At some point in your life, you have undoubtedly been to the theater. Maybe it’s been something as simple as a school pageant or a play. Or maybe you’ve been to Broadway or the West End in London and seen a professional production of some sort.
The first time I was ever in Manhattan was in December of 1990. I had flown from San Antonio to Newark on a Saturday for a Monday business meeting. I added the extra day to my trip so I could have a day to walk around and explore New York City.
I crammed a lot into a single day. I walked down Fifth Avenue and saw the Christmas displays. I went into Macy’s just to say I’d been there (and, if the truth be known, to look for Kris Kringle!). I bought tickets for the 9:00 pmChristmas extravaganza at Radio City Music Hall and saw the Rocketts perform.
And I followed a tip someone had given me. I went to the corner of 47th Street and 7th Avenue right at 11:00 am and got in line to buy a half priced ticket to a Broadway show.
I didn’t have a particular Broadway show in mind. In fact, there weren’t a whole lot of shows on Broadway that year that I was interested in. But I was in New York and I wanted to be able to say that in addition to the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, I’d also seen a show on Broadway!
As it turned out, I scored. I purchased a half price ticket and saw Jane Alexander and Nigel Hawthorn in the play Shadowlands. It’s the true story of how a 58 year old confirmed bachelor, CS Lewis, met, fell in love with and ultimately married a 41 year old divorced mother of two, Joy Davidman, a one time communist and atheist who had converted to Christianity.
In God’s providence, my first Broadway play was a powerful story of love and faith and grace. That’s something you don’t see on Broadway very often!
It occurs to me that in our day, there are a lot of people who see attending church in much the same way as they see attending a play. They take a consumer approach to church. They join or regularly attend the church that has a worship service that appeals to them – something that moves them emotionally, challenges them intellectually, or that helps them in their daily life. For most, being part of a church means you show up on Sunday at watch what happens. You are a spectator.
When that becomes the approach that people take to being part of a local church, three things usually happen.
First, the church becomes defined by the characteristics of the Sunday morning worship service. If people want to know what kind of church you are, the Sunday worship service winds up being the principal way that question gets answered for people.
As a result, the second thing that happens is that most church leaders pour most of their time, effort and energy into shaping the Sunday morning event, to make it as attractive and compelling as they can. They make sure the basics are covered – good coffee in the lobby, a clean nursery for the babies, a tight band leading the music and an engaging message that connects. The point is, Sunday morning winds up being the central focus for many church leaders.
In the process, people who come for the worship service begin to see their attendance and engagement on Sunday morning as what it means for them to be an “active part of a local church.”
Let me be quick to say here that I think regularly gathering as the people of God for corporate worship is one of the main functions of a local church. We are told that we should not forsake the practice of assembling. Gathering to express our worship, to pray together, to hear God’s word preached and to take the Lord’s Supper together is a primary part of what a church is called to do.
But when a church is defined primarily by what happens on Sunday morning, here’s what starts to happen:
Church members become shoppers, consumers, attendees and spectators. We start to refer to those who show up as the audience and not as the congregation.
Church leaders can start to see themselves primarily as event producers.
This dynamic can send an incomplete message about what produces spiritual growth in our lives.
And all of this can leave us confused in how we think about the purpose of the church. People can see church as being 90% about what happens for two hours on Sunday.
In Hebrews 10, the Bible lays out for us how our response to the gospel should be experienced corporately. Together as a community of faith, we are to “draw near (to God and to each other) with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”
Because of what Jesus has done for us, we are invited to draw near. We can set aside fear or shame or a guilty conscience and come before a Holy God with joy and thanksgiving.
The writer continues, telling us that we are to hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering.” Our gathering together as a church is so that we can remind ourselves of what is true by renewing our minds with God’s word and by reaffirming our commitment to walk worthy of our calling by trusting and obeying all that the Bible teaches us.
And finally, we are to “consider how to stir up one another to love and good works” and to “encourage one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
Notice that the stirring up and the encouraging are shared responsibilities. These are not only things that are supposed to happen to you when we gather. These are things that you are supposed to be actively engaged in.
I’m excited about the season we’re entering into as a church. I’m excited that a year from now, we’ll be gathering in a new place in a new space that I believe will enhance our ability to fulfill our mission as a church.
But I want to make sure that in the season, we don’t lose sight of what that mission is. The ultimate purpose for everything we do as a church should be to point us to goal of seeing one another growing to maturity in Christ.
And for that to happen as God has designed it to happen, every believer ought to be involved in the process of seeing others growing in grace and maturing in their faith.
Ultimately, being part of this or any church is about much more that showing up for Sunday services. It is more about what is flowing into your life to help you grow, and what is flowing out of your life into the lives of others to help them grow.
All of us in leadership at RCC intent to continue to focus our efforts on channeling our time and efforts and money and programs toward that primary goal – to see Redeemer as a church, not of spectators and consumers, but of faithful disciples who are involved in discipling one another.
Thanks to Becky Perez for helping to document our time together last Sunday at our new church property.
Please continue to pray for God to direct the builders as the work on our new church homes gets underway.
This coming week is a big week for the women in our church.
Monday night, September 24, from 7:00 – 8:30 at the church, there will be a ] time of prayer and preparation for the upcoming True Woman event/Stay-treat. All women are encouraged to attend.
Then on Friday, the Stay-treat begins. Here are the details:
If you haven’t RSVPed for the Stay-treat, now is the time.
And then a week from Monday, October 1 at 7:00 pm, the fall Women’s Bible Study begins. The women will be working through Jen Wilkin’s study of the Sermon on the Mount.
If you haven’t signed up for the study and ordered your workbook, or if you have any questions about the women’s Bible study, go to the Women’ ministry table in the foyer at church this Sunday, or talk to Terry Morledge or Karen Houk, You can contact Karen at email@example.com or text her at 501-247-0140.
As we saw last week in our study of Esther, when King Xerxes called for his wife to show off her beauty at his banquet, the Queen refused. As a result, she was banished from his sight.
Was Queen Vashti a heroic proto-feminist to stand up to her husband’s command? Or was she guilty of failing to submit to her husband’s leadership? And what does her story teach us about the New Testament instruction for wives to submit to their husbands?
Yes, we’re going there.
See you in church.
Soli Deo Gloria!