• Jon Forrest

Dying in the Service


The Upward Look, by Jon Forrest

Dying in the Service

A young boy was visiting in the church where his grandparents attended. It was a very formal and stiff congregation. No one smiled, least of all the pastor leading the service. Even the air was stale. Everyone was seated upright, and no one moved for any reason. The hymns were sung in a very dry and unfeeling way and the prayers were filled with “thee’s,” “thou’s,” “thy’s” and lots of King James words. The boy struggled to stay awake. Only his grandpa’s occasional elbow jab kept him from falling asleep. After the service ended the grandfather took the boy on a tour of the stately old edifice. While in the entry way of the building the boy spotted a plaque that had a number of names, each with an American flag beside the name. He asked, “Grandpa, what is that about?”

The grandfather swelled up with pride, “Oh, that is a plaque listing all of the young soldiers from our church who died in the service.”

The boy made a face of confusion, “Which service did they die in, the early service or the late service?”

As we have taken up the challenge of being the church during this pandemic crisis, we have been forced to re-evaluate just what the church is and why we are a part of it.

We have been reminded over and over again that “the church is not a building.” This is true, but it does not mean that the church should not gather and that attendance at worship services is not important. The Greek word for church, ecclesia, means “the called out” or “the assembly of a group of people who come together for a purpose.”

Hebrews 10:24-25 tells us that we should not miss the gathering of the Lord’s church and some reasons why it is important.

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 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.

I can’t wait for this pandemic virus crisis to wind down and give us the opportunity to come back together. Why? Because we need each other for accountability, for strengthening our love habits. And for encouragement. Why? Because “the Day” is approaching. Church attendance is not about ritual or being good. It’s about spiritual survival. Each of us is in a war with the evil one. He is doing his best to discourage us and to keep us from being a witness to people who need Jesus. I’m not talking about just this health crisis, although it could be part of it. I’m talking about everyday spiritual warfare.

Jesus did not intend that we be “Lone Ranger Christians.” Even if you wanted to do that, remember even the Lone Ranger had his Tonto. Jesus called us to be the Body of Christ. That means we are his hands and feet for doing and his mouth for speaking. The Bible teaches that the church of Jesus Christ has an overall two-part duty; 1. to gather and 2. to scatter.

We gather for encouragement and edification so that we can be strengthened and then we scatter to spread the good news (gospel) that God loves everyone and wants a relationship with each person. But, when we scatter with this message, we go through struggles that cause us the need to gather again. It’s a cyclical process. We need to keep it up until Jesus comes and takes us home.

So, during the health crisis we are enduring, we must do our best to gather, even if the best we can do is on Facebook or some online process. But understand that service we attend on the internet is only part of gathering. We need to make it up by making phone calls, sending emails or cards and letters, text messages and other ways of contacting one another for the purposes listed in Hebrews 10:24-25. Then we need to pray for one another and for people who don’t know Jesus. We need to scatter by sharing God’s love with those who are without a relationship with Christ so they can meet him. You can even invite them to watch our services and to ask questions.

God has called us to be the church, to gather as the church and to scatter to the world with his message of love? The virus is no excuse and it never will be. In fact, it is even a greater reason to be the church, in or out of the building.

I’m thankful for the church. I’m thankful for each member. I’m thankful for the call to gather and scatter. Jesus told his disciples in Matthew 28:18ff that he, as risen Savior he has all authority. Because of this authority, he commanded us to go to the world and make disciples, baptize them and teach them all of his commands. If we do, he promises to be with us to the end of the age, even during pandemics.

You see, if we are motivated in our gathering and scattering by the love and passion of Jesus there will be so much excitement and enthusiasm for him that no one will have to die in the service.

This Sunday we will be back on the First Christian Church Facebook page Live. We will share in a worship service and a message from our Living Hope series titled “Uniquely His” based on 1 Peter 2:4-10. Let’s get together so we can scatter.

Gathering and Scattering with you,

Jon

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