Acts 2:46 -47
Have you heard about the little boy who attended church for the first time and was asked how it went? He replied, “The music was nice but the commercial was too long.”
Or have your heard about the recent experience of a pastor who changed the order of worship so that the sermon was given before the offering was taken. This upset a four year old who asked her mother, “Why is he talking before he gets paid?”
Worship. What is worship? Is it something we do every week because it is something we do every week?
Is it about a source of stability in a sea of change? Is it merely about the past and not the present or the future?
What is worship? More importantly, what is the purpose of worship? Why are we here? Why are you here? Tradition? Have to be? Want to be? Not sure?
In August we voted by a unanimous vote to operate with a set of by-laws that is organized around the five purposes of the church – which we call magnification or worship, mission or outreach, membership or fellowship, maturity or discipleship, and ministry or service. These five areas are Biblical and they are very important to us because all five are necessary for us to have a balanced and healthy ministry.
For the next five Sundays we are going to examine each of these purposes because we need to understand why we are here at Oak and Mitchell Streets in Kendallville, Indiana. I cannot say this strongly enough: it is imperative that we begin to understand the reasons, the purposes of why we are here. If we don’t we are going to flounder in our efforts, get frustrated in our attempts, and could ultimately fail to accomplish the mission that God has for us.
In your bulletin is a chart from the book The Purpose Driven Church by Rick Warren. We are going to refer to this chart over the next five weeks. Please notice that this week’s chart has the segment on worship circled. Included in that segment is the text for this morning’s sermon, Acts 2:46 – 47 that is also part of this series’ text: Acts 2:42 – 47.
Acts 2:46 – 47 has already been read but I want to read it again to help us understand the purpose of worship:
“They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity-all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their group those who were being saved.”
What is the purpose of worship? We will answer that question in a few minutes. But, right now I want us to notice a few critical elements of worship in the early church because they are critical for our worship of today.
1. “They worshipped together at the Temple each day.”
Please note the following phrases in this verse:
A. They worshipped together. . . They worshipped God together. The God whom Peter in verses 14 – 40 told them had come to save them from their sins was the God they came to worship. They came together to worship a God in whom they had placed their confidence and trust.
They came together because there is strength in numbers. But, they did not come together just because it was what they were expected to do. They came together to celebrate and praise God for what He had done for them and in them through Christ and for who He was and still is!
Good worship, strong worship is corporate worship. We need this time during which we come together and seek God together. The people that are spoken of in this passage of scripture had jobs, they had families, they had anxieties, and they had hope. They were just like us!
Look at the chart again with me and notice the next to last column. What does it say? It says, “A force for living.”
Now look with me at the column to the immediate left. What does it say? It says, “A power to live on.”
Force and power – two strong terms. Every single human being on this planet needs a force, a reason, a purpose, and a passion for living. What is yours?
The top of that next to last column is titled, “The Church Provides.” The church provides a force for living and worship is means to providing that force.
But, behind that force for living is a power to live on. Notice the title of this column – “Basic Human Need.” And the force for living is not the church it is the God of the church.
Each of us has a need for power. We need power, we need strength to live, to hope, to believe, to love. But, the power that comes through worship comes not through the worship service itself but from the God whom we worship.
One of the purposes of worship is to help us get and use God’s power and strength to help us live for Him. We seek that help in a variety of ways in worship – praising God for who He is, giving thanks to God for what He has done for us and others, acknowledging our many human needs and asking God to satisfy those needs, seeking God’s forgiveness for those attitudes, actions, etc that are clearly contrary to what the Bible says, going to God on behalf of others in prayer, and giving to God what is rightfully His as well as acknowledging God’s ownership of all that we have through the offerings that we collect each week. All these acts of worship are designed to plug us into a power in living that gives a force for living. In other words, a power and a force that gives us strength for living.
B. “Each day.” Now, not only did they meet together, they met together “each day!”
There was a consistent attendance in worship. The power and force for living came as they made the choice to daily show up for worship.
Regularity in worship is as important for our spiritual growth and development as regular and balanced meals are for our bodily growth and development. We usually don’t skimp on the one, and neither should we skimp on the other.
The final column on the chart is about the emotional benefit for each purpose of the church. All of us have emotions. Some of us are considered more emotional than others. But, emotions are a part of our humanity.
Worship has a very emotional component to it. Notice what it says in the last column – stimulation. Why is stimulation important in our lives? What and how are we to be stimulated?
Dr. Paul Tournier was a Christian psychiatrist who lived in Switzerland. He is quoted as saying, “Our vocation is, I believe, to build good out of evil.”
