Is Sunday the best or most important day of your week? The Church part of Sunday. If not, how can we get there?
“Why Am I Here?”
Since You Asked Sermon Series
Pastor Douglas Donigian | July 5, 2015 | Sixth Sunday After Pentecost
Since you are eager for spiritual gifts, strive to excel in them for building up the church. -1 Corinthians 14:12 NRSV
“This weekend is the 4th of July weekend, the date when our Declaration of Independence was signed. This document started a process that led us to have more freedom than the citizens of any other major nation before or after. Among our freedoms is the right to worship as we choose. And you have chosen to be here. Thank you.
Let me ask you to think about a question. Is today the best or most important day of your week? I mean the church part of today. If not, how can we get there?
Although we have the freedom to worship, fewer people are attending church in this country every year. More and more people do not even identify themselves as Christian. Why? What are they missing?
You special people, who are here, have made two praiseworthy decisions. You have accepted that Jesus is God’s son and all that that means: that you have been saved from death, that Jesus is alive in heaven, and that He has a place waiting for us. You know the truth. You identify yourselves as Christians. That is the first decision. If you aren’t sure about that decision, please come and talk with us.
And you have made a second decision; you have decided to attend church with others who want to follow up their decision to believe with a desire to learn and apply more of what Jesus has taught.
Larry Loman had a small farm and he loved it. Every cow and chicken had its own name. He would tell his wife that Gertrude had laid two eggs but Shirley had laid only one. He even named the cabbages growing in the vegetable garden.
Larry prided himself at never having gone to a doctor. No pills or shots for him. Not even aspirin or vitamins. But one day he got a stomach ache. It came back day after day until, finally, at his wife’s insistence, he broke down and went to see a doctor. After talking with the doctor he returned to his farm. He did what the doctor advised but his stomach aches did not improve. A week later, again at his wife’s insistence, he went back to the doctor, now knowing that he was right not to trust doctors, and announced, “I’m still having the stomach aches and they are as bad as they were the day I met you.”
The doctor replied that he was surprised. He was sure the problem was lactose intolerance. Lactose intolerance is easily treated by removing lactose from the diet. “Did you stop drinking milk from, your cow, like I asked you?” the doctor asked. “You mean Polly? Yes, I stopped.” Larry answered. “Now I drink milk only from my other cow, Betty.”
Larry had made the first decision to get a doctor’s advice, but he didn’t make a second decision to fully follow it. So he didn’t get the benefits.
Not going to church is not listening to what the Bible teaches about benefits and missing chances to experience them.
We are calling this sermon series, “Since You Asked”. One of our teens has asked, “Why do we attend church?” It is a good question, when we see more and more people not attending church.
And I think many of us don’t have an answer on the tip of our tongues. We haven’t put “why we attend church” into our own words. But we know the Bible says we should attend. Why does the Bible encourage attendance? What are the benefits?
If you were unchurched, I would talk about God’s prime directive. Come to church and learn about God’s love and Jesus’ mission to save us from responsibility for all the mess we see in the world. A benefit of that is an assured place in heaven.
But I think you have made that step, that first decision to accept Jesus as Savior and to recognize His authority in our lives.
So what do we tell a teenager who asks why we should go to church when we already have eternal life? What does the Bible say about believers going to church?
There are many reasons; today we will look at one and, later in this series, at others.
Our scripture makes one thing clear. We are to become a group, a family, a network of interconnected relationships that functions like a living body. Paul used this picture every time he started a new church. He described each church as a “body”. His picture was of different parts, each contributing its special ability to the others and each receiving support from the others. Like an ear picks up sound and sends it to the brain while the lungs collect oxygen and the heart pumps it so that the ear and the brain can live.
Paul taught that this mutual support, interdependency, was essential to being God’s people. Our memory verse described these connected relationships as “building up the church.”
Building up. Getting bigger and better and stronger and doing more. Being more encouraged, more fulfilled, more comforted, more joyful, and more included.
So let me call a nutshell a nutshell. We believers attend church to build up others and to be built up by others.
This is not just a nice saying. This is not optional, not discretionary, not take it or leave it. We believers attend church to build up others and to be built up ourselves. This is what the Bible says must happen.
Jesus talked about this so often. He said, “Do not be afraid. Do not be sorrowful. Be joyful. Be filled with peace.”
How in the world can we find comfort, joy, and peace in this world?
To accomplish that, He gave us three things. He gave us instructions for living in the Bible. He gave us the Holy Spirit to do what only God can do. And he gave us each other to do the rest. We have a part to play. We are here to build up others and to be built up ourselves.
Pastor Joyce told me about a pizza parlor in Philadelphia named Rosa’s. It was in the Morning Call. Mason Wartman, who owns the parlor, usually has a line of customers stretching out into the street. It is not because he makes the best pizza in the city. Rather, he has a special policy. If anyone has a little extra money, they can buy a voucher for an extra slice of pizza. I say voucher; but it is really a post-it note. The post-it notes are stuck on the walls. If anyone is short of cash, they take one of the post-it notes and receive a pizza slice, no questions asked. Last year 10,000 post-it vouchers were put on the walls and used by others. This is community. Some diners are building up others by donating vouchers and other diners are being built up by using the vouchers. When everyone does their part, it works.
Question. When you come to church, are you built up by the experience? Is the rest of your week improved? Have you found something that sustains you and encourages your faith? If you are missing some of these benefits, are you open and looking for them? Are you looking for the God sighting, the insight, the encouragement, the smile from someone who shares your faith? Do you come here with the intension to be built up?
Question. When you come to church, do you build someone else up? Is someone else encouraged in their faith because they have seen you? Did you give someone a supportive smile? Did you come here with that intension? Did you think to yourself, “Here’s my chance to build up … put someone’s name here or a category like ‘the new visitor’?”
Here is a recommendation. If you are asked why you attend church regularly, be ready with the answer, “That’s where I am built up” or “That’s where I can help my friends who need me.”
These are certainly answers that I would give. There are more reasons than this one and we will revisit our teen’s question, “Why do we attend church?”, but this is definitely one reason given by the Bible.
Finally, I pray that this is an answer you can give yourself, as you plan each weekend. This is where I can be built up in faith and comfort and inner peace, and where I can help others receive the same.
Let me repeat. You are special people and you are doing a special thing by attending here. You are identifying yourselves as believers in Jesus and inheritors of a place in heaven. And you have placed yourselves on the cutting edge of what the Bible teaches about church. You are working to be being built up and to build up others.
Let us pray.
Loving father. Thank you for loving all these people and preparing a place in heaven for each of them. Thank you for bringing us together where we can be built up. Thank you for the Bible, for the Holy Spirit, and for each person here who is part of the building up process. Help us each to be open to your comfort and joy and peace. Help us pastors and leaders and everyone here be builders and encouragers so we can all say, regardless of what we face in the world, “This is where I am built up. This is where I can help.” Thank you, Lord. Amen.