What You Should 'Get' Out of Worship

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There are a variety of ways to assess our experience when we come, to a church service or we visit another congregation. But the most common question that summarizes the whole thing usually is this. Somebody will say, so what did you get out of it? What did you get out of the service? Some people leave congregations and seek out new ones with the excuse that I just wasn't getting anything out of it.

I wasn't getting anything. So I started looking for another church home because I wasn't getting anything out of it. And obviously this suggests that people have certain expectations about their church life. And even if they can't describe in detail what it is that they need, they do know that they need something from church. And if they don't receive it, they will simply vote with their feet.

You go, you go to a place like Oklahoma City, where there where in the city itself, there are 75 congregations of the churches of Christ. Amen. If you don't get what you want over here, you got 74 other choices. Now the usual answer, and I've been guilty of giving it myself, has usually been, when somebody says, I don't know. I think I'm leaving that place because I'm just not getting anything out of it.

The usual answer is, well you don't come to church to get something, you come to church to? That's right. Hey, you've done that too, haven't you? Well this is partly true. Partly true.

Church life is about giving. But it is also, believe it or not, about getting as well. And so this morning I'd like to share with you some of the things that the bible says we should be getting from church. Cause there are some things we ought to be getting when we when we come here, when we gather here. First of all, when people come to a worship service, they should get a sense of God's presence.

A sense of God's presence. People come to a church service because they believe in a God that they cannot see, and they want in some way an experience of him. Now I know that in Hebrews chapter 10, verse 27, the writer tells us not to forsake the assembling of the saints, but this is not a reason to come. It's simply a warning not to quit coming. I mean habits or fear or guilt.

This is a poor evader for coming to church because it almost guarantees that we will not experience in God. You come here at a habit of fear, you're not gonna experience God. We'll only experience our habits. We'll only assuage our fears. The Roman Catholics, and I grew up as a Roman Catholic, they had they had the idea of this.

They built huge and magnificent church buildings, especially in the middle ages. And their point was that upon entering some towering edifice with gold and other worldly decor, you would have an experience that was unlike any other experience that you ever had. Walking into the church building was not at all in any way like the regular experience that you had walking into your house, or walking into the mayor's office. It was totally otherworldly. And you left feeling that God was majestic, and mighty, and mysterious.

Of course, I think they had the right idea. I don't believe they had the right method. Paul tells us in Acts chapter 17, verse 29 that, The divine nature is not, and I quote, is not like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man. He said, It is not. The divine nature is not like that.

You cannot produce an experience of the spiritual using human physical things. That's so important. I'll repeat it. You cannot produce an experience of God using human physical things. The Bible says that God is spirit and those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth (John 4:24).

The biggest issue in Christianity today revolves around how to have that God experience. How do I get the God experience? Some people try to produce it with the art of music, and drama, and dance. Others rely on the old Roman Catholic method of spectacular architecture.

Still others try to generate a high emotional reaction through crowd manipulation and hysteria. When you think about that, it's interesting to note that in the 1st century, in the 1st century church, they had no fancy buildings. They did not use instruments or organized events for worship. They held no public rallies in the style of the modern faith healers. And yet, when you think about it, their experience of God was such that they were ready to die for their faith.

And many of them did die for their faith. They, like us, came to church in order to experience a sense of God. And their deep conviction and martyrdom tells us that they did. I mean they got what they came for when they came to church. But I believe the reason for it was because they were close to Christ and not for these other things.

They were close historically in that Jesus had lived and died and resurrected in their generation. Some of them may have even seen him. 1st Corinthians 15 tells us 500 of them at least. They got the experience of God because they were close to Christ in proximity, historically. They got the experience of God because they were close to God's teachings.

Because the apostles themselves were their teachers. Acts chapter 2 tells us, verse 42 tells us that they continued steadfastly in the teachings of the apostles. They got the God experience because they were close to the past and very much aware of their sins and Jesus' forgiveness. I mean many of these people had lived in total darkness, and paganism, and Christianity with such a light, with such a relief, with such a hope that they had never had before. And Paul talks about this in Romans chapter 5.

