To Church : Which one is yours?
I would imagine another great difference in our worship services from the 1st church would be our reasons for attending. In my experience, I see several reasons that people will attend church on a somewhat regular basis.
- Many go because it is all about them. They go to be entertained or to get a spiritual warm fuzzy or to feel good about themselves. And if the church does not entertain them or is “boring” they shop for a more entertaining one.
- Some go for primarily social reasons. A chance to talk to old friends and to meet new or just to be seen as a “Christian.”
- For others it is primarily to gain business contacts and network, or because their job is somehow associate with the church.
- Still others because of the kids programs. And if these programs disappeared, they would “church shop” to find a parish with comparable or better programs.
- Many go primarily because the pastor is charismatic or a good speaker, and if the pastor left so would they, to church shop again.
- And others still, because they are new Christians and have never been anywhere else and do not know the difference.
- And finally there are those who attend a church or The Church because in their heart of hearts, they know it is teaching the One Faith, the One Gospel of Jesus Christ as taught by the Apostles to Christ’s people. And it is in this Church that they worship God as they are commanded to do. “There is One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism, One God.” (Eph 4:4) They attend Church “primarily” to worship God, not to worship themselves or their kids. Again, the primary focus is on Christ, not on themselves.
The 1st century church went to church first and foremost to worship God, not primarily to feel good about themselves. It was not about them, it was about worshipping Almighty God. It was not about being entertained, hymns or praise choruses, illustrations or examples, getting out before lunch, programs, bands, choirs, big screens, or even leaving with having a “good” feeling about yourself. (Although that usually happens) It was about worshiping Christ.
For 1st century Christians, the Church was not a mere get together or formality of the weekend. It was more than an organization, it was a family. It was not something they endured, but something they rather cherished and expectantly waited for. It was Christ centered not self-centered.
- Oh, how I long for the days when people will write me emails and letters with questions of how to know Christ more deeply, how to share the good news more effectively, how they can be of greater use to the kingdom.
- How I long for the day when the church is more concerned for the lost and honoring and glorifying the King of Kings and Lord of Lords than bickering over having to sit for an extra 15 minutes in a service than they want to.
- How I long for the day when the church is more concerned that the words of their mouths and meditations of their hearts are pleasing to God, rather than focusing on the style or preference of music they desire.
Then again, this is the 21st century and not the 1st century, maybe this is unrealistic to expect. I am told often in church circles that we cannot expect this of believers today. There is no way our time together could be this way, there is no way that we could see a worship service with people that are this dedicated and sacrificial in the worship of their God.
People today cannot get so excited, dedicated, invested, sacrificial, about God that it would cause them to give up their hard earned money, scream and cry out until they have lost their voices, to sit through temperatures they don’t like for hours and hours on end! That’s crazy!!
……………………………………………and so I just go home………………………..turn on the Packers vs. Chiefs Monday night football game …………………………………..and watch 73,000 dedicated and sacrificial people do these very things.
Oh, how I long for a church like that…
*N.R. Needham’s 2,000 Years of Christ’s Power, Vol. 1: Age of the Early Church Fathers. pg 66-75
It’s important to me that folks feel welcome when they come to FBJB. Each Sunday, I try to welcome as many folks as I can, let them know we are glad they are here, that they matter. If you do that enough, eventually you meet someone in crisis. That’s how it was that day. Complete freak out crisis mode. This guy stood there, his eyes wet with tears, and a look that was saying “please tell me that you’ll help me.” I got in his life, walked with him, spent time with him, watched him cry, watched him grow, saw him become a follower of Christ. The story did not turn out as he wanted, but he realized he was not going to be alone. It was messy.
Being involved in in the lives of folks is a messy business. Being connected enough that people will be open and honest about their situation means we will eventually get some of it on us. You don’t get to leave clean and without stain. Talking someone off the ledge sometimes means being on the ledge with them. Its not a white glove affair.
Why Discipleship Matters.
We’ve become so separated in our lives, careers, families, and even churches, we don’t have time to invest in people. Words like “team” are thrown around at our places of employment to help us realize that we need to work together, or we all have a voice in the creative process. But in our homes, we tend to retreat into wherever our chill place is. And why not? People are busy. Kids, work, church. Every night we have a sport, ministry, or thing to do. “Aint nobody got time for that!”
People matter to God. He is for us in every way. People pray to him daily pleading with him to send someone to help them, pray with them, spend time with them, love them, show them that they matter. These are the same people we smile at as we worship, walk in and out of services with. But we can’t see past our own issues to realize that discipleship means time and effort. Besides, I’ve got issues of my own. Nobody seems to care about my issues. I go to church to be encouraged, not for somebody that don’t know me to get in my business.”
Where the Dead People Are.
Jesus had a friend named Lazarus. Along with his sisters, Mary and Martha, this family had developed an affection for Jesus, and he for them. When Lazarus died, Jesus went to see the family. He was there. In the moment, in the grief, hurting and feeling every emotion that the heaviness of loss can bring. He wept. He wept because of loss, because it wasn’t supposed to be like this, because he was in it…with them.
We know how Jesus called the name of Lazarus and he came back to life. But what we forget is what Jesus said afterward. “The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”
Get It On You!
