Anyone going through the Marg community handbook, would notice phrases like “Co-Identity” and “Church through the week”.
THROUGH the week?!
We meet on Sundays, and in the week; there’s prayer meetings and bible studies. Does “church through the week” mean we are expected to meet every day of the week? Did we just land in Ridiculous-land?
Is Marg suggesting it’s members should spend those precious evening hours in yet another Bible discussion with a fellow believer when they should be with their spouse and children?
After a day full of work, the desire to make time for our own biological families, after we reach home, exhausted after client calls, tough deadlines and traffic jams with rain added for flavour, is nearly zero. No desire.
And yet we are the same people who want God’s mission to go ahead, and somehow want our neighbours and friends to believe in Jesus and know Him. How can this happen at all? Do we have to quit our jobs to tell people about Jesus and build up fellow Christians?
The church is not a building, it’s a people.
This is incredible to those outside who have a cultural yet erroneous idea of what the church is. We understand the real definition by looking back into the Bible. In the same manner, we Christians need to ask questions of how often did the church interact with each other? How many days? How many hours? Is there a fixed number?
What does the Bible teach about it? How did the first church understand those commands and live it?
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” – John 13:34,35
Here, Jesus gives a command and a promise that would be the sign of His church, and that would draw all people to the church who would represent Him. Our Lord told his disciples that “all people” will know their identity if they had love for one another.
This is seen later in the book of Acts 2:42-47. The Holy Spirit came upon these disciples and the Spirit-filled new life included a lot of community life! We also see this in teachings in Titus 2:1-12, where members of the church are encouraged to train younger members in holiness and disciplined lives, so that the good news maybe adorned. This command interestingly, is not just for pastors or elders. It’s for each Christian to obey. That kind of investment needs a lot of love and sacrifice.
Imagine- an older man who is a Vice-President of an M.N.C, coming home and taking out time to go through Biblical teachings about marriage with a younger couple in his church community who are having a hard time. If his neighbours see such regular interactions, they will know at least where this man invests his life and Whose disciple is he. This would be a fulfillment of Jesus’ words above!
But are you doing such building up?
After all, one Christian alone or one Christian family alone can never by themselves displays God’s wisdom- it is through all of the church it was meant to happen (Eph 3:10-11).
Are people being drawn to our community of faith? To our church? If they are, woohoo! Praise God. But if we have failed to gladly love Christ’ people before a watching world, guaranteed we are not practising church through the week. What does Marg mean by “church through the week”?
1. “Church through the week” begins with true concern for one another.
This is natural in a biological family. This should come by God’s grace, to anyone affected by the concern and sacrifice of Jesus for their sins.
When we sin, we feel like unbelievers, we feel like we are dirty. Does this mean we have lost our salvation? No way! We are redeemed and a new creation! Jesus achieved that! We can live like we are dead to sin and alive to God.
Similarly, we might feel distant from our local church, have had disagreements and may have not met throughout the week. You are hardly connected right? No way! We are members of one family (Eph 2:19). Jesus achieved that! We can live like we are one household because we are one! But troubled by our busy life-styles, we might ask– “Yaar, how many church meetings should I attend in a week? I reach home at 9pm!”
I understand. I’ve been in jobs where I’ve reached home at those times . But we need to see if we are thinking like we are a family of God or does our attitude sound more like we are keeping score of meetings? Are we looking at Church through the week as if it’s an unreasonable law that someone has imposed? That would be legalism. I hope we are clear this is no law to please God better. But-
If there was zero obligation for me to attend all church gatherings, would the church still see me during the week? And even then, will I go to spiritually receive, or to spiritually give?
The question really is- is Ephesians 2:19 an area of unbelief for me?
Think hard about this. I suggest if we are a family, the questions busy believers ask would look different. This is not to say that Christians cannot be in seasons of life that demand a lot. Please don’t get me wrong.
At the same time, I am not talking to people who are working late hours because they sinfully want their bosses’ approval or have a standard of living they don’t want to give up for all the wrong reasons. Such cases need evaluation and repentance.
