When I was a child, I went to church every Sunday with my parents. I know that I had a faith of sorts, although it was far more generic than personal. I accepted the facts about Jesus and knew that He had died to save everyone from their sins but I had no idea about any personal application of that - in fact I didn’t even know that there was a personal application! To me, the whole thing was an historic event which I chose to believe. I also believed that the results of that event were automatically mine and everyone else’s for that matter. That was it, no more, no less!
I often found myself wondering what was the point of going to church. If it was all done and dusted regarding my sin, then why this ritual each Sunday? And what about the rest of the week - Mondays to Saturdays, the times when I just lived like everybody else did? I couldn’t that Sundays were relevant to the rest of the week. I really could see no connection. Church-going was nothing more to me than a useful habit, an opportunity to ponder awhile on my sins, receive some story with a moral, but, knowing I probably wouldn’t live up to the lesson being taught, be thankful that all that sin stuff was sorted anyway, because of the historical Jesus story. Then I’d stop thinking about God until the next Sunday.
One day, when I was adult, and married with children, someone told me that there was a personal relationship to be had with Jesus. He was alive, real and waiting for me to respond to what He had done for me by receiving it, personally, for myself! Wanting to form a relationship with me? This was news to me. I’d never heard it before! But somehow it seemed right to me. I wasn’t in any emotional need or even particularly seeking for God, but I knew I wanted this relationship and so I spent time in prayer asking Jesus to forgive me my own personal (and rather long!) list of sins, and for Him to come into relationship with me. Well things did rather change after that! I began to find Jesus increasingly real to me and have done ever since then. I believe I became a Christian follower of Jesus on that day when I truly gave my life to Him and received for myself the benefits of His death and resurrection so many years ago. At that point in time, I realised that one of the reasons for going to church was to nurture my relationship with God and with other Christians. Going there each week now seemed so much more sensible to me.
Shortly after that time, when I was still new to all things Christian, our local vicar said something that I’ve never forgotten, “The meeting place is the learning place for the market place!” It had a good ring to it and it struck a chord with me, starting a thought process in me that revolved around what we do and learn inside the doors of our churches and how it affects (or doesn’t) the community in which we live. It stamped upon me the realisation that what happens in Christian meetings on a Sunday is supposed to affect the way we live our lives Monday to Saturday. Was Jesus’ plan to have a church where believers met together, celebrated some form of ‘service’ and then spent Monday to Saturday doing what they always had done, with no consideration of the lessons learned? Clearly not! It was then that I realised that another reason for going to church was to learn how to live out the Christian life on a Monday, a Tuesday, a Wednesday, and so on; to take what I had learnt and apply it to my life 24/7.
The Gospel of Matthew, chapter 7, verse 16 teaches us that Christians are known by their ‘fruit’. What’s this fruit? The word "fruit" used here means "work, act, deed" (Strong's Greek & Hebrew Dictionary). ‘Fruit’ is also mentioned in the book of Galatians (chapter 5, verses 22-23) where we learn that those indwelt by the Holy Spirit should exhibit the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control". So the fruit of being in a growing relationship with Jesus is to be revealed by the way we live, in our behaviours, attitudes and demeanour. Clearly there is fruit that should mark people out as Christian and it should be noticeable to everyone. There should be something that stands out and is so different from the view I once heard someone give - that Christians are holier-than-thou, rude, finger-pointing, judgemental hypocrites whose only fruits are kept in a bowl on the sideboard!
So, our lives should affect people in our community. If not, we’ve missed the point of church, which surely is more about the people ‘out there’ than the people ‘in here’. People should be touched by our love and kindness, graciousness and gentleness and a peace that is there even when our circumstances warrant the opposite. All that we are learning in ‘the meeting place’ should touch those in ‘the market place’. I hope some day someone comes up to me and says “I want what you’ve got” or even “I need what you’ve got”, and then I’ll know that something I have learned in the meeting place and in my own times with God is bearing some fruit in the community. Jesus’ ministry was not within four walls but out there in the market place where folks lived, worked and played. He went to them, walked with them, shared with them, loved and served them. Jesus lived out a fruitful life 24/7. Maybe we should rethink the way we view Sunday church so that we can be ‘Monday church’ .
Poynton Christian Fellowship