I need to see their faces, I need to know that they are still trusting in Christ. Their attendance at church is important to me because it means they are still determined to affiliate with those who want to confess Christ. They may come and be there and play no public part, but their being there has a power in itself.
I need them because I am weak. I so easily drift towards unbelief. Sometimes life can feel overwhelming. But when I know that there are saints who have traversed and are traversing the pathway of grace through some difficult trials, I can be encouraged to know that this is the right path. Christ truly is the Way.
It is hard for me to understand how Christians can regularly absent themselves from the congregation of the saints. They must be stronger Christians than me! When I pray with other believers it can be such an encouragement to know that we share the same God through the same Saviour by the same Spirit.
Now, no doubt we can meet other believers online or in our history books and that can be very good. But there is something special about seeing them face-to-face. I close with John’s desires concerning the elect lady:
I have much to write to you, but I do not want to use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete (2 John 12).
(Originally published at Venabling on November 23rd 2017)
I was with a friend recently and what struck me was his desire to ask questions. He is in many ways more knowledgeable biblically and spiritually than me, but was still desirous to ask me about my view on various matters. This opened up helpful conversation.
I was left pondering upon how this should not be such a unique happening, and concerned that it is something that I don’t experience that often. In many ways I came away warmed and encouraged from our time together. It made me think about prayerfully preparing for time with others through writing down or logging in my mind questions about issues I am either struggling with or would like help in understanding. I can then ask questions about these issues when I meet with others. Through this preparation these times together can be found to be so much more beneficial.
I was somewhat humbled that he would like my view on various issues. I felt encouraged by this. I am not sure how helpful my responses were, but his openness and willingness to interact and seek the opinion of myself left me buoyed that I might have something to offer people.
Alas it seems so very often that so many Christians are not asking questions and our times together are impoverished by this. A question in a group or other context can open up so much good conversation.
Why is it that people do not ask questions. Perhaps it is because they either know the answers to everything they come across in Scripture or they are not reading the scriptures or they are reading the Scriptures very superficially.
So I am challenged myself to ask questions so as to benefit from others people’s wisdom Also I encourage you to think about asking questions, you never know what blessing might come as a result.
Hindus go to their temples and Muslims go their mosques, to perform their religious acts, The equivalent could be said for so many other religions. Accordingly, their buildings are places where you drop-in to to get your religion done and then go again. Not so with the faith of God.
God’s plan is for His people to come together and be church. The church by definition has a ‘called together’ metaphor within its meaning. Ekklesia literally means “called out ones”. We are called out from the world so as to be together. We do not come to church to do our religion we come to be together to worship, to learn, to sing, to interact.
Now in emergency situations online churches can be permissible. But surely that is not the way it should be. Rather we need to see each other faces and be together. This then conditions the rest of oust lives. Although we may not be physically together 24/7 there is a sense in which we are together all the time in spirit.
This theme is all aptly expressed in the Hymn “Blessed Be The Tie That Binds by John Fawcett:
- Blest be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love;
The fellowship of kindred minds
Is like to that above.
- Before our Father’s throne,
We pour our ardent prayers;
Our fears, our hopes, our aims are one,
Our comforts, and our cares.
- We share our mutual woes,
Our mutual burdens bear;
And often for each other flows
The sympathizing tear.
- When we asunder part,
It gives us inward pain;
But we shall still be joined in heart,
And hope to meet again.
If you claim to be a Christian and you are not a “meeting together” person then you are denying what you are called to be.
I lamented here about the observation that there are not many listeners around. In this article I want to muse upon the fact there appear to be quite a few experts. It has struck me on occasion, recently, about how people so easily present themselves as experts about certain matters. I am left thinking sometimes about how they can make such statements.
There well, may be, a direct connection to my observations about the lack of listeners yesterday. Rather than simply listening to people and helping them work through situations, we so often feel that we have to say something that will direct people to a solution. So we give the expert advice which will sort the matter for the person.
No, I am not saying here that we should not make suggestions or observations about a person’s situation. Particularly if that person is putting themselves in danger, it would be unloving to withhold information which would deliver them from potential harm. For a parent of younger children not to be directive to their children would be a gross dereliction of duty.
So most definitely there can be a time to opine on a matter. However, I do feel that the way we present things needs to be thought about. Making suggestions about a matter can be helpful. Moreover, if you have particular training in a certain subject or have been through a particular experience which bears on the other person’s situation then sharing in these matters can be most helpful.
One negative instance was that of someone with no medical training and without examining me definitively stating that a doctor’s diagnosis was wrong, A doctor that is who had examined me for a certain complaint. I found this quite breathtaking.