Most of us thankfully have a huge flexibility in choosing jobs, work hours, contracts and timings today. The 1st century slave did not even get paid, forget flexibility. Can we consider a job-change so that we can get more plugged in with the church family?
Or did I just make a sacrilegious statement? 🙂
This is a word to busy students, doctors and soldiers in the armed forces, and others in special careers in life. You may not be able to meet your church folks for weeks, maybe months. I understand and empathize with special situations. Thank God for WhatsApp, sms, phone calls and email, you can still have meaningful communication with your spiritual family. God will meet your spiritual need for fellowship by providing for you in special ways. You are not alone!
2. “Church through the week” doesn’t neglect the neighbourhood.
Today’s lifestyle has led many of us to choose between our neighbourhoods and our workplaces. It’s a sad reality. Work demands 9-10 hours every day and travel demands 2 hours more. Some people think the solution is to put all their Christian focus in their workplace. Excel at work, evangelize, invite friends to church on Sunday.
This is great- we need men and women excelling for Jesus in their workplaces! But here is the problem.
Just like God put us in our workplaces, have we forgotten that God has placed us in our neighbourhoods too?
Today’s Christian men and women are usually cool with not knowing their neighbours- I know because I have done that- and yet it should be a natural outcome of God’s love that is poured into their hearts (Rom 5:5 ). We may have neglected the gifts of natural rhythms God gave us to live, like giving, celebrating and resting as a Jesus-community in our neighbourhoods.
Do our neighbours know at least some of our church members’ names and life stories?
Do we show off our church like we show off our children or siblings? Why or why not?
3. “Church through the week” means repenting of our masks and making the most of the time we have.
Weeks ago, one of my sisters at Marg Wanowrie suggested that ideally we should be confessing our sin battles when we meet, right away, because that is what church should be about- openness and learning to live in Holiness as God’s people. I absolutely loved what she said.
But how difficult and time-consuming is this, when we would rather discuss movies and kittens than our sin struggles with those God has placed in our lives. Is this because we want to maintain our “image”? Where in the Bible do we see that?
Have we brought in formality into God’s family? Maybe because someone in our last church gossiped against us? But when did Jesus stop loving brothers and sisters?
“Time does not exist!”
Some might respond – “the people in the first church had a slower life. They were more of a farming-based, rural community. We should adapt and not force so many meetings on fellow believers in an age when there is a time-crunch”.
First of all, we all know in Christ, no one is obligated to come to any meeting. There is only the obligation to love (Romans 13:8). The Christian needs to figure out what that looks like (1 John 3:18). Does love in deed not include spending time?
Second, nothing could be further from the truth. Let’s read Acts 2:42-27 again. These people were meeting every day as new believers.
Which place was this happening in? Jerusalem. Was Jerusalem a village? No. It was a city.
A BIG, bustling city.
Where was the rest of the first church set in Acts?
Ephesus. Thessalonica. Rome.
Big trading cities.We are talking nothing less than the Mumbais and Delhis of those days minus the modern amenities that save our time.
Of course there were farmers, but there were many others; blacksmiths, traders, silversmiths and other merchants for whom losing one hour in one day lost meant loss of pay. They were not just “farmers” who had a lot of time on their hands.
This is just a glimpse of the sacrifice Christians made for one another when they met, every day breaking bread , remembering Him who made them one body for His purposes. No wonder it made heads turn.
Here is an article that talks about the amount of travel required in Jesus’ times. Now imagine walking with your family for 3 miles today to build up and encourage other believers.
I think it is pretty clear that we have it easier than those poor saints in Acts.
As I wind up this post, I leave you with some questions. Thank you for reading patiently- more incoming, next week:
1. Do you miss being with the church? Why or why not? Are you relieved to be away from God’s people? Are you guilty of declaring your love for Jesus, but neglecting His bride in daily life? What do you think is a way out?
2. If God is your Father, are you meeting the spiritual and material needs of at least one person in the Father’s family? Why or why not?
P.S – This post is based on some good questions asked in the Marg Wanowrie church. Members of the Antioch course being done in Marg, helped me significantly with this. Thankful!