We > Me - Week Two: Sunday-Go-To-Meetin'
Today we are continuing the sermon series, We > Me and we are wrestling with the question, "Does Church Still Matter?"
I'm going to assume that if you are watching today that the answer to that question is probably "Yes!" This is kind of an insider message today to be fair. I'm going to be addressing those of us who have gathered, or who are watching or maybe even viewing this after it's happened.
And I figure that Church still matters to you at some level, or you might be curious to what I am going to be talking about today--either way, this is directed at a churchier kind of audience.
If you are watching or viewing and you aren't very church-y---don't go anywhere! You're going to want to hear this. In fact, this might be the kind of sermon that you have wished for a long time that pastors would preach to their churches.
In 2014 there was a study by Gallup that was commissioned by Group publishing--a study that asked emerging generations, millennials, church refugees, and the so-called "nones" why they didn't go to church anymore.
There were several main answers to that question, but this is one that troubled me more than the others: Christians Act Like God Doesn't Really Matter.
In other words, these people saw Christians get more excited about pretty much everything else--- elections, cultural debates, and the like---than they did about their relationship with God.
They watched their church-going friends and family members, who wouldn't miss church on Sundays, spew hatred, bigotry, and division on their social media pages... along with posting Bible verses and inspirational quotes.
Or they noticed how so many others among their friends and family never once mentioned their faith, never demonstrated any kind of joy or excitement about their church, and basically acted as though none of it really mattered at all to them.
It's true, you know. We'll lose our minds in front of the TV when our favorite team wins. We'll see a movie that we love, and then we'll tell the whole world that everyone should see it.
Add that to the fact that Christians are unplugging and disengaging from their churches in record numbers, and you've got a serious problem.
So here's the thing... I get it. I completely understand all this. Church can be boring. God knows I've been to my fair share of boring worship services in my day--most of those were at presbytery meetings, to be honest.
In fact, I took my son Jackson to a presbytery meeting years ago, and after the worship service he told me "That was the single worst church experience of my life."
People sleep in church, too. Some of y'all probably doze off watching this, am I right? When we gathered in person a hundred years ago, I used to look out into the congregation and try to find all of the people sleeping so I could wake them up.
Like I said, I get it. Netflix has more drama. The golf club has friendlier people. The park has a nicer view. And no one is making you for a pledge card... or asking you to do or think a bunch of uncomfortable things.
Here's the thing, though...
Something happens when we gather together. Something happens because Jesus promised his followers that whenever two or more of you are gathered together in my name---I'm there.
We say those kinds of things in liturgy, but do we really believe them?
What if... and bear with me here... it's true? What if Jesus is right here, right now. Listen, the thing that happens when we come together is something mystical, wild and wonderful. We are in the presence of the Risen Christ.
When we gather we are a part of a movement that has one singular purpose---to bring the shalom the peace of God here to earth. When we gather for worship, we are participating in world-changing, status-quo upsetting, bring some revival, holy work.
And it's not about style, although that's what everyone gets hung up on. So many people focus so much on whether or not they like the music at their church, or whether the pastor is wearing a robe or not, or if they stood up and sat down enough times that they miss the power, they miss the energy, they miss... Jesus.
This is the most important thing to remember about all of that: All of this doesn't happen without you and me.
All of this doesn't happen if we aren't together. And right now in the middle of this crazy world, we are living in, we all need this. We need to know that there is more. That a better world is possible.
Now more than ever, we need together.
24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
It is strangely comforting to see that 2000 years ago, the Church was having the same issues--people had given up on gathering. And the author of Hebrews was having to ask them, "Seriously, y'all?"
You might be wondering what would cause these Christians from 2000 years ago to stop coming to church.
Well, these people had a sincere belief that Jesus was coming back any moment to kick butt and take names. So some of them were like, "Why bother?" There were other reasons, too, to be fair.
But the author of Hebrews challenges the people in this faith community to not give up on gathering together for this reason---to "spur" one another.
The Greek word for "spur" connotes encouragement, exhortation, but also boldness--as in imbue one another with boldness... give each other boldness to be the kind of community where amazing is regular... where Jesus is present... where the shalom of God is evident... where you come together in spite of the obstacles in doing so.
And where you believe that God matters. Where you boldly demonstrate joy and excitement about what God is doing in your life. Where you can't help but show to the world that all of this church-y stuff not only makes a difference in your life, but in the world around you, too.
The writer envisions a community where fearless conversations and bold public witness informed the community’s journey with Jesus—together.
How Do We Live Into This Vision In This Challenging Context?
When We > Me - Questions and doubts are welcomed.
When We > Me - It’s Okay to not be Okay
When We > Me - There is space for Fearless Conversations
When We > Me - We don’t quit on our community
Together we can do more when we own the idea that We > Me and that Church still matters, God still matters, all of this still matters. Because if it matters to us, we'll want to show that it matters not just by our words, but by what we do, the kind of community we create.
And we need this now. Now more than ever, we need together.