Have You Ever Been To Church?
    Have you ever been to church?  A friend of mine recently posed that question, and before you answer that one, can I ask another?  Do we really know what "going to church" is?  Jesus said that "Where two or three are gathered in My name, there I will be also."  Usually we take that to mean that we can be encouraged if there is just a few in a service, because Jesus promises us that He'll be there as well.  Here's another question, do we know what being gathered in His name really is?

    I heard church defined as "where Christ is consciously discerned, seen, by those who gather." This doesn't mean some vague awareness of Him, as we relate the songs and music, even the message of the day to and with Him.  We may have been part of a gathering, but we certainly have not been part of a church.  If you think I'm being too narrow, can we take an honest look at what comprises the average church "worship" time?  In this I am thankful for the insights of the same friend who asked this writings opening question.
   If you were to "see" the most recent worship service of which you and I were a part, what would you see?  I'm betting that it's much like what we see many times over.  Everyone comes into the building and spends time visiting, or, fellowshiping as we usually call it.  It's usually a fairly loud and noisy time.  This is what my friend calls "the church social."  From there, we move into what we call worship.  There's music, singing, prayer, which is usually a list of all we want God to do, perhaps some testimonies as to what God is doing for ME, for US, and then the speaker of the hour gets up to speak.  Very likely he speaks from His Word, and very likely some type of response is found in us.  The key is, what is the response?  I'm coming more and more to believe that most of our worship may touch our emotions and intellect, but leave undisturbed our hearts and our spirit.  We may be stirred in some way on both fronts, we may have been more deeply aware, at least on these levels, of His Presence, but at the end of it, nothing within has changed.  These "warm fuzzies" as some have called them, make us feel we've been with Jesus, but the sameness of our spiritual condition gives lie to that thought.  Can anyone be the same after a true encounter with the Presence of God?  We may be worse off in defiance, or made more whole by yielding, but we will never be the same.  If you doubt this, take a look around the sanctuary after your next worship service and see how quickly so many go to check emails, texts, and to resume conversations begun in the church social setting.  It is impossible to lay hold of Christ, and to have been laid hold of by Him, and yet breakaway with such ease.  Such cannot happen if we have truly worshiped Him "in spirit and in truth."
     Jesus said that "Where I am, may you be also."  How often do we really come to that place of intimacy with Him, where He is, in the very presence of the Father?  The place where we cannot emerge from the same as we came?  The place where our presence become one with His.  Are we weary enough of being touched by Him only in our minds and emotions?  Do we hunger for an encounter with Him where all things become new, and they become new again with each fresh meeting?  This is worship.  This is church.  Have you ever been there?  Are you ready to be there now?  You needn't wait for the next scheduled meeting, or for the chance to get into the building.  It can happen right now, with Him, in His Presence.  Yes, we need those times of human interaction, and singing, music, and preaching, all are integral to worship, but do we ever go beyond this?  Do we ever enter into the real fullness of worship?  It starts in our aloneness with Him, and overflows as we come together.  Have you ever been to church?  Why not come right now?

Blessings,
Pastor O 

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