Not only were they close to their sinful past, they were also close to the future. Many 1st century Christians believed that Jesus is coming, and the judgment would literally be done during their lifetimes. And so, they lived like people who might be judged and go to heaven next week. And so they got the God experience. Now the reason that God became the man, Jesus, was to permit us an experience of him.

As somebody says, he who has seen me has seen the father. Jesus says this to Philip. And Philip wanted to experience God and Jesus said to him, Philip, what's the matter with you? If you've seen me, you've seen the father. And my point is this, Our church experience should include an experience of God, but it's not an experience manufactured through architecture or emotionalism.

It is accessible in the same way now as it was in the 1st century Christian church, and that is through the drawing near of Christ through his body, the church. Same way. The death, burial, and resurrection is not in our generation, but the commemoration of it through communion keeps the memory and the meaning fresh in our minds, as Mike so eloquently led us this morning. And the teachings of the apostles are preserved in the Bible and our conviction grows as we learn and as we apply these same teachings. Do you think the apostles were anything different then than we are teaching today?

And the blood of the cross shed so long ago is as effective to wash away our sins today as it ever was. And the joy that comes from forgiveness is as fresh and as hopeful as it was in the 1st century. I don't know. Every sinner I've baptized has come out of the water rejoicing, and I don't think they're rejoicing any more or less than the persons in the 1st century. Sin is sin.

If you're a thief and you're forgiven, if you're a sexual pervert and you're forgiven, if you're a liar and you're forgiven, what difference does it make? The 1st century, the 20th century, or the 50th century? A liar is a liar in every century, and forgiveness is forgiveness. And the joy that comes from that is the same. And his return is as imminent as it ever was.

There is still no guarantee that we will be alive tomorrow. If we don't have the God experience, it may be because we've moved away from Christ. Away from taking the communion regularly, away from seriously obeying His teachings, away from dealing with and forsaking our sins, away from a lifestyle that is always ready for his return. If you want to experience the presence of God in church, you must remain in the presence of Christ throughout the week. And then you'll have the experience of God when you come to a church service.

Another thing that people should get Remember I'm talking about things that are accessible. We ought to get these things because it's not worth it if we don't. Another thing we should get when we come to a church service is a sense of direction. I mean, there are a 1000000 books out there that will try to tell you what to do with your life, but there is only 1 book that tells you what God wants you to do with your life. Big difference.

When a person leaves a church service, that person should have a sense of where he or she is going. And I suppose that I'm, what I'm saying here is, is, is aimed more at those who serve as perhaps elders and ministers and teachers because they're charged with ministering the word to the church. And when I was in college my professors would insist that sermons and lessons have a point. The teacher, Doctor Beaver would go to the board and in huge letters, you'd have to get up and you'd look at the board over there and you had your little fake pulpit over here.

And everybody was criticizing what you were doing. That was a lot of fun. And on the blackboard, in huge letters, you couldn't miss it. He'd write, So what? Who gives a rip?

So what? If there isn't a so what, why do people come? Why should they even listen to you if there's no so what? Now the reasons for this are evident. When Jesus taught, he taught with a purpose.

That is, hearers would either believe or they'd repent or they would follow or they'd be comforted. There was always a purpose. And when people came to church, when people come to church they're coming for the same thing. They're coming for answers, they're coming for directions, they're coming for confirmation, for encouragement, even discipline. And when they don't receive any, they feel that their time has been wasted.

When I go back, when I was living in Oklahoma, often they would invite me to come and teach, a young preacher class and so on and so forth, a guest speaker 1 or 2 lessons in their session about different things. And I would tell them, When you get into the pulpit, talk about what you know, not about what you're not sure of. Nobody cares what you're not sure of. If you're not sure of a particular doctrine, if you're not sure of a particular issue, stay in your office and study. Discuss it with other people.

Seek out an elder. Go find a teacher and debate the issue with them. But when you get into the pulpit, people don't want to know what you don't know. They want to know what you know. They want to know what you are convinced of.

