Acts 1:13-14 ESV
13 And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. 14 All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.
Do you need to go to church?
Well, can we love the vastness of God whom we have not seen without loving the simplicity of our neighbor (1Jn 4:20)? Apparently, loving God is impossible without loving community. If we project this Gospel reality onto the gathering of God- we can’t love the global Church (we can’t see) without being madly committed to the local church (we do see).
Loving the Church is impossible without loving a church. A church is where you have been gathered, together. But do you really need to gather with these people?
The next thing God is doing is what He has always been doing. The local church. This worldwide movement of the Church began at a local church in Jerusalem with just 120 people.
The local church is Jesus (JESUS) on the earth (1Cor 12:27).
The church, the gathering, is where we have been called to both be blessed and be a blessing (Ge 12:2). Without being a blessing we cannot be blessed. God plants us specifically, exactly, perfectly in a local church to thrive (1Cor 12:18, Ps 92:13). Your faith isn’t lived in a vacuum. Faith is heard (Ro 10:17) and lived (He 10:38) and seen (Acts 14:9) in community, in front of others to inspire and be inspired.
Church isn’t just a gathering. It’s a gathering of people who love Jesus. It’s where we invite people who don’t know Jesus to be overwhelmed by people who do. It’s a city- an imposing, dazzling city set on a hill built for the purpose of influencing the world (Mt 5:14-16). The Church is what Jesus is building, one church at a time.
In this way, the church is Jesus- here, now.
Church is what Jesus has been doing since first gathering 120 people, together. Think about it, thousands of people heard Jesus preach throughout Galilee and Judea. 500 people had seen Jesus during the 40-days between being resurrected from the dead and ascending to heaven. However, only 120 people’s faith was stirred to deed. Their deed was the first act of the church- gathering.
Gathering is still what the church does.
TOO BIG TO SEE
Today, the Church of 2.2 billion people gathers in houses and schools and auditoriums within 43,000 networks in more than 238 countries. It’s enormous to think about and gives great testimony to the global work of God. But this gigantic, global Church remains built upon the relatively simple, local church. What do you really know about the African Independent Charismatic church or the Filipino Apostolic church or the Independent Hungarian Orthodox church? And what about the Hidden Buddhist Believers in Christ? Probably nothing. But how do you know so much about that magical place where God planted you? Because you gather, together. It’s how you know the church and how the church knows you- it’s that spiritual place called in Christ on display for all to see.
To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together (1 Corinthians 1:2)
Before there was a church in Corinth and the ends of the earth- there was just a gathering in Jerusalem. A single local church. In that simple upper room, they were devoted to prayer, together.
First they gathered, then they prayed.
9TH OF APRIL FIREWORKS
The Church just celebrated the 110th Anniversary of the Azusa Street revival in Los Angeles, California. A revival of spiritual gifts that emerged from the church devoting themselves to prayer, together.
Before Azusa was a thing- the local churches were devoted to prayer, together. It was the Methodist church pastored by Joseph Jenkins in New Quay, Wales that led the Welsh Revival and influenced Pastor Joseph Smale of First Baptist in L.A. whose church prayed for “the Lord to pour out His Spirit speedily with signs following”. In the following months, prayer gatherings would be organized where eventually a man named William Seymour, along with Lucy Farrow, prayed for their friend Edward Lee and the rest is history.
Today, 600,000,000 Christians throughout churches all over the world share the flame that sparked in Los Angeles 110 years ago. The same flame that erupted from being devoted to prayer in that Jerusalem upper room, continues to burn today.
This flame doesn’t separate us or send us running away from the church. Rather, God’s promise calls us together. Together to hear the Gospel. Together to worship. Together to encourage one another. Together to rejoice with one another. Together to pray. Together to experience Jesus.