@robertkwendt || lead pastor
I can't even count how many times I've had someone tell me, "I can be a Christian (a follower of Jesus) and not go to church."
Every time I hear that statement, it bothers me. Not because I'm a pastor, but because of the story that led to that statement, or at least what the person isn't realizing because of believing that.
Often, this statement is said because of a bad church experience. This truly saddens me. However, our past experiences should not hold us back from walking fully with Jesus. It should not prevent us from being able to encounter more of him. When we gather as local churches, Jesus shows up in powerful ways. This is something we cannot miss out on.
Here's the thing. Technically speaking, Jesus tells us that faith in him is all we need. Even Paul (an early follower of Jesus) says in his letter to the Ephesians, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast (Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV)." Yes, it is faith alone that saves us, not church attendance. However, I will also argue that it is hard to be a follower of Jesus and not be a part of the local church.
Here are some reasons why we gather at least once a week as a church to worship Jesus.
the church started with a gathering.
In speaking to one of his followers, Jesus said these words...
And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven..." Matthew 16:18-19a NIV
When Jesus uses the word "church," he's actually using a word that means "gathering." Jesus' church is not a specific building or place. His church is a gathering of people. It is a group.
It's not just a bunch of individuals. It is a body.
We find the first launch of the church in the book of Acts. There we see that Peter and other followers of Jesus all gathered together in a room. As they prayed, the Holy Spirit descended on them. A powerful moment takes place and thousands of people begin to profess Jesus as savior. This is important to note, because we see that the Holy Spirit didn't simply descend on Peter. The Spirit descended on all who were gathered.
Jesus tells us that he will also be making another return. At this moment, we would say that the church age will come to an end. While followers of Jesus will be with him forever, the purpose of the church will be complete. 1 Thessalonians 4:17 says, "After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever."
We won't be brought to Jesus as individuals, but rather as a group. So what does all this mean? Here's the simple point:
If the church was a gathering in the beginning and will be a gathering in the end, then why would the church not gather in between?
when the church gathers, it glorifies god.
Isaiah 62:5 paints a comparison between a bridegroom (Jesus) and a bride (his church). Here's what it says: "As a young man marries a young woman, so will your builder marry you; as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you."
God rejoices over his church. It brings him joy to see people who follow him gathered together.
Have you ever been to a sporting event, concert, play, or some type of major gathering? What does it feel like when the whole place is full? What about when it's empty?
When a stadium is full, there's a major energy boost. Players seem to give more effort. The event has an exciting buzz around it.
If we can pack stadiums to watch our favorite teams play, then shouldn't we be packing churches to worship God? He deserves a full house, a large amount of energy, a special buzz.
After all, he rejoices over us.
when the church gathers, it builds and encourages us.
You can only motivate yourself so much. I've found that I'm far more motivated to work out when I'm doing it with other people as opposed to when I'm doing it alone. Why? Simply because the people around me challenge, motivate, and encourage me. When I have them fighting for and with me, I put in far more effort than I ever could have on my own.
I can lift more weight with a spotter.
I run harder when I have someone to compete against.
I give an extra attempt when someone is there to pick me back up.
In writing to the church in Corinth, Paul says, "When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up (1 Corinthians 14:26)."
We have each been given special gifts and abilities. We have varying perspectives, ideas, views, and skills. When we come together, we're thrilled that we're able to build one another up through using the strengths we've been given. Most importantly, we're there to encourage one another.
Living a life for Jesus is not easy. There's an enemy who seeks to destroy all who follow Jesus. The world doesn't always fight for us. In fact, we're often looked down upon by others. This isn't new. It was actually even worse when the church was first forming.
The very word "Christian" was actually a derogatory term. These early followers of Jesus were killed for their faith, mocked, stoned, and ridiculed. However, the church continued to grow. Why? Because despite hardship, they continued to praise Jesus for what he did for them. When the hard times came, they leaned into God hard. They met regularly. They had one another.
When we go to church, we are surrounded by people who can encourage us and build us up. We're with people who can help us navigate our weeks ahead.
the power of the church.
You can pray in your closet. You can sing in your car. You can worship all throughout your week. As a follower of Jesus, you shouldn't be able to help but want to worship him, to put Christ first. You should also not help but want to be surrounded by others just like you to share in the excitement.
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Our weeks are full of tough tasks, setbacks, heartbreak, and challenges. What if we could have a place of refuge? What if we didn't have to be the only one in our office who liked Jesus music? When we gather as a church, we pray together, sing together, and encourage one another.
Jesus didn't give us local churches for no reason. He created local churches so that his followers will bring hope to the communities around them. He created them so his people could gather, sing praises, and build one another up.
We can all use a local church.
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 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." Hebrews 10:24-25. NIV
@robertkwendt || lead pastor
On October 31, 1517, a Catholic monk named Martin Luther posted his 95 Thesis on the door of All Saints Church in Wittenberg. While this marks an important moment in the history of the Christian Church, it was really just one expression of what God had already been up to for thousands of years.