That's what they wanna know. Paul said that every scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be adequate equipped for every good work. 2nd Timothy 3 16. Leaders, ministers, teachers need to make sure that their lessons as well as their lives provide a so what? Provide a direction that the church needs in order to be sure of the way they should walk as Christians.

God has given to the government the right and the responsibility to keep order and to protect society. Romans chapter 13, verse 1 and following. God has given to the family the right and responsibility to establish homes and raise children. Genesis 2 and Ephesians so on and so forth. But only to the church has God given the task of saving souls and providing a moral compass to direct the way that God would have us live.

In 1 Timothy chapter 3, verse 15, Paul describes the church as the pillar and the support of the truth. He doesn't describe government in those terms. He doesn't describe the family in those terms. He only describes the church in those terms. We should make no apologies for providing clear and emphatic direction and instructions for godly living.

It's what God has given us to do, and it's what people who come to church expect. Tell me what to do. Explain to me what God wants in this matter. You're free to accept or reject, but at least what you receive is clear. You have a right to receive it.

That's what people want. That's what they want to get out of church. They want some answers. And then finally I mean, there are many things, obviously time constraints. You can only choose a few.

But I believe 1 of the most important things that people need to get out of church is a sense of belonging. A sense of belonging. In a recent survey about religion in America it was noted that the number 1 thing that people want to get when they come to a church, that is in America, is a sense that they belong somewhere. I mean that's not surprising considering the condition of our society. Last several magazine articles in Newsweek, and in Time, and so on and so forth talk about the fragmenting of the traditional family.

No more grandpa and grandma living with you and relatives around you for a lifetime. It's not happening anymore. People move on an average of once every 4.5 years. So that means every 5 years you have to make new friends in a new place. We ought to know that here in San Diego.

1 out of 2 marriages are ending in divorce, meaning that there are a lot of single moms and single dads or blended families out there. More people are single longer, widowed longer, living by themselves longer than ever before in the history of man. And this thing called the internet is becoming the fastest way to make new friends. So it's not surprising that what people want to get when they come to church is a sense of belonging that for whatever reasons they have not managed to feel in their normal lives. When they come here, they want to feel, I belong here.

My place is here. Now this is a great opportunity for the church because God designed it to be a place where everyone could belong. Isn't that great? The number 1 need for people out there is the need to belong. And the 1 of the things that God designed the church for was a place where everybody could belong.

Imagine that. In Galatians chapter 3, he says, There is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female, for you are all 1. There is a place for everybody in the church. And so through faith in Christ expressed in repentance and baptism, a person enters the church regardless of his or her past or wealth or culture. There's room for everybody.

However, in order for a person to feel here's the gist now. Theoretically there's a place for everybody, But for people to feel that they belong the church needs to do a couple of things. First of all, if we want to make people feel like they belong, not that it's not just a doctrinal statement, Everybody belongs in the church of Christ, let's put it up at the door. I mean getting them to actually feel that way, we need to make people feel welcome. I mean we need to get to know them, and offer them hospitality, and greet them warmly.

We need to know that every individual that comes here to visit is actually welcome and they feel welcome. We need to see the people's needs to make them feel that they belong. You see what I'm saying? Physical and emotional and spiritual needs need to be met. Meeting a person's need is the surest way to say to them, I want you here.

You want somebody to belong here? Find out what they need and meet that need and that is the best way to say, I want you here. I want you here so badly that I'm going to find out what you need and I'm going to give it to you. And we need to make people feel useful in order to feel that they belong. Integrating people into our work and lives.

People feel they belong when they are serving others in the group because they're saying, Hey, I'm part of the group. They want me to work too. The Jerusalem church did all of these because in the book of Acts you see them eating in each other's homes, selling goods and sharing, teaching each other, and then sending people out to preach and feed the poor, deacons are appointed. How do we measure up? Well I have a little bulletin article here that I want to read you very very brief.

