It's WONDERFUL for Christians to be able to FELLOWSHIP together! It's something that we should really desire, because, after being out amongst the unbelieving World and facing numerous problems all day--or for several days, or all week--we NEED that time together with others who believe as we do, who love the Lord, and are serving Him and living for Him!
In the World today, living a Christian life is not always an easy task, so it's a real blessing to get together with other Christians for fellowship, to read and study God's Word together, to sing and praise the Lord, to unitedly pray for one another and to ask for prayer for our individual problems or needs. It's also a good time to have Communion together.
We are told in Hebrews 10:25, "Let us NOT FORSAKE the ASSEMBLING of ourselves TOGETHER, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us ENCOURAGE one another, and all the more as you see the Day (of Jesus' Return) approaching." The Lord knew that we needed united fellowship with other Christians for our own inspiration and for spiritual refreshing, and for being strengthened by His Word. Also, as the above verse says, meeting together is a time to ENCOURAGE one another. There is also great POWER in UNITY, and there's just something about UNITED prayer and fellowship that really brings down the Lord's BLESSING!--See Acts 4:32-33.
It's important to understand, however, that meeting together for fellowship and spiritual renewing--whether it is done in a church building, a great Cathedral, a private home or a thatched hut--is NOT our "SERVICE" for the Lord. The reason we mention this is because, especially in many of the more formal churches, the fellowship meeting is called the "SERVICE". This has given many people the mistaken impression that by merely going to CHURCH and giving an offering, they have FULFILLED their obligation to God.--That all they are required to do as Christians is to attend the "service" in order to please God.
Obviously this is not all, because a Christian's obligation, as Jesus COMMANDED us, is to "PREACH the GOSPEL to every person"!--Mark 16:15. Our actual WORK and SERVICE for the Lord is in our everyday LIVING for Him, in our WITNESSING to others, showing them love and pointing them towards Salvation. THIS is our service to God!--And it's genuine WORK and requires DEDICATION and a measure of SELF-SACRIFICE. Meeting together for an hour or two for FELLOWSHIP, by comparison, should be a genuine PLEASURE and RELAXATION! It should be a time to be renewed, re-inspired and fueled up for the work and restrengthened for the battles in the days ahead!
In Mark 6:7-13, Jesus sent His disciples out to minister to the people. It was a great deal of work, and when they'd FINISHED their SERVICE, verses 3O-31 say: "And the Apostles gathered themselves together unto Jesus. And He said unto them, 'Come ASIDE into a QUIET place, and REST a while.'" Likewise today, there is a great difference between our SERVICE for the Lord and our "gathering ourselves together unto Jesus", and "coming aside to REST" to be re-inspired!
Another interesting point brought out in this passage is the fact that it isn't necessary for Christians to have a fancy religious building, cathedral or so-called "house of God" to meet in for fellowship and time with the Lord. For its first 200 YEARS of existence, Christianity had NO buildings, and Christians just met wherever they could. Jesus said, "WHEREVER two or three are gathered together in My name, THERE am I in their midst!"--Matthew 18:20.
All throughout New Testament times, the Church thrived and grew and got along fine without any church buildings or "houses of God"! Apart from holding secret meetings in forests, catacombs etc., the only meeting places that Christians had were their HOMES. Repeatedly the Apostle Paul refers to "the CHURCH that is in your HOUSE".--Romans 16:5; 1Corinthians 16:19; Colossians 4:15; Philemon 2. Note that the house itself was not the Church, but the "Church" MET in their houses!
It would be helpful to understand the original meaning of the word "Church" as translated from Greek, the language of the New Testament. Did you know that in virtually EVERY VERSE where you find the word "Church", the Greek word "Ekklesia" appears, which literally means "the CALLED OUT or CHOSEN ones" or "the BODY of BELIEVERS"! God's true and living Church are the genuine Christian BELIEVERS in God who follow Jesus--the born-again, saved Body of Christ.--Not a BUILDING or any particular denomination!
