Last week I mentioned that the largest Lego kit every produced is the new Millennium Falcon kit which was released a month ago.  The kit has 7,541 pieces is 33 inches long and 22 inches wide and weighs almost 19 pounds.

But, more impressive than what you can create with the kits are the artists who have created some truly incredible sculptures, and they did it without a direction book.

Here are a few I found, my favourite is this model of the Titanic breaking in half, created by Ryan McNaught it contains over 120,000 pieces of Lego.

I built a really cool wall once.

This fall our theme at Cornerstone has been connect and we started with how we’ve were created to connect, then we looked at how we connect with our creator and last week we looked at way that we need to connect with the created, that is ourselves as Christ Followers.

This week I want to look at how we need to connect with the Creator’s Kids.  That is: other Christians.

Often when we think of the early church we have a very idealistic view.  Everything was peachy keen, it never got messy and nobodies feelings ever got hurt.  They only sang music that everybody enjoyed, the preacher never offended anyone and everybody loved them.

Sometimes you’ll hear people say “I wish the church was more like the New Testament Church”.  What they mean is that they wish the church was more like the church described in the passage that was read for us earlier, let’s read it again,

Acts 2:41-47  Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church that day—about 3,000 in all.  All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer.  A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders.  And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had.  They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need.  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 fellowship those who were being saved.

And that is awesome.  It was also the description of a brand-new church, still had the new church smell.   But you don’t have to go very far into the New Testament to discover that like a new car, the new church started to develop a few rattles.

It’s kind of like that prayer that most of us need to start each new day with:  Dear Lord,
So far I’ve done all right. I haven’t gossiped, haven’t lost my temper, haven’t been greedy, grumpy, nasty, selfish, or overindulgent. I’m really glad about that.
But in a few minutes, God, I’m going to get out of bed. And from then on, I’m going to need a lot more help.
The early church was perfect, right up to the point that they added imperfect people.

But it was and it still is God’s plan for believers connecting with believers.  Matthew 16:15-18  Then he (Jesus) asked them, “But who do you say I am?”  Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”  Jesus replied, “You are blessed, Simon son of John, because my Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being.  Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.

Before Jesus was arrested, before he was crucified, before he was raised from the dead, the church was on his mind.

Let’s start with what the church isn’t about.

At the close of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians he concludes with these words,  1 Corinthians 16:19  The churches here in the province of Asia send greetings in the Lord, as do Aquila and Priscilla and all the others who gather in their home for church meetings.

Let’s start with It’s Not About the Where  In the book of Acts the church mostly met in homes.

It wasn’t that houses were sacred and special, it’s what they had.   Earlier in the Acts passage we read that they worshipped in the temple daily.  That was Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem.  There are other places in the New Testament when we see the early Christians worshipping at the local synagogue.

But as the divide between the Christ followers and the Jews increased the Christians were less and less welcomed in the Jewish places of worship.

And so they ended up in each other’s homes, out of necessity.

When Cornerstone started we started in our living room on Basinview Drive.  We were for a time a house church.

Historically, we are told that when persecution broke out against the church we are told that the early church began worshipping in hidden places like the Roman Catacombs.

Again, nothing sacred or holy about the catacombs, they were a safe place to meet when they could no longer meet in homes.

And so, they ended up in the catacombs, out of necessity.

It was about the third century when buildings started being built and modified exclusively as places of Christian worship.  Why?  Because they had outgrown the houses they were meeting in, or folks didn’t want their home disrupted by a couple of dozen of their closest friends every week.

The oldest church that has been discovered is the Dura-Europos church, located in Syria, which dates back to around 241 AD.

In our 23 year history we have met in homes, schools, the Lions Den at the LeBrun Centre, the rec room at the Berkeley, a couple of different company board rooms, a movie theatre, Sunnyside Mall and once under the trees at Fish Hatchery park and now in our own building.

And in all the different places we were meeting we were the church.

So, it’s not about the where.

In the book of Acts Luke writes this account of one of their worship experiences, Acts 16:13  On the Sabbath we went a little way outside the city to a riverbank, where we thought people would be meeting for prayer, and we sat down to speak with some women who had gathered there.

The Sabbath that is mentioned was the Jewish Sabbath and it occurs on the day we call Saturday, and if that was all we had it would be easy, we’d all worship on the Sabbath.

But later in the book of Acts we read Acts 20:7  On the first day of the week, we gathered with the local believers to share in the Lord’s Supper. Paul was preaching to them, and since he was leaving the next day, he kept talking until midnight.   It would appear that as Christianity became more and more distinct from Judaism that worship shifted from Saturday to Sunday to commemorate the day of the resurrection.

So not only is it not about the where,  It’s Not About the When

 For many years going to church meant church at 11, and then church again at 7 in the evening and it was always on Sunday.  But that was traditional not biblical.  The 11 am start gave the farmers time to milk their cows and get cleaned up and ready for church.  It meant that there was time to have Sunday School at 9:30.

But it doesn’t have to be 11 am on Sunday Morning.

If you’ve been wondering where Pastor Mike White and Nicki have been lately, the answer is Abi Dhabi, where Nicki is teaching school for a couple of years.

