“the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.” Acts 18:10
I recall my teenage years, singing in a church choir. I was always late for church if I had to iron my surplice, the white sheet-like garment worn over our blue robes. Thankfully that eliminated a weekly fashion choice.
At that time, it was singing that kept me going to church. The commitment to the choir kept me attending; persevering long enough to find the seam of gold hidden in them hills.
In a way, it’s still the worship that I love the most. But now my experience of church is so much richer because it encompasses something I’m sure God loves church for – not the robes but the people and the gathering together of those who love Him.
I love being a Christian in a church that encourages relationships to flourish. It’s not like we turn up, remain piously silent and go home again, however much my shy teenage self loved that, it was like the drug of choice for a perfectionist. Now I appreciate the opportunity to fellowship together. As with any shared activity – going for a walk, playing sport, going out for a drink there’s a certain level of bonding just in sharing an activity. But there is definitely something special that happens when experience the presence of God together.
We affirm each other just in sharing what we share of Jesus, even without saying anything. But when those relationships really flourish, there’s nothing like it. Just in one weekend, I’ve been able to get together with my girl friends over a Saturday breakfast and talk about things that inspire and challenge us in our faith; receive loving words from friends who knew I’d been unwell, chat to a lady who needed encouragement, and catch up with a fellow adventurer and seeker of all things Holy-Spirit-prayer ministry. I was also massively encouraged when I went up to help with the prayer ministry after the service today, and was instead prayed for by a friend who had been thinking of me for the past couple of days. As she prayed for me her words affirmed me, set my mind on very hopeful thoughts, so I went home really encouraged.
So I am with Paul when he says to the Hebrew believers, “Don’t stop meeting together with other believers, which some people have gotten into the habit of doing. Instead, encourage each other” (Hebrews 10:25, NIV translation)
These days we have access to amazing churches online, and I have been turbo charged at times by hearing talks from Bethel Church, Redding, California, and from Holy Trinity, Brompton, Chiswick Christian Centre and others. But there’s nothing like being there in person, worshipping together, receiving love, and being able to walk up to a real person and offer what God knows only you can offer.