This ACTUAL MEANING of the word "Church" is completely different from its modern-day connotation. If you were to ask most people today what a "Church" is, the first picture that comes to mind would be some kind of "church BUILDING"! But the Church is NOT a building at all! It is the PEOPLE, the assembly of true believers, not a lifeless building made of concrete and steel!--And certainly not a luxurious cathedral that wasted millions of dollars that could have been spent to help preach the Gospel to the World's billions who do not know Jesus!--And to help feed, clothe and shelter the poor!
But sad to say, the Church gradually became interested in BUILDINGS, and as they did, they began to lose the vision of their purpose and goal on Earth. Little by little, the Church's major emphasis began to be placed on the BUILDING--and once-a-week attendance to it--instead of winning the World for Jesus! What a sad day for the Church! Up until that time, the early Christians were doing a really good job. But when they began to concentrate on acquiring properties and buildings, they lost sight of the Church's TRUE goal of winning the millions of lost souls who have never heard the Gospel!
Did you know, for example, that in the churches of supposedly "Christian" America, the average amount of church income that is spent to support their own MISSIONARIES who are out preaching the GOSPEL is only 5%, when at the same time 55% is spent on building new CHURCH BUILDINGS and maintaining their old ones? Every year, millions upon millions of Dollars are spent on new church buildings. But that is NOT due to a RISE in church attendance. In fact, they can't even fill the buildings they've already got!--Yet all that money is spent on bigger, more elaborate, luxurious BUILDINGS, instead of on reaching the lost people of this World with God's message of Love and Salvation!
Think of what those millions--and literally BILLIONS--could have done on the mission fields of the World! But instead, they were literally WITHHELD from the Gospelstarved lost! If the Church had spent that money to evangelise the World by supporting missionaries, printing literature and bringing God's Love and Truth to the lost, the World today would be a very different place! But instead, in countless countries, one can see huge cathedrals and elaborate buildings worth millions of dollars sitting almost side-by-side with the shacks and shanties of the pitifully poor, oppressed,undernourished peoples of the World. "Brethren, these things ought NOT so to be!"--James 3:10.
The Church System's insistence on weekly church attendance has also given the wrong idea to the World, that people who do not attend a church building cannot be Christians! We've heard many a disheartened so-called "sinner" say, "I CAN'T be a Christian because my job requires me to work on Sundays!" What a shame that people have been misled to believe that all Christians must attend some building once a week in order to please God!--When, in fact, a study of the New Testament will show that neither Jesus nor the Apostles EVER gave a commandment for Christians to "go to church on Sunday"!--NOT ONCE!
There is also no mention of a church BUILDING throughout the entire New Testament. Jesus never once taught that His followers were to meet in a specific BUILDING or the "house of God", as they're wrongly called today. In fact, He taught just the OPPOSITE! When He was asked WHERE people should go to WORSHIP, He answered, "Believe Me, the time is coming, and now IS, when you will worship the Father neither (at the temple) on this mountain, nor (at the temple) in Jerusalem! For the TRUE WORSHIPPERS will worship the Father in SPIRIT and in TRUTH! For the Father SEEKS such people to worship Him!"--John 4:23,24.
As the martyr Stephen proclaimed to his religious persecutors, "The Most High GOD does NOT live in TEMPLES made with hands!"--Acts 7:48-50. "For Heaven is My throne and EARTH itself is My FOOTSTOOL! Therefore what HOUSE will you build ME, says the Lord, or what shall be My resting place? Has not My hand made all these things?"--Isaiah 66:1-2. The Lord permitted the ancient Jews to build a Temple because they INSISTED on doing it (2Samuel 7:1-13), but it wasn't His idea!--2Samuel 7:5-7. Even after building it, King Solomon honestly confessed that God didn't live there, saying, "But WILL God INDEED dwell on Earth? Behold, the heaven and the Heaven of heavens cannot contain Thee; how much LESS this HOUSE that I have builded?"--1Kings 8:27.
All the gorgeous cathedrals, temples and church buildings, without the PEOPLE in them, are nothing but EMPTY SHELLS! Buildings are NOT "temples of God" because the TRUE temple that God dwells in is the HUMAN HEART!--Your heart, and the hearts of all those who know and love Him!--1Corinthians 3:16-17; 2Corinthians 6:16; Revelation 3:20. The Scripture is clear that God seeks to live in people's HEARTS, NOT in dead, cold, lifeless buildings!
