The Congregation of the Called
God has created us to be a sociable people. Hebrews 10:25 tells us not to forsake “assembling” with one another. An interesting fact is that the word “church” is not found anywhere in the Greek New Testament to describe a building or a location. The word that is used in the Greek New Testament is ecclesia which translated is assembling or congregation If, therefore, the “church” is in fact the assembly or the congregation, it is then in no way, shape, or form a building, an address, or a location. It is the people of God gathered together for the purpose of worshiping and serving God. If we then refuse to participate in “church” we then are refusing to live in obedience to the scripture previously mentioned, “Not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some.” We are forsaking assembling or congregating with other believes as God has commanded us too. Again, we have been so bold as to tell God “No.”
One of the necessities of congregating with other believers is that we are there to help strengthen one another. We fellowship for the purpose of helping one another carry loads we cannot carry on our own. Just prior to the Word of God telling us not to forsake assembling with one another, Hebrews 10:24 says, “let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds.” Just after that verse the Word of God tells us not to forsake assembling together. Then again just after God’s Word tells us not to forsake assembling together, Hebrews 10:25 says, “But encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” I believe one of the great purposes of God’s people assembling together is clear. We need to draw strength from one another, encourage one another, stimulate one another for good deeds, and love one another.
If the church is not living up to this standard then the church is in rebellion against God and needs to repent. Jesus said that through this standard we would be a witness to the world when He said in John 13:35, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” If the church is busy backbiting, fussing, fighting, and arguing, it dishonors God and leaves a distasteful reputation of the church in the community.
Acts 2 tells us some amazing things about the first century church. Verse 42 tells us that they had all things in common, and verse 47 tells us that they had favor with the community. Even though they were of greatly diverse backgrounds, they had all things in common because they were all focused on Jesus. They also had a good reputation in the community due to the fact that they were pursuing God’s plans and not their own. They humbled themselves before the Lord; and through their humility, the Lord was glorified. Are we glorifying the Lord with our actions?
One of my most proud moments of the church was just after Hurricane Katrina. The eye of the storm passed right over the church and the community I was pastoring in south Mississippi. We stocked up on supplies like we were told to in preparation for the hurricane. However, we, like most others, prepared only for a few days, not realizing it would be weeks before we would see again any resemblance of a grocery store. We could drive to other towns, but the closest gas that was available was at least seventy-five miles away. What little gas we had was rationed for the generators.
It didn’t take long to figure out that Uncle Sam and Red Cross were not prepared either. The church was a Red Cross shelter, but all we received from them was a roll of toilet paper, a box of mosquito repellent, and some registration forms. I’m not fussing. No one, myself included, was prepared for such a catastrophe. The U.S. had never seen anything like this before. However, God was not overwhelmed. In a very short amount of time, the church (God’s assembly) started showing up from California to Maine and everywhere in-between! They brought food, baby supplies, toiletries, and everything you could ever imagine. God used it all. We set up the church’s gymnasium as a distribution center, giving away all we had. I shed more tears of joy that week as we saw grown men crying when we gave them something as simple as water, mothers overwhelmed when giving them diapers, and children overjoyed when giving them toys. I was amazed as so many people with so many needs poured into the church. I saw people that had previously told me that they would never step foot in a church, come. By the way, they continued to come!
Through the tragedy and chaos of Katrina we saw the church being the church. Our sanctuary lay in ruin; yet, our church was more of a church in that time than they had ever been while sitting in that sanctuary. I hate the death and destruction that Katrina caused but would trade nothing for the privilege of seeing God’s people rise to the occasion. But the question then arises: Why do we wait for tragedy to strike to rise up to the occasion? This world is in constant chaos. The devil is the constant and present destroyer. Imagine a world where the church, the assembly of God, the congregation of the called, would continually rise to the occasion and be the church. Katrina brought about the realization of physical needs. As I write this, years after Katrina, the church is still tending to those physical needs.
The constant chaos and destruction the devil is placing on this world, however, is a spiritual devastation. A devastation that leaves a wake of destruction far worse than Katrina, or any other physical disaster, ever could. Why does the church not rise to the occasion in spiritual matters with such urgency as they do with physical matters? I believe it’s due to pride in our hearts that says, “They got themselves in this mess; they need to get themselves out of it.” It’s not because we don’t see it because we do. It is in our faces everyday; and if we don’t see it, it is because we choose not to see. When we say they deserve what they get, we fail to realize we could not get ourselves out of the mess we made of our lives through our sins and rebellion against God; neither can they. I promise you; we don’t want what we deserve! Are we so prideful as to think that we are better than they or that they deserve what they get, yet we do not? Stephen told the religious leaders of his day in Acts 7:51, “you men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit.” Has this become who we are today?
If we as the assembly of God (the congregation of His called) run to this world with urgency in our hearts ministering to their spiritual needs and hurts, they then will come to the realization of the true and biblical nature of the church. Most importantly they will turn to the Lord. Remember, Jesus was asked by the prideful of heart why He was eating with sinners. He said in Mark 2:17, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” I personally thank God for that.
As I close each service of the local church I pastor and just before we walk out of the door to our building, I ask a simple question, “What time is it?” They then respond, “It’s time to be the church.” From time to time I then ask, “Why do I ask that question?” Someone will then respond with something like, “Once we walk out of those doors, we don’t cease being God’s people.” We need to constantly be reminded that the church isn’t a building; it is the congregation of the called. We walk humbly before God and men while ministering boldly in that name that is above every other name, the name of Jesus. We have pridefully become lost within the walls of our buildings that we call the church, making it all about us. However, God has called us to “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19.20). Are we again telling God no?
Day 19 Prayer Guide
- Ask God to reveal any sin or mindset that would prevent Him from hearing your prayers.
- Repent of any such hindrance and ask for God’s forgiveness.
- Ask God to remove any doubts and keep you focused on Him.
- Seek the Holy Spirit to consume you during this time to lead you. Be obedient to Him.
- Spend some time praising God for the fact that He is able. Quote some scriptures or some of His characteristics to Him in praise.
- Pray that the people of God will repent of sins and mindsets that dishonor and hinder Him.
- Pray that God would reveal prideful attitudes of self-sufficiency and bring about repentance.
- Pray that the church would never put their hope in man and their hope would be in God alone.
- Pray that the people of God will stand in faith knowing God can reclaim this land.
- Pray that our churches would be devoted to, and peruse the things that honor God.
- Pray that the people of God would see the need for revival and begin to seek God for it.
- Pray specifically for revival in your church. Pray for your pastor and church leaders.
- Pray for humility upon the people of God that leads to total obedience.
- Pray for humility upon the people of God that leads to total dependency on Him.
- Pray that the people of God will be broken hearted over the lost.
- Pray that the church will be a gospel centered church with a heart to evangelize the world while starting in their own back yard.
- Pray that the power of God would fall on the church moving them to prayer and sowing the gospel seed.
- Pray for a great awakening in your community. Name off streets and neighborhoods.
- Do not be judgmental in this, but pray that if there is any within the church who do not have a genuine relationship with Jesus that God would convict their heart and save them.
- Make a list of individuals who are not saved and begin petitioning God for their salvation.
- Pray for repentance of sin and a great awakening in our nation.