Back in the history of God's people, there used to be designated priests. These were the specially-selected individuals who could enter the Tabernacle or Most Holy Place of the temple. They would do so once a year to make sacrifices to God. These sacrifices were done on behalf of all the people. In other words, the "holy" people went into the "holy" place to worship and sacrifice to God.
In the 1500s, things looked pretty similar. The Bible was only able to be read by a select few. It wasn't in the common language. And the Catholic priests, monks, and leaders were the experts. The common folk were, in a sense, held back from being able to fully experience God.
When I reflect back on this time in Christian history, it sickens me. It sickens me because it was never meant to be that way. Like the Israelites, worship was being done in holy places by holy people. Jesus came to set things straight. He changed our thinking. He changed the way we worship.
Jesus made it possible for worship to be done by the common person in common places.
Martin Luther's actions to help the common man was a response to the heart of what Jesus had already been doing. So what does it mean to have the ability to worship God as a common person in common places? Here are some thoughts...
1. faith is the only title you need.
Early in my faith journey, I always thought people with the title "pastor" were really special. I had the utmost respect for them and thought they had a special relationship with God.
Then I became one.
I love Jesus, please don't mistake that. I do my very best to live for him and honor him with everything I do. I desire and strive to not only uphold the requirements of being a pastor, but to live my life above reproach in any way that I can.
I'm also human. I'm not special or more holy than anyone else at my church. I'm not any more special than anyone I come into contact with. Like them, I was created by God to serve God. The title "pastor" does not earn me any extra access to God. It's simply a title given to represent a role in the church.
The title that matters to me is the same title that matters to people all around the world. That title is FAITH.
For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:18-22 ESV)
Our access to God, our ability to worship and praise him comes through faith in Jesus Christ. The title we need to gain access into the most holy of places. What we need in order to be in the dwelling place of God is not the title "priest" or "pastor." It's the title "child of God." "Follower of Christ." It's faith in Jesus alone.
2. our new access changes the way we worship.
Jesus didn't give us access to the most holy of places so we could simply tell others about the access we've been granted. That would be like getting a special VIP pass to see a major celebrity, sharing the picture all over Instagram, and then never going to actually see the person. The pass wasn't made to be talked about—it was made so you would use it.
In the same way, Jesus did not die on a cross and give us access to God so we could wave a pass around without ever using that pass—without ever approaching God. Our use of it comes in worshipping him. We worship him in the morning, in the afternoon, and in the evening. He granted us the pass so that we could have 24/7 access to God--24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Worship is not reserved simply for a special room, building, or place. Worship is meant to be done in our homes, in our cars, as we walk, talk, eat, and even sleep. Worship is a lifestyle. It is our desire to put God at the forefront of everything that we do. Worship is simply the act of putting God first.
3. jesus gives us access to talk with god.
Did you know that you can talk to the God of the universe? You can tell him how you feel, what you're facing, the battles you're going through, the hardships and joys that you're experiencing. You can talk with him. In fact, he even knows what's on your heart before you say a word. He knows you more closely than you may even realize.
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8:26-27 ESV)
Those who question the existence of God will say that Christians pray to the wind. That they pray to the sky or to an invisible entity. In a sense, they're not wrong. God is spirit. God is everywhere. God is even in the air we breathe. This is mind blowing; but at the same time, it's comforting. It's comforting because we know that God is with us. He's even in the greatest depths of our despair and at the greatest heights of our joy. The best thing is, he's everywhere with us!
How amazing! God is always with us, always listening, always on call.
This means that we can talk to him at any time.
Most nights I spend quite a bit of time trying to help my son get over his fears of going to bed. Often, I'll sit in his room to comfort him and allow him to know he isn't alone. My very presence seems to calm his fears.
In the same way, we have a God who can calm our fears through his presence.
In that dark room, I've learned to spend my time focused on God. Instead of twiddling my thumbs, I use the time to reflect on the day, discuss what happened with God, and ask for clarity and wisdom for the day to come.
I can tell you from firsthand experience that those worship experiences are often the best of my week. Even better than church services! Why? Because it's just God and me. It's our time together. It's a way to put him first even while trying to help my son get to sleep. God wants to be in the middle of all your tasks—so let him.
4. jesus unites us to others who follow him
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV)
In your worshipping of God, you can also find confidence in the fact that you are not alone. In fact, we have an entire book (the Bible) filled with stories, letters, prophecies, and songs that were written by others who walked with the same God. We can hold on with confidence to the words that God inspired through each and every letter, sentence, chapter, and book. In it we're reassured of what faith in Jesus means. We're given pictures of eternity. We're given hope for both now and the future.
When you pick up the Bible and spend some time with God, you are able to focus on him. You are able to put him first. You are worshipping. In your worship, you are able to grow in confidence. You are able to find comfort and solace even in the most challenging of circumstances.