One of the things that worship must stimulate us to do is to what is good and now, more than ever, it is imperative that we do good.
Another thing that worship stimulates us to is to put into action, as Paul says in Philippians 2:12 – 13, “God’s saving work in your lives, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire to obey him and the power to do what pleases him.” Regular participation in worship stimulates us to want to obey God and do what pleases him.
Someone has said that when geese fly together they go farther than when they fly alone. There is a truth in that for us. We need to worship together so that we can go farther in our walk with God. Joint flight for geese helps them to conserve energy and go farther by using one another to stay aloft with less resistance on each bird.
Worshipping together, on a regular basis, does the same for us. There is a place for private worship. There are moments when we both need to as well as have to worship alone. We need regular moments with God. But, it is important that we gather together as well. And we gather together to experience God. When we come together and worship God on a regular and weekly basis, we find that we are not alone in our problems and pressures. We realize that we are all in the same boat and we need to worship God together to stay aloft and keep moving forward.
3. We also need to notice in our passage for this morning the results of worship as stated in the last part of verse 46 and last part of verse 47:
“[They] met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity . . . and each day the Lord added to their group those who were being saved.”
These effects, these results of worship are very important because, in addition to understanding that one of the purposes of worship is to provide us with the power and force for living, we also need to understand that through experiencing God in worship, it means that we are going to live differently out there!
Notice the results of worship in the lives of these Christians:
A. They met in homes for the Lord’s Supper. Communion was celebrated differently back then than it is today. Homes were places of ministry, places of worship. Churches, correction church buildings, were a thing of the future.
The worship at the Temple created an inner desire to continue the fellowship in homes. People had experienced God’s love and grace in a corporate setting and they were extending what they had experience by reaching out to others who just experience worship as well.
B. They shared meals with great joy and generosity.
Something happened in worship – they experienced God! And as they did – as they opened up the depths of their souls to God’s transforming touch – something happened – they started sharing food willingly – with great joy and generosity.
One of the things about a transformed life is that it moves from being self-centered to God-centered. Worship is not about us, we are not the objects of worship – God is! God is the audience, we are here to worship, to praise, to thank, God!
One of the results of our worship should be that we are less selfish than we were before we came. As we allow ourselves to experience the transforming and healing touch of God, it should make a practical difference in our lives afterwards as we go home, as we go to school, as we go to work, as we live!
Here is another chart that we will be looking at over the next five weeks. It is in the shape of a baseball diamond and it reveals a intentional process of helping people come home to Christ, find fellowship, become a maturing follower of Jesus, discover God’s area of personal ministry, and finally help others come home to Christ.
Please notice where worship is – in the center of the diamond. And what is in the center of a baseball diamond – the pitcher’s mound. And what does the pitcher do? He puts the ball in play. At the beginning of a baseball game, the umpire yells, “play ball!” But, it is not until the pitcher throws the first pitch that the game begins.
In worship, we put the ball in play. God says to us, “Play ball! Get going! Get involved! Seek me and find me! Let me help you! Go make disciples!”
And that is exactly what happened in Acts 2:47, “And each day the Lord added to their group those who were being saved.” The Lord added to their group but they put the faith in play. As they worshipped God, they met with God, as they allowed God to get inside them, deep inside them, and as they allow God to transform their lives others came to Christ as well.
Does worship make a difference in the lives of those who come in contact with you after you have worshipped?
It did in the lives of nameless people, just like you and me, we have been examining in our scripture passage.
I also want us to notice the purpose located in the center row of the chart that you have this morning. What is it? Fellowship!
The kind of fellowship that is stated in our text this morning is a bond, a glue that is central to the life of God’s church. Without this bond, the church begins to unravel. We will be speaking of this purpose of the church in a few weeks.
But, look at what it follows – worship! We need to understand that the link between these two purposes is very important for the life and health of our church. Both are necessary if our church is to thrive and grow.
What is the purpose of worship? The purpose of worship is to experience God in a variety of ways so that we are transformed into a growing follower of Christ that works to fulfill the great commandment to love God, neighbor, and self and to be a part of the great commission of making other followers of God.
In closing, I want to share a song written by Matt Redmon entitled “The Heart of Worship” that really helped me come back to main issue of worship, not the what or how of worship, personal preferences regarding style or format, but the who of worship – God.
(SONG IS PLAYED)
Why do we gather here at Mitchell and Oak streets on Sunday mornings at 9:30 AM? We gather together to worship and experience God so that we can make a difference for God during the rest of the week.
Let us experience God this day, this moment. Amen!