The question for those at church today is, What are you doing here? When I came across this question it made me stop and think about fundamental questions, why do we attend church, and what are we doing when we are at church? (How to walk into church by Tony Payne). There are many different answers to this question. I am praying, singing praise, worshipping God, listening to his word, … and more.
We have many ministries in our church. However, this book highlighted two important ministries I hadn’t clearly identified before. The ministry of Turning Up, and the ministry of Sticking Around. And let us consider how we may spur one another on towards 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) Tony Payne wrote, In reality, what really stops many of us from turning up more frequently to church is a failure to grasp just how vital the “ministry of turning up” really is. None of the important things God has for us to do in church each week can happen if we are not there. You might ask, does God have anything important for me to do when I am at church? Our reading from Colossians highlights some of the important things you and I are called to do, to show compassion, kindness and to offer forgiveness. But of course, I can’t encourage people when I am not there to do so. I can’t spur them on if I am not around. I can’t show love, kindness or serve someone if I have stayed at home.
Tony Payne also asked, When does church finish? Does church finish when the final song is sung, and the minister says the benediction? That might be the end of the formal part of the service, but church doesn’t end then. Church continues as we minister to one another in friendship and fellowship after the service. Fellowship reflects our relationship as brothers and sisters in the family of God. It is a foretaste of heaven, where we will enjoy fellowship together throughout eternity. Paul encouraged the Christians at Corinth saying Everything must be done so that the church may be built up.” (1 Corinthians 14:26) We can’t build up the church if we don’t turn up and stick around.
What difference does this make to us? The ministries of turning up and sticking around – they seem easy, achievable, and doable. Maybe, in light of COVID, each of us is in need of a little tender loving care. That is what we can provide for others by turning up and sticking around. This is how you can make a difference in the life of the church – turn up and stick around! I hope our BBQ church this year can be a time of fostering relationships with new and old friends. I hope as our growth groups begin again you will be kind to each other, recognising different people will be facing different challenges, but just turning up and sticking around, being a Christian friend, and showing love is part of what we each need to recover and rebuild.
For reflection: What could you do to encourage people to turn up and stick around?
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Rev John Malcolm