If church is something designed to glorify God in all the things we do together, it becomes something it was not intended to be once we make it about something it was never intended to be about.
Chapter 3 in “Letters to the Church” by Francis Chan is about God’s order for church, the congregating of his people. Instead of following the examples given in Acts 2:42-27 many have exchanged our biblical mandate for something they thought would draw a larger crowd.
This chapter examines that premise and concludes by walking through the things we find in the above verses. Chan believes that the core of our issues is a “lack of devotion.”
“In our impatient culture, we want to experience biblical awe without biblical devotion. At the core of our dysfunction is not necessarily style or structure but lack of devotion.” p.56
The apostles’ teaching
This quote hit me between the eyes, maybe it will you too,
“My preaching habits over the years have shown that I believe His words are dead and require my creativity to bring them to life.” p.58
There is always a temptation to make things interesting or highlight how they are interesting. We can take this too far. This is one more reason expository (verse by verse, chapter by chapter – preaching/teaching through whole books of the Bible) is important.
I have long thought that we need to hear more scripture in our worship services. Those are the words that God inspired, not mine. At the same time, I do think that at times Chan overstates various aspects of his point…like here,
“Just a few weeks ago, at our church gathering we read the entire book of Revelation out loud…I started by reading Revelation 1:3: ‘Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophesy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.’ Isn’t it ridiculous that God promises a blessing to anyone who reads Revelation out loud and yet no one actually does this?” p. 59
I would say it is untypical and things like this need to become more typical but the case as stated is what is ridiculous.
The Breaking of Bread
Chan is accurate when he says that the Lord’s Supper can become boring to us today. He is also correct when he says it is a connection both with God and each other. We often miss that second part. Third, he is correct that this is the core of our worship. I do wish he had said something about the celebratory nature of the supper rather than creating an atmosphere like a funeral.
We don’t gather for preaching. We don’t gather for giving. We gather for the Supper. Everything else supports that and is in addition to that. I never have understood why some churches de-emphasize this or don’t take it every week. I will also admit that it is entirely possible to take it every week and not emphasize it as we should.
Do I remember the last time I gathered with other believers just to pray? Yes. Last night. We do this every Sunday night this Summer and it has been a real blessing.
One thing Chan missed here is the definite article. He got it in his heading “the prayers” but missed it in the discussion. They met in the temple courts, as Jewish believers to pray “the prayers” just as Peter and John would come to the temple at the hour of prayer at the start of Acts 3. They were still very Jewish, praying very Jewish kinds of prayers. These are specific prayers of Judaism, not just whatever comes to mind. The application of that is a bit harder today, maybe, but it shouldn’t be lost on us.
I appreciate how Chan has a desire to do things God’s way. That has been near and dear to Churches of Christ. It is an important caveat to remember that our traditions and the scriptures are not the same thing and our temptation will always be to confuse the two. I appreciate him pointing us back to Acts and to reframe the worship experience from an experience about us to an experience about God (p.63).
What did you glean from this chapter?