Review of “Letters to the Church” Chapter 3 – The Order

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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.

The Prayers

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.

In Conclusion

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?

Go to chapter four review “The Gang” here

3 Responses

  1. Holy, sacred, and sanctified are not popular words today. Yet these are the qualities we find in God, ourselves and the church. We are not reverent enough. We serve, worship and commune with the most powerful being in the universe. He is the King of the Church, yet we treat it as our play ground. I am humbled. I bow low. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.
    Listen is great advice. As I recall it was the logo of Hewlet-Packard at one time. I also speak too quicky. Trust the Lord and do not relay on your own understanding.
    The church is wonderful. How sad it causes so much pain, hurt, and drama. Our God is high and exalted. Who can comprehend His ways?
    Although it is not a bible word the rabbis speak of the Shkinah glory in the temple. This is the presence of God. This is the Holy Spirit. Paul tells us many times to avoid immorality because it defames our temple. Danger. Danger, Danger. It is time we speak the truth that marriage is sacred, the marriage bed must not be defiled, and we need to avoid adultery in every form.
    Joy should come from our worship and the sacred. Too often we seek the tings of the world as a poor substitute. Things cannot replace God. That is idolatry.
    We are chosen and part of a plan God formed before the foundation of the world. Amazing. Angles long to look into this. As a gentile I have been grafted into God’s family. He loved us before we responded to Him.
    The church cannot be optional. You cannot have Christ without his kingdom and His people. God’s plan is good. We should hold to the traditions delivered to by the apostles. The Pharisees added to the law. We do the same to God’s plan as if we know better. We need more Scripture and less innovation.

  2. The scriptures need to be read out loud but weren’t. I think they are not because there are times that they will clash with the sermon. It might also affect the song service which might last for 1/3 to 1/2 of the whole service. The Psalms are sitting there ready to go and yet never sung or read. There are no specific prayers. There is no period of praise to God.

  3. Often we artificially try to drive devotion, much like we try to drive conversion. The better the experience of the service, the more they will want to be devoted. This is why we need ten verses to back up one verse on God’s love. We make it more complicated than it really needs to be so that it looks impressive.
    If you went by the time spent on a thing done in the worship service, an outsider would probably come the conclusion we gather for the sermon or the singing and indeed that is why many are there. The Lord’s Supper which should be the focus is secondary to the sermon and even the song service in terms of time spent. This has to do with the fact that the Lord’s Supper is as you pointed out ” a funeral service” almost the low point of everything. All of the joyous feasting nature is driven out of the feasting table for stoic, somber ceremony.
    We also should be gathering for each other Heb. 10:25 of which the Lord’s Supper was a large part of. We share with another that which was shared with us…Jesus.
    I think too many people believe that “Joy should come from our worship and the sacred”, but joy should be a saintly virtue based on God’s love and Jesus sacrifice, so it should flow from us into our worship and service. Once we try to derive it from these things, what happens when we leave and go home and are not doing these things? We become dead and desiring of our next emotional fix. Paul was content and uplifted even while in prison and got His strength through Jesus, not through others or church service. It is easy to shine in a room of lights, but we must shine our brightness in the darkness.

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