I appreciate as well that there are cultural issues at play here and certain cultures are used to interacting in a very directive rather than suggestive kind of way. However, we do need to be careful in these matters.
If someone actually asks for your advice then this colours the approach to the matter. But even then it may not be appropriate to say anything specifically into the situation. The best could well be to ask the other person questions so that they can work through the matter themselves.
So I conclude with these thoughts:
- Be a listener first of all.
- If you do speak into a person’s situation make sure that you speak in harmony with Scripture.
- If you do have a specialism which is unbeknown to the other person then reveal it. I remember being humbled by seeking to direct someone about how to approach some roof work. This man turned out to be ……………… a roofer!
Here is an interesting article by Chris Green. He writes about those who have made shipwreck of their ministry. One common feature of those who have fallen in this way is that they have all previously withdrawn form active involvement in church life. Essentially they have been carrying on with church ministry, but have withdrawn from the church.
One way of preventing us moving in that direction is to be reminding ourselves that we are church members before we are anything else in the church. I have written about that here and here
Although specifically directed to those “in ministry”, by Mr Green, this principle of the need to be bolted into the life of a church for fellowship and accountability is essential for us all. How it is that Christians can remain outside a church is baffling. And it is baffling in this context because it is so dangerous. So fellow believer if you:
- are not a church member, why not? You just must be.
- are a church member, make sure you stay central to church life. To fail to do this is to put your life in peril.
One thing that has struck me during my recent struggles with depression, is that there are not many listeners around. The ministry of listening seems to be much undervalued and little practiced. I have written about this previously here. I want to encourage you as regards to the value of this ministry. I want to encourage you to the ministry of listening. I want you to think about the blessing that you can bring as a listener.
So many think that they cannot help other people because they will not be able to say the right thing to help someone with their problem. But that is not the best way to think about speaking with people who have issues in their lives. Rather, it is through being a listener to someone recounting their struggles and difficulties that you can be such a help. So very often it is in the speaking out of a matter that someone is helped. Your listening, not your speaking will be the key to helping someone. When someone talks something out they can very often sort something out. This is because the talking leads to sifting through the issue in their hearts and minds.
Moreover, the fact of having someone to listen to you can be such blessing because you realise that someone is out there who cares; I am not isolated and on my own.
In engaging in listening ministry the key is to be willing to be quiet; not to feel that you have got to interject and make your point. It is also important to be able to ask relevant questions. I suggest there needs to be a mixture of open-ended questions, which help people to work through their situation, and specific questions, which make people focus on the issues. Such questions as “What led to your problem?” or “How are you understanding matters now?” would be open-ended questions. Such questions as “When did that happen?” or Who said that?” would be direct questions.
Above all meditate and learn from the example of our Lord in Luke 24. I have written here previously on this. On the road to Emmaus we see our Saviour as the perfect listener.
So please please think about how you can be of much service to the church and people generally through the ministry of being a listener. And dare i say, any engagers in this ministry will be so valuable to the Lord.
Ken Morey, a former pastor at Feltham Evangelical Church, used to say how he wished all had the privilege of seeing Timi Fayomi’s face when he was singing the Lords’ praise. Timi was so delighting in singing praise to God that it was reflected in his appearance.
And I memorably remember seeing Sue Legg’s demeanour when she was singing “Immortal Honours” at Feltham on April 13th 2006, and her evident total engagement with savouring the blessings of God into her life. In fact, I often remember this when I sing the hymn.
These are both reminders of the impact that can be made through how people sing. And surely there is an appropriateness here. Our faith should affect our emotions. When we are singing we should be engaging our emotions with great realities of our God and all that has been revealed to us of Him. And in the midst of it all, there is an awareness of what our LORD is to us and what he has done. Which all leads to the stirring to our beings.
It is interesting what Paul says in Colossians 3:16 concerning the manner of our singing: Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. Our singing should be having an impact in teaching and admonishing one another.
Moreover, whether we like it or not, we do have an impact on one another. If I am slovenly and give the impression of being bored whilst singing then I am negatively impacting those around me. On the contrary, when I am vigorously engaged in the worship of God through song then this can encourage those around me to fervency in their worship.
We must note, though, that the singing must be from the heart. It’s no good just seeking to act the part. Such thespian activity will soon be exposed for what it is; NOT genuine. We need hearts that are singing gratefully to the Lord because they have been moved by the Lord.
So when I am singing the Lords’s praise and engaging in song with Him concerning His ways and concerning my way before Him and others, is there an obvious impact in my being? And is this impact being demonstrated through my singing?
Originally published at Venabling on November 21 2014