Now, there is nothing wrong with Christians having or renting a building so they can have a place to regularly have fellowship, where they can meet together for spiritual feeding, inspiration and united prayer, because often individual homes are simply not large enough to accommodate every one.
A church building can be used to its fullest for God's glory if, instead of being used just once a week, it is put into CONSTANT use as a place where its members daily study and learn the Word of God, and learn how to truly LIVE the Christian life and be WITNESSES to others. But unfortunately, a once-a-week spiritual feeding is all most Christians today get, and even then, many church leaders give their flocks hardly anything in the way of genuine spiritual training and care. Because of this sad state of affairs, many sincere church members who genuinely love the Lord know little or nothing about how to SERVE Him or lead OTHERS to Him!
In fact, in many churches, because of the lack of true spiritual shepherding and training by their pastors or priests, many people have never even learned how to take care of THEMSELVES spiritually! They don't even know how to feed themselves from the Word of God, much less how to feed and help OTHERS outside the church.--What a SHAME!
When Jesus said, "Go into ALL the World and preach the Gospel to EVERY person" (Mark 16:15), He meant for EVERY ONE of His followers to do whatever they could to help spread His message. Even though they may have jobs or other responsibilities, they can at least share the Good News with their own families and friends about how they personally were saved. But if they have not been taught to do so, or even TOLD that this is something that they SHOULD do, something that God WANTS them to do, how can they be expected to obey Christ's command?--Unless they've got the faith and courage and initiative to read the BIBLE on their OWN, realise that their shepherds, pastors and clergy have FAILED to tell them the Truth, and then launch out and begin telling others about Jesus--despite their spiritual leaders' poor example!
Most churchy Christians today have been taught the importance of attending CHURCH regularly, and they certainly have been encouraged to GIVE generously to SUPPORT the church, but how many have actually been taught how to carry their faith OUTSIDE the four walls of that building to help OTHERS in need? Thank God, there are SOME churches who really DO preach a message of Salvation and service to God, even supporting a few missionaries to preach the Gospel to the lost! But the problem is, MOST are NOT!-Does YOURS?--Do YOU?
The ORIGINAL plan that the EARLY CHRISTIANS put into practice so effectively was for all true believers to unite together, not merely in a church building, but in the COMMON CAUSE of loving and actively serving the Lord and reaching out to others with the Good News of Salvation!--And we have tried to pattern our missionary work after their sample.
For the past 2O years we have more than proven--like the Early Church--that Christians working WITHOUT wasteful church buildings and without extensive, expensive properties and wealth, can STILL believe and preach and live like Jesus' original disciples, putting God first and investing our hearts, our lives, our time and our finances in serving the Lord and reaching others! Our MILLIONS of CONVERTS have discovered the Love, peace, true satisfaction and eternal Salvation that only JESUS can give--all without the wasteful extravagance of million-dollar buildings! Through two decades, with God's help, we have shown that Jesus, His Word and willing hearts are all we need to reach the WORLD with God's message of true Love and Salvation! Hallelujah!
Are YOU living your life for Him? Are you letting Jesus shine through YOU no matter WHERE you are so that you can be a real SAMPLE of His LOVE?--Or is your Christianity bound within the four walls of a so-called "church building"? Why not ask Jesus to make you a part of His LIVING Church on the move! "You also, as LIVING STONES, are being built into a SPIRITUAL house...ACCEPTABLE to God!"--1Peter 2:5.
My name is James Arendt. I was raised in the Hegewisch neighborhood on the southeast side of Chicago, Illinois, served in the USAF from 1970 to 1974, and became a full-time missionary for Christ living 40 years in Japan, 3.5 years in Russia, and a few months in other countries such as Finland, Poland, Estonia, Latvia, South Korea, Taiwan and mainland China where I also served the King of Kings, Jesus, as an Ambassador for His Kingdom.
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