The Church: Where did everyone go? Conclusion

Published 2:57 pm Thursday, June 20, 2019

Last week, a letter writer shared what he believed was wrong with the church, but then he offered this advice: “We (the church) need to go back to the basics. Give me people who ‘know’ God and desire to see others come to this knowledge. Let us then go and ‘live’ the word through our actions daily.”

We need to go back to the basics of being the church. We need to “know” God and desire to see others know. We need to “live” the word through our actions daily.

The first church said much the same: “All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to fellowship, to sharing in meals and to prayer.” Acts 2:42 This is basic church: “teaching” what it means to be disciples of Jesus, “fellowship” means really caring about people inside and outside the church, “sharing meals” with strangers as part of our mission and with each other as part of God’s connection, “prayer” to be in closer connection with God and seek God’s help for ourselves and others.

Teaching, fellowship sharing and prayer are the basics to strengthen our connection with God and better understand God’s will and purpose for us and our church. As we get to “know” God better our desire to help others “know” God will heighten as well as our desire to “live” out our faith in our daily actions.

Results for the early church were dramatic: “They worshiped together, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.” Acts 2:46-47 These basics are key factors to becoming a healthy church impacting its community.

I personally saw how practicing the basics of being the church work. I left the church, but I came back.

After graduating college, I sold automobiles. Another salesman suggested attending a church. “It would be good for business,” he said. For all the wrong reasons, one Sunday, I showed up at a nearby church and took a seat in the back of the sanctuary. Just then, a man I immediately recognized walked in.

I was in trouble. This man purchased a used car from me, had problems and left dissatisfied.

Have you ever wished the floor would open and swallow you whole? I scrunched my body behind the pew so he wouldn’t see me, but to no avail. Recognizing me immediately, he walked my way.

“Larry Davies, you’ve got a lot of nerve showing your face here.” No. That’s not what he said, but it is what I expected from him and probably deserved.

Instead he said with obvious enthusiasm: “Larry Davies, what a wonderful surprise.”

He offered no judgment of what happened. He sat beside me and talked as if we had been friends for years. He enthusiastically told me about his church and promised to pray for me. He began to introduce me to others in the congregation as his friend. He helped me become involved in a small group with people my age.

I soon felt at home in my new church. All because one person who should have been angry, reached out the hand of friendship and offered the forgiving love of Jesus Christ. Looking back, I realize that his encouragement was a key moment in my life.

The author of Hebrews spoke of encouragement to a church full of people who were hurt and thinking of leaving their faith: “Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another.” Hebrews 10:23-25

The key is encouragement. An encouraging church brought me back to God’s arms. Encouragement in the midst of a discouraging world is the reason that despite our many problems, the church is still God’s answer for a hurting world.

The key is in understanding and utilizing the power of one word: encouragement. Becoming an encourager doesn’t simply mean speaking in flowery platitudes but rather looking to motivate others to acts of love and good works. With God’s guidance we can all be encouragers.

My life was changed for the better thanks to God, a dissatisfied customer and a church. If you have been away from God and God’s church, I encourage you to consider coming back. If you are already part of a church family pray for God’s guidance about how you can encourage others. My prayer is for your church and mine to be too busy encouraging others to ever again ask: Where did everyone go?

Rev. Larry E. Davies can be reached at larrydavies@vaumc.org.