Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Spiritual Discipline I: Participate in Church

The phrase "Participating in Church" can be divisive. I say this because there are those that may be reading this that go to a building on Sunday, sit through a service, and are either not involved with anyone else at their "church," or they believe sitting in a pew is going to get them to heaven. They truly believe that they are "participating." Church is so much more than being in a building. Make no mistake; I will challenge a few people's views of church in this post. But more than that, I will challenge you to not be a pew sitter, but to be truly involved in your church, get to know your fellow church goers, and use what is learned on Sunday to go into the world and spread the Good News about our risen Lord.

Now I want everyone to know, that when I talk about church, I am not necessarily talking about that "big brick building" that you go to each week. Church can be anywhere it needs to be. It can be in the woods on a weekend retreat. It can be in someone’s apartment (you guys know who you are ;) ). Church, from here forward, will be defined as a community of believers that have come together to worship our Lord, Jesus Christ, celebrate His Sacrifice, and enable the rest of the community to go out and "preach the Gospel, and if need be, use words." (Thanks St. Francis as shared by Pastor Burt)

During the last 5 years, I have been more involved with my faith, studied the bible more than I ever thought I could, and have come to understand that Christ really wants us to be one body striving to spread the Good News and not to be so much like the Pharisees, caught in the laws and traditions of our faith.

Christ’s priestly prayer in John 17:20-23 states Christ’s wish for the church:

“I'm praying not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me because of them and their witness about me. The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind— just as you, Father, are in me and I in you, so they might be one heart and mind with us. Then the world might believe that you, in fact, sent me. The same glory you gave me, I gave them, so they'll be as unified and together as we are— I in them and you in me. Then they'll be mature in this oneness, and give the godless world evidence that you've sent me and loved them in the same way you've loved me.” (The Message)

I can delve more into this, but Kevin Baker of Christian Conversations did a really great job discussing the divisions of the Christian church in America and the healing that can begin if we all join in prayer for unity: Read - Why I am a United Methodist (Part I), and Why I am a United Methodist (Part II). I will try not to digress too much more… ;)

Reasons for Participating in Church

I have searched the web and found many sites about reasons for Participating in Church. Some of the lists are 100 or more items long, others are only a few. I even found some that gave reasons for not participating in church. After all that, I go back to some basic reasons that have been discussed on various occasions in my Sunday School class (that I admit, I need to attend more regularly for reason number 2).

1. Worship – Christ calls us to participate in church so we can worship Him with other Christians. Christ has promised that he will be with us, when we participate in church. Matthew 18:19-20 states,

“Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them." (NIV)

Worship on your own is great, but worshipping together is AWESOME!

2. Fellowship/Education – Christ calls us together to strengthen each other, encourage each other, witness to each other, and teach each other. If you do not have fellowship in church, you are missing out on one of the greatest aspects of church! Challenges from other Christians help educate you about your faith and make you stronger preparing you for the eventual attacks by the Satan. Your fellowship and education give you the weapons needed to defeat the enemy and better equip to face the evils of the world as you are a witness to your faith and evangelize to others.

John 15:18-27 states:

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: 'No servant is greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin. Now, however, they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates me hates my Father as well. If I had not done among them what no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. But now they have seen these miracles, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: 'They hated me without reason.'

When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me. And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.” (NIV)

With fellowship, with education, with the support of other Christians, we are better prepared to go out and spread the Good News of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

3. Service Opportunities – 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 says,

“There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.

Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.”(NIV)

Participation in church allows us to begin to understand the gifts that God has blessed each of us with and allows us to better serve His community within church and the outside community around us. These gifts can be those listed above or other gifts we have been given that allow us to further His kingdom.

Some may be wise, guided by the Spirit to help others truly understand the Word.

Some people have the gifts of healing. Most people would believe you have to be a doctor or a nurse to have the gift of healing, but there are times that this gift is less physical and more spiritual. Some individuals have the gift of spiritual healing that allows for the opening of others’ hearts to the message of Christ’s love.

I have met some people that are sensitive to the evil spirits that travel among us… the spirits that cause us pain, suffering, anger, lust. These individuals are able to pray for and help, through the name of Jesus Christ, those they encounter that need relief and aid from their spiritual oppression.

On a simpler note, some people have the gifts of patience, or just being able to listen.

Participation in church, and understanding God’s Word, allows us to see service opportunities in and outside of church.


What am I trying to say in all this? Well, simply put, PARTICIPATE IN CHURCH! Having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is the most important part of Christianity, but if you are not participating in church, it is hard to have that relationship grow. God will not reveal everything He wants for you in your life directly to you. Sometimes, He uses other Christians to bring out the greatness that He has called you to.

Don't be afraid, do make excuses, get involved and make a bigger difference in this world by participating in church.


Heavenly Father, there are times that I want to think that the relationship I have is all about me. Sometimes, I do not want to share my gifts with others. Sometimes, I want to just get away and be by myself, but Lord, I know You have called me to greater things. You have set my heart on fire for You. Let me be able to fully participate in my church, where ever and what ever the circumstances may be at the time. Let me use the gifts that You have given me to serve others within my church as well as those outside my church community. Help me to never fear what others may think of my love for You and my service to Your Good News. I ask this in You Most Holy Name, Jesus Christ. Amen.

  posted at 2:00 AM


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