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IS GOING TO CHURCH GONE OUT OF FASHION? – GOODMORNING

A decorated and newly painted Christ Church at Lucknow - 2-Optimized

“Going to Church”
Has it Gone Out of Fashion?

By Michael L. Patten

The Simple Church, Greek word Ecclesia, getting together in Jesus’ name

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In the post-modern culture of the early twenty-first century, the question, “Has going to church gone out of fashion?” seems to be very relevant. It would seem that many of my generation as well as those of my children’s generation have voted “yes” with their feet.

The percentage of American adults who identify themselves as Christian dropped from 86% in 1990 to 77% in 2001, as reported at religioustolerance.org. This website also quoted the Barna Research group, “From 1992 to 2003, average attendance at a typical church service has dropped by 13% whereas the population of America has increased by 9%!”

The post-modern atmosphere of our culture today is in support of these trends. However, at Spirit & Truth Fellowship International we, along with other Christians, are committed to turning the tide of this trend. The opening paragraph of our Statement of Beliefs is:

“We believe the Scriptures are God’s “heart” revealed to mankind. The reason God wants us to know the truth is so we can live it and share it with others. God wants us to be “imitators” of Him, and His chief characteristic is love. Truth without love is vanity; love without truth is sentimentality.”

This statement reflects the balance God desires for His children to have between doctrine (right believing), and practice (walking out our faith).

Ephesians 4:1 (REV)
Therefore, I, the prisoner of the Lord, urge you to walk worthily of the calling with which you were called.

The word “worthily” in this verse corresponds with the Greek word, axios, of which Richard Lenski said, “Axios has the idea of equal weight. Conduct and calling are to balance in weight.” [1] The first three chapters of Ephesians are devoted to doctrine, while here in this verse we have the transition to the next three chapters, which focus more on practice, and how we are to be in relationship with one another. God puts equal weight on doctrine and practice. We are called in one Body, so our conduct is to reflect that by meeting together as the Church.

A major underlying premise of the New Testament is that followers of Christ would be actively involved in a local church. This is not optional, but a matter of obedience. In the summation of the first section of the book of Acts, the pattern for the Church of Jesus Christ is set, which involves being together. Four times in seven verses (Acts 2:42-48) the point is made that believers met together. The notion that a follower of Christ can be faithfully carrying out his calling isolated from other saints is not supported by Scripture. In fact to not be in relationship with a local church is aberrant behavior for a Christian.

Hebrews 10:25
Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

This section of the book of Hebrews opens with a participial statement summarizing what has gone before in preceding chapters. It also shows us on what basis we should heed the exhortations that follow.

Hebrews 10:19-21
(19) Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus,
(20) by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body,
(21) and since we have a great priest over the house of God,

The conjunction “therefore,” in verse 19, not only transitions us into this new section but also points back to what has been handled so fully in the preceding chapters. These include the High Priesthood and sacrifice of Christ, as well as our assurance that the entry into the sanctuary of God has been secured.

What follows are three exhortative subjunctives. These verb forms require action based upon what has preceded. “Let us draw near; let us hold unswervingly; let us consider one another” are not optional, but commands. These three are put in the order of faith, hope, and love.

Hebrews 10:22
Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.

Regarding faith, our relationship with God is the focus. To draw near to the sanctuary requires maintaining the condition of one’s heart by cleansing the conscience. This is done by constantly applying the blood of the Lamb to our conscience as needed. At the new birth the shed blood of Jesus Christ, in addition to giving us a new nature, cleanses us of sins committed previously. Subsequent sins must be confessed, which applies his blood to our conscience.

1 John 1:9 (REV)
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

The second of the three exhortative phrases encourages us to hold the hope unswervingly.

Hebrews 10:23
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.

Both the world which is lacking hope, as well as the Christian who is to proclaim our hope in Jesus Christ, are implied by the word profess in this verse.

1 Peter 3:15
But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,

The final “let us” has to do with conduct in relationship to the church.

Hebrews 10:24 and 25 (REV)
(24) And let us consider one another, to spur one another on to love and good works,
(25) not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but exhorting one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

At Spirit & Truth Fellowship we are invested in right doctrine, and at the same time we give equal weight to the need for individuals meeting together in local areas. We have established the Fellowship Network to help people connect with others, both in their local areas and with others on a national, or even an international level.

At STFonline.org/network you can find listings of local fellowships as well as resources to assist in forming a new fellowship. If you want assistance in finding or starting a fellowship in your area, please contact us.

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