It's about us. It's about us. Somebody came here, a preacher, his name is Steve Sandifer. And he had business in in San Diego, didn't know a soul, and he came to worship with us. And he wrote an article about it in the, Southwest, I think, Southwest Church of Christ, Houston, Texas.

Southwest Central Church of Christ, Houston, Texas. That's just their bulletin, not a fake preacher thing here, it's a real thing. He says, I rarely visit a strange church, but those are always learning experiences for me. On Sunday, whatever date, I visited the Canyon View Congregation in San Diego. It proved to be a very encouraging day.

The worship was uplifting and the sermon by an elder who was called to fill in that Sunday morning was exceptional. If the preacher is better than that elder, then that is a well fed church. Well, of course. Did I just say that? I'm sorry.

That slipped out. Anyways, It says, I was extremely impressed by the overall feel of that congregation and would recommend it to anyone. However, as a guest 2 things affected me negatively that should cause us to think. If these affected me, a gregarious minister dedicated to worshiping, how would it affect a guest who had no commitment to the church? He says, when I got out of my car, I had no idea where to go.

People were entering the building at a number of doors but no 1 assisted me. I walked around until I found a map that showed the various classrooms and a list of available classes. By my determination I found the right place. After an encouraging class I went to the worship center and and stared at all the seats. Where should I sit?

I certainly did not want to crawl over someone to sit in the middle, so I sought a seat on the aisle. The first 2 places I tried to sit someone said, that 1 saved for blank. Yet, listen up, yet no 1 invited me to sit with them. After being rejected twice it was determination that made me try a third time. Could I have experienced the same things at Southwest Central?

Have you seen strangers in the parking lot and simply ignored them? Why not introduce yourself to them and escort them to the building and so on and so forth. And here he goes on to encourage his church to do, some things that will help welcome visitors. It's a sobering little article, isn't it? For many people the church is the only real family that they will have or that they do have.

And for a growing segment of the population, it's the family that they're looking. We're the ones they are looking. When people come here, they have to feel, they have to feel, I repeat it, they have to feel that they belong here and that they are welcome or they will not stay. Period. I think that there's some legitimate things that we should get out of church when we come.

And if we don't get these things, then there's no reason to stay. We should get a sense of God's presence that in this place I come closer to God than at other times. We should get direction for our lives. We might not always agree, but at least the way we should go has been clearly marked. And we should get a feeling that we truly belong here.

Just as much as everybody else, we should never feel like anybody here, regardless of where they're from and who they are, fall into the category of being an outsider. The question is how do we make sure that everyone gets these things when they come? A few suggestions and then I'll close-up my lesson. First of all, experiencing God's presence requires my obedience to his word and my drawing close to his son, Jesus Christ, throughout the week. New music, new creature, new building, all good things, but that's not gonna do it to draw you closer to God.

It's a new attitude about your own Christianity that's what'll draw you near to God. The more we as a group dedicate ourselves to Christ, the more we will experience God's presence not only in worship, not only at worship service, but every day of our lives. Secondly, direction requires leadership and in the church leadership requires prayer and study and preparation. People want direction but we have to be sure that as leaders and teachers and ministers that the direction that we're giving them is according to God's word and is not ambiguous. There are many directions in life but we will be judged if the directions that we give lead to Christ or don't lead.

And then finally, belonging happens when each person begins to sense ownership and responsibility within the church. A warm welcome, a meeting of immediate needs and something to do says, we want you to belong. But that sense of belonging won't happen until you yourself begin to care about what happens to the church, care enough to welcome others, Care enough to support it financially. Care enough to maintain it and serve it. Care enough to want others to belong like you.

You know what? You know that you belong when you care for others like others cared for you when you first came. That's when you know you finally have locked in to the group. Of course, the 1 thing everyone needs to get when they come to church is the chance to be right with God. And as every service, as in every service, we offer that opportunity now.

If you're not a Christian and would like to be right with God, be close to God, have your sins forgiven and receive the Holy Spirit, we encourage you please to repent of your sins, to confess the Lord and to be baptized this day. And if you are a Christian and you need to make a change in your life in order to draw closer to him, do whatever needs to be done now.

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