Its interesting to me. Jesus could have spoken those grave clothes off and they would have fallen on the ground. Rather he told those who were standing there, speechless and in awe at what they had just witnessed, to unbind him and let him go. Imagine that conversation. “Dude! I just saw him raise you from the dead! Let me help get these death clothes off so you can be free! Can you believe what just happened? YOU WERE DEAD! NOW YOU’RE ALIVE!!!”
Here’s the deal. Jesus raised that guy from the grave. He and he alone did that. But by asking us to be in on the process of freedom, someone had to touch the linens that had been wrapped round that guy for three days. Stank, nasty and disgusting. These are a couple words used to describe that. Yet, It had to be done.
We have to be where people are. Work, church, cemetery, mall, coffee shop…They are everywhere. Many have been raised from spiritual death but walk around with grave clothes still on them. They still feel trapped and have yet to truly embrace what it means to be alive in Christ. And yet so many more are still without Christ and need to be brought to life. But we’ll never know who is who until we slow down and look for opportunities.
I’m thankful that 20 plus years ago, Tom Tremaine saw the need in my live. I’m so thankful for the two years he poured into me, taught me, and made me a disciple. I’ll always remember him as one of the dirtiest men I’ve ever met. The scars and mess of life on life discipleship can be seen on his face and in his eyes.
I like that. Life On Life Discipleship.
Be one Make One. Come on.
Let’s get dirty.
To do or be…that is the question.
Whenever I feel a little down and wonder about my effectiveness as a person, I look at my LinkedIn profile, and I start to feel better. In my LinkedIn world, I’m amazing, I have abilities and capabilities that astound those who would simply take the time to look. Honestly? I’d put my Linked In profile up against just about anyone. And if you struggle to believe the awesomeness of my abilities, just look at the recommendations and endorsements. Obviously, I’m not alone in understanding my life prowess.
The problem is this. It’s not really who I am. It’s really about what I’ve done, think I can do, or what others have seen or think I can do.
The social media phenomenon has created a culture of self-awareness based on a theoretical pre-supposition. What I do determines who I am. It happened almost immediately. People began to declare themselves social media experts in a field that had not been around long enough to understand it. Having a Twitter account, Facebook page, Instagram, and Tumblr gave them the seemingly, obviously amazing ability to understand a culture that had taken off in popularity.
But we bought it. In the midst of extreme social and cultural shifts, our lives are mixed in with disdain of certain political figures, absolutely horrendous theology, videos of babies laughing (which are my favorite), racial division, dancing cats, and the occasional zit being popped for our viewing pleasure. From time to time we share the greatness of our lives in pictures of food and trips to the awesome places we visit. We post what makes us happy, or what would make us happy if we could afford it, what we hate, and what we believe, if we actually took a stance when we’re not staring at the screen. We dream of doing rather than simply learning to be.
I’m certainly not who my social media profiles say I am. I guess I want people to see me that way to make people think more about me. Truth is, I’m just a guy that’s working my way through life. I tend to beat myself up for parenting mistakes, miss opportunities to help those in need, make huge mistakes, struggle with doubt, let my wife down, and can’t seem to get the reality of grace through my thick skull. But who wants to put that on a profile?
My abilities do not determine who I am. Who I am determines what I do. It’s why my life is dedicated to serving the body of Christ. Not because I have all the answers, but because life is better together. The highlight of sharing life has always been memories of time with people. People who struggle like I do, hurt like I do, doubt like I do and have found that faith in Christ is not based on me being amazing, but Him being amazing to and in us.
The older I get, the more I understand the need to just be. I can’t change the world, I can’t save anyone, I can’t stop the culture from decline. But what I can do is be a child of God. I can be aware of need around me, I can encourage those who are down, I can love my neighbor, I can be faithful, I can be a man of character, I can be salt and light, and I can move the Gospel.
I can make disciples.
I’d rather be known for that.
I grew up in a small town. Every stereotype you think about when you hear the term “small town” is mostly true. I have good memories from my childhood, we knew everyone, and everyone knew us. That wasn’t a bad thing, until my actions began to get me in trouble. We went back for a visit last week. My granddaughter and my nephew graduated from high school, and my nephew played in the state 5A baseball championship series.
We followed the charter bus through town for a parade of support for the team as they headed to the game. The high school had let classes out to see the team off. Local businesses stood by the road as we passed by screaming in support for their team. The local elementary school let out and had several hundred balloons in celebration of the accomplishment. Kids were yelling, parents were holding up signs, the local nursing home came out, wheel chairs and all to offer support for the team. Main Street was filled with family, friends, lifelong residents and general supporters for the team. It was so awesome to see. Small town pride is an amazing thing.
Riding right behind the bus, folks thought we were part of the team so we were shown the same courtesy. I think it was the beard. People dig the beard.
People feel a sense of connection in small towns. It was easy to support graduates and teams because there was investment. Local businesses invested in the community and school, parents and family invested in the kids, people paid taxes to support the schools, friends and alumni supported the efforts because of memories of past glory.
LIFE Groups are vital to our mission to make Disciples that make Disciples. The support we get and give to those in our groups helps us to encourage and love each other, support each other, grieve with each other, celebrate with each other…because there is an investment of time. Sharing life together builds the Body. Studying Scripture together promotes growth and understanding.
We were created to invest our lives in community. Join a life group. It matters.
We are better together.