Through reading God's Word (the Bible), talking with him (prayer), and putting him first in everything that you do (worship), you are able as a common person to worship God in a common place.
How awesome is that! The God of the universe has given you 24/7 access to him. The question becomes...what are you doing with that special privilege?
@robertkwendt || lead pastor
I'll never forget the moment when over 50 people left a church I used to be a part of. Why did they leave?
They didn't like the church's approach to music.
Across the world, people sing, dance, shout, and whisper songs of praise to God in various capacities. Some gather in secretive locations with a simple candle to light their space. Others meet in large, extravagantly-decorated spaces with the beautiful rays of sun coming through the well-maintained stained glass windows. Still other groups pull up to a local strip mall, enter into a box-shaped building, and gather in a space with tens of thousands of dollars of technology in place. Even besides these spaces, there's still those who meet in schools, homes, offices, loft apartments—and the list can go on and on.
While all of these are great examples of places and environments where people gather to "worship" God, their expressions are not the heartbeat of what it means to worship.
While some sing hymns, others are DJ'ing using electronic music. Still some have no music at all.
Far too often, I've witnessed followers of Jesus become divided over styles, genres, and ways to worship God.
But what if worship wasn't about a place? What if it wasn't about a style? What if it wasn't only about music, preaching, or all that we have come to know in our own church tradition?
What if the true meaning of worship was about our heart? What would our churches look like?
Here are a few things to reflect on when we think about worship.
Worship is the act of putting God first."
Often times, worship becomes much more complicated than it has to be. (I've heard a lot of great definitions on worship, but I like to keep things simple.) In writing to the church Corinth, Paul said,
"So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." (1 Corinthians 10:31)
Did you know you can worship God while eating and drinking? That means your trip to the local Five Guys can be a worship experience. In fact, you can be worshiping God while chowing on a double cheeseburger made "all the way," a Cajun fry, and a large cherry vanilla coke to wash it down (not saying that would be my order or anything...).
In actuality, our lives are to be worship, because worship is the act of putting God first. While an hour on a Sunday morning is an expression of our worship, it's just one hour of the 168 hours we have in our week. The real question becomes, "What do we do with the other 167 hours in our week?" Here are some things to keep in mind.
worship is not about us.
The prophet Isaiah wrote,
"These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me." (Isaiah 29:13a)
It's easy to stop there. Often, people who go to church will say, "Well that isn't me." However, Isaiah isn't writing to people who didn't know God. He was talking to the people of God. Look at what's said next:
"Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught." (Isaiah 29:13b)
Chances are, our preference of what worship should be or how it should look is more rooted in tradition than in anything else.
I remember when I was in college, I would often attend church twice on a Sunday. I would go to one service out of obligation while I went to another out of joy. The one service was not to my liking, while the other was done in more of the style I was comfortable with. Here's the problem: I was basing everything off of my preference.
Upon reflecting on that time of my life, I began to realize how selfish I was. I was making worship all about me. However, God doesn't want my obligatory praise. He wants my heart. He wants your heart.
worship is about god.
Bob Kauflin wrote in his book True Worshipers, "To worship God is to humble everything about ourselves and to exalt everything about him."
In the passage from Isaiah (referenced above), there's mention of a sealed scroll that's locked. No one can open it but Jesus himself. In the book of Revelation, we get a picture of what it will be like when that scroll is finally opened—when it all becomes perfectly clear. In the midst of the scene where this is taking place, John tells us this:
"And they sang a new song" (Revelation 5:9).
There are new songs in heaven! Praise isn't about a style, genre, or keeping things status quo. Worship is the act of putting God first. We can do this when we sing, dance, cook, eat, sleep, and walk down the street. Worship is about our heart. It's about saying THANK YOU to God.
Why did they sing this new song? The passage continues with the song itself.
"Worthy are you to and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation,
and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on the earth.” (Revelation 5:9-10)
It's because of Jesus that we worship. It's because of what Jesus did for us on a cross that we praise him. We give him honor and glory because of what he did for us. It's that simple.
worship is a BIG THANK YOU.
Have you ever been given a gift?
Growing up, I was told that I couldn't play with the gift or deposit the money until I first wrote a thank you card. The meaning behind this was not that I had to write it out of obligation, but that I was to show gratitude for what was given to me. In some way, someone else sacrificed something so that I could have that gift.
In a similar way, Jesus sacrificed everything so that we may have the gift of eternal life. There's no greater gift than what Jesus did for us (John 15:13). So how should we respond? With a GIANT THANK YOU card.
Our worship is a thank you to God. It's a heart of gratitude.
Cards can come in all shapes and sizes. They can have different colors and textures. They may even have different sounds to them or no sounds at all. Some come in the form of email while others are delivered in the mail.
No matter the style of card, the important part is that one is given.
Let's start putting our preferences to the side. Let's stop fighting amongst each other. Let's begin to write one giant thank you card to God together.
Worship happens 168 hours a week, so let's live like it.