Sunday, May 15, 2016

Why bother with church?

Why Bother with Church?Why Bother with Church? by Sam Allberry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book begins with the question, “Why bother with church?” and ends with the question “Why on earth would I not bother with church?” It’s aim is to get us excited about church if we aren’t already. Allberry seeks to get us there by showing us two things: (1) what the church is and (2) who it belongs to.

Does he succeed? Largely, yes. The reminders from Scripture that the church is an outpost, a family, an embassy, and the bride of Christ, certainly excited me about the importance of church. "Lacking a church is not equivalent to lacking a decent supermarket or movie theatre; it is like lacking a hospital or a source of water. It is an utter necessity.” Necessary indeed, and also precious: "If you want to understand how committed Jesus is to the church, here’s your answer. He doesn’t just create it and let it be. He marries it.”

Along the way, Allberry answers questions such as: Why do I need church? How is church run? How do I survive church? As to that last question, he diagnoses what may lie behind someone’s boredom in church:

The focus is not primarily on what we do or don’t get out of attending our church, but on what we can give to others. Church is not there for your entertainment, as a consumer, but for you and others to find encouragement, as a contributor. If our “boring-ometer” for church is based on whether we sang songs we liked, or whether the sermon was relevant enough or short enough, or scratching where we have been itching this week, then it could be a sign that we’re going to church for our sake and not for the sake of others.

But the dominant note of the book is boredom with church but excitement for it. And so he concludes

Why bother with church? Because it’s the most important show in town. What goes on when a church meets is far grander than we tend to realise.

It’s God’s family.

It’s God’s embassy in this world.

It’s God’s way of preaching to the spiritual world.

It is, amazingly, Jesus’ bride, who will live with him in the next world.

And, in God’s great mercy, through faith in Christ, you get to be a part of it and to be part of the way God builds it. And if you remember this when you get up next Sunday, you’ll find yourself asking: Why on earth would I not bother with church?

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Thursday, May 12, 2016

Zeal without Burnout

Sometimes the simplest truths are the most profound. And practical. Drawing on Scriptures such as Genesis 2:7, Psalm 90:3, and Psalm 103:14, Ash writes, “God is God, and we are dust.” This is the neglected truth we need to act upon daily if we are to maintain a lifelong ministry of sustainable sacrifice.

Because we are dust, we need sleep, Sabbaths, friends, and food; because God is God, he does not. Because God doesn’t slumber or sleep (Psalm 121:3-4), we can. And we can take our weekly Sabbath rest in light of the truth that God is always working (John 5:17).

Then why do we try to push back our limitations and neglect God’s provisions for our frailty? Pride.

To neglect sleep, Sabbaths, friendships and inward renewal is not heroism but hubris. It is to claim that I am a level or two above normal members of the human race. When a fellow-Christian lets slip how very hard they are working, and that they haven’t had a proper day off for a while, we need to find a way of saying to them (in love!), “You are behaving like an arrogant fool!”

In humility and faith we need to embrace our humaneness. In his conclusion Ash counsels us to say to ourselves something like this:

“I am — and will never, this side of the resurrection, be more than — a creature of dust. I will rest content in my creaturely weakness; I will use the means God has given me to keep going in this life while I can; I will allow myself time to sleep; I will trust him enough to take a day off each week; I will invest in friendships and not be a proud loner; I will take with gladness the inward refreshment he offers me. I will serve the Lord Jesus with a glad and restful zeal, with all the energy that he works within me; but not with anxious toil, selfish ambition, the desire for the praise of people, and all the other ugly motivations that will destroy my soul. So help me God.”

If internalized, this slim volume combines truths and testimonies that will safeguard the reader from burning out in his or her service to the Lord.