In the weekend addition of a small town paper ran a church ad until any before. In big bold letters ran the title: NO EXCUSE SUNDAY–To make it possible for everyone to attend church this Sunday, we are going to have a special “No Excuse Sunday”: Cots will be placed in the foyer for those who say, “Sunday is my only day to sleep in.” There will be a special section with lounge chairs for those who feel that our pews are too hard. Eye drops will be available for those with tired eyes from watching TV late Saturday night. We will have steel helmets for those who say, “The roof would cave in if I ever came to church.” Blankets will be furnished for those who think the church is too cold, and fans for those who say it is too hot. Scorecards will be available for those who wish to list the hypocrites present. Relatives and friends will be in attendance for those who can’t go to church and cook dinner, too. We will distribute “Stamp Out Stewardship” buttons for those that feel the church is always asking for money. One section will be devoted to trees and grass for those who like to seek God in nature. Doctors and nurses will be in attendance for those who plan to be sick on Sunday. The sanctuary will be decorated with both Christmas poinsettias and Easter lilies for those who never have seen the church without them. We will provide hearing aids for those who can’t hear the preacher and cotton wool for those who think he’s too loud! Hope to see you there! Maybe you have never run into any of those issues, but a middle-aged man who was in an honest mood gave me his reason for missing church: God made football…doesn’t that cover it?
In part we can chuckle and laugh at the long list of demands that have to all be met before some dare to enter a church each Sunday because we have all probably been there to one degree to another. It is helpful for me to remember that, because now as a pastor the world seems to revolve around Sunday, I blink and Sunday is here again. Yet, it wasn’t always like that, when I first graduated from college, I was working an hour away from where we lived and I realized just how easy it was to create a host of excuses why church wasn’t all that important or how they didn’t really need me or want me there. It is important to remember that because in our sermon series called DON’T ASK ME THAT we find that a lot of unbelievers aren’t unbelievers at all. In fact, a 2016 Gallup poll found that 89 percent of Americans still say they believe in a God, but they aren’t really convinced that church is all entirely necessary, critical, relevant, etc. So today, we are just going to take an honest look beyond the excuses to the very essence of WHY CHURCH? For our answer we turn to the book of Ephesians where Paul is writing from prison to a people who aren’t quite sure how to see themselves. They have been involved in idol worship, illicit sex, and foolish philosophies— searching for purpose just like a lot of people still today, and Paul starts encouraging them to think about themselves in an entirely different way in Christ — as the church.
(Ephesians 4:11-12)NLT-11 Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. In 1 Corinthians Paul would get even all-encompassing declaring, “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.”
Paul starts to answer the question of Why Church. It is the church that becomes the place where our Calling Meets Community—In other words, as Pastor Rick Warren said with the first words in his best-selling book The Purpose Driven Life- “It’s not about you!” Maybe you’ve tried self-help and been told it is all about you—digging down deeper inside of yourself trying to unlock some hidden gem of wisdom and meaning, and for millions of people that is where they end—in the black hole, whereas, the church is an acknowledgement that purpose is only found beyond self, not in an unyielding focus on self. As God gifts people with gifts in the church–he doesn’t gift any one person with everything. Notice the directional implications of what Paul is saying-—what comes from God—is meant to go through you—and into the world—one person at a time.
Kind of like the game of golf. Setting people up to send them out. One of golf’s immortal moments came when a Scotchman demonstrated the new game to President Ulysses Grant. Carefully placing the ball on the tee, he took a mighty swing. The club hit the turf and scattered dirt all over the President’s beard and surrounding vicinity, while the ball placidly waited on the tee. Again the Scotchman swung, and again he missed. Our President waited patiently through six tries and then quietly stated, “There seems to be a fair amount of exercise in the game, but I fail to see the purpose of the ball. Campus Life.
We can’t miss the purpose of the church. Like in New York City when the Mayor, Mayor Koch had a radical idea. He wanted to solve the plight of the estimated 36,000 homeless men and women who were dealing with a host of issues ranging from drug abuse, mental illness to long-term unemployment. After crunching the number, the mayor had calculated that if each of the 3500 churches in the city cared for ten homeless people the problem would nearly be eliminated entirely. The church leaders rejected the plan. Another swing and miss.
When the church becomes all about a spiritual high, a momentary rush, a drop of entertainment we’ve lost our true calling. If you think you can be a Christian by yourself, in your bubble, without getting messy—you’re mistaken. If you think that being a Christian is going to get you spiritual points and then costs you nothing—no sacrifice, no endurance, no saying no to your old self—than you are wasting your time. In fact, we get two radically different equations starting from the same location.
My life + My Desire + Good News= Momentary Modification
My life + God’s Desire+ Good News= Enduring Transformation
A lot of people stay away from churches because they don’t look like they desire. When what you’ll come to find is that the church you want isn’t found, it is formed. That we don’t come to a church, we are the church—when we come together. Meeting needs bigger than one person can meet, teaching truth bigger than one person can convey, changing lives in more profound ways than one person could plan.