I have written before that when my family is on vacation we make it a practice to visit a church wherever our plans take us (it is a good opportunity for me to hear a sermon and for us to see how others worship). This past Sunday was no exception. I have to admit that the style and substance of the service was not my cup of tea – the time of praise was too long for my liking and the sermon was less about the scripture and more about the speaker – but I did learn at least one thing: the kingdom of God is made up of a vast variety of people, most of whom are not like me.
While I like the style or our home church, I realized as I stood there singing on Sunday that most of the brothers and sisters in the faith that were gathered around me would not fully enjoy the worship at Calvary. I assume they would feel that our singing was too brief to be effective, our message was not as easily applicable and our spiritual fervor was not as expressive. God has truly blessed His people by developing each local body of Christ with great diversity and uniqueness. Because we as individuals are all different, it makes sense that every church is different, too.
Every fellowship of believers differs in many ways, depending upon the preferences and proclivities of those in attendance. Yet, despite these differences, there are important similarities, described in such verses as this:
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)
All churches ought to be a gathering of people who express love, service, fellowship and encouragement. While we may not perform all these practices in similar ways, we can all prepare for Heaven by engaging in them together.
We gather together for corporate worship to express love – for God and for one another through times of praise or prayer, whether it take six minutes or sixty. We gather together for corporate worship to provoke service – expressing gratitude for God’s blessing by giving our time, talents and treasures to benefit others in response to God’s grace. We gather together for corporate worship to share in fellowship – meeting together and sharing life together, mourning with those who mourn and rejoicing with those who rejoice. We gather together to express encouragement – sharing the hope and truth of God’s word as we anticipate the return of our Savior. That is why, even though it was not what I would choose to consistently participate in, I was glad to gather with the saints last Sunday.
With the heart of a pastor I write that I hope that everyone reading these words has a spiritual home that enables you to express your love for God, your service for others, your fellowship with the faithful and your encouragement in the Bible’s truth. If that home is not Calvary, perhaps one day while vacationing our paths will cross and we can worship together.