They are presently worshipping at a church called Cornerstone International, which meets on Friday.

Many churches in the middle east meet on Friday, because that is the Muslim holy day and day of rest and Sunday is just another work day.

When we first started worshipping together we met at 10 a.m., then we changed it to 10:30 and then to 9:30 and 11:00.  For a little while we met on Saturday evenings at 6:00 p.m.   And a long time ago in a galaxy far far away we met once a month on Sunday Evenings at 6:30 and ate together and worshipped together.

On any given weekend, you can go to some church in Halifax on Saturday or Sunday at any number of times.

So the where isn’t important and neither is the when.  But here is the shocker for many people

It’s Not Even About the How   We like to think that our church does “it” right, whatever “it” is.  We can point to other churches and why they don’t get “it”.  Cornerstone seems pretty normal now, but 20 years ago when we weren’t singing hymns and people were drinking coffee during the service and the Pastor wasn’t in a suit and we had one of those new fangled video projector thingys.

Well, there were churches and Pastors who were a little critical of how we did “it”.

I don’t remember having to defend our theology to anyone back in the day, but I spent a lot of time defending our one hour service style, that we met in a movie theatre and our music and my preaching style.

When I first began pastoring, evangelical pastors would sometimes refer to those other churches as being “more liturgical” then us.  Meaning they relied more on liturgy in their service, they were less free in their worship.  And liturgy is just a fancy word for the pattern we use for worship.

But the reality is that if you visit churches all over Halifax, and all over Nova Scotia, and Canada and around the world you will discover that we all do the same thing, and we’ve been doing the same thing for 2000 years.  We all have a liturgy and it is remarkably similar.

We come together and for an hour or three, we say some prayers, read some scripture, sing some songs, listen to a sermon and receive communion.  And we may differ a bit in how those prayers are said, and how long the sermon is, and what songs we sing and how often we serve communion but it is what it is.

And here is the reality folks, you don’t have to criticize other churches about how they are doing what they are doing just because they aren’t doing it the way we are doing it.

Because nobody is doing it the same way it was done in the New Testament church.  And we aren’t expected to.

So if it’s not about the where or the when or the how, what is it about?

Well, let’s go back to that first description of the church, Acts 2:41-42  Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church that day—about 3,000 in all.  All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer.

So first of all It’s About the Who  The church is made up of God’s people.  Time and time again in the New Testament descriptions of the church begin with the words “those who believed” or “all the believers”.

The church is a place where believers come together.  It’s not for everybody, but it is for everybody who believes.

Sometimes there is a desire and a felt need that the church needs to be super inclusive, but it’s the church.  It’s not a service organization, it’s not a social club it not a community gathering it is primarily a place for believers, and because of that some people won’t feel comfortable.

It is where God’s people come together.  And church is an important part of being a Christian.

There are things that we can only do in community that we can’t do alone, so let’s keep reading.

Acts 2:41-42  Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church that day—about 3,000 in all.  All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer.

It’s About the What 

There was a purpose for the church gathering together.  Not only were 3000 people baptized and added to the church but they began to do things together.

They devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching, today that comes in the form of the Sunday morning message.   They devoted themselves to fellowship.  That was hanging out with one another.

What a relief it must have been for the early believers to escape the immorality and godlessness of their world for a little bit and be with people who served and worshipped the same God.

To not have to hear God’s name taken in vain, to not have to listen to coarse language and lewd jokes. It must have been like a breath of fresh air to be with people who believed as they did.

And we are told that in the community they celebrated the sacraments.  And both communion, or the Lord’s Supper and Baptisms are events of community memory.

But as time wore on, life began to get in the way, and some in the church weren’t getting together as often as they should and the author of Hebrews reminds them of the danger of skipping out on this time together.

Hebrews 10:25  And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.

And It’s about the When  I know that I already said that it wasn’t about the “when”, but it really is about the “When”.

Not in the sense of the actually time that you come together for worship, instead about the reality that you worship on a regular basis.

In the accounts of the early church, it spoke about them meeting daily, on the Sabbath and on the first day of the week.  But it never talks about them meeting twice a month or once a month, or at Christmas and Easter.

And I have to be careful here that I don’t across as scolding, or judgmental.    And if I do, I apologize it is not my intent.  My intent is not to scold but to caution.

Missing church is like missing anything you do on a regular basis, it is a slippery slope.  Talk to folks who attend Weight Watchers or AA and ask what happens after they’ve missed a couple of meetings and how hard it is to get back in the groove.

Talk to people who used to attend church and you’ll hear the same story.   There are all kinds of folks who used to attend Cornerstone, and if you asked them where they go to church they’d tell you that they go to Cornerstone.  They probably don’t even realize how long it’s been since they’ve been at Cornerstone.

We are the church they don’t go to when they don’t go to church.  But it isn’t because they don’t like Cornerstone, or the preaching or the music.  It’ because they got busy with other stuff.  Not bad stuff, just stuff and then it’s awkward to come back.

And when you skip church for whatever reason you are teaching your children a lesson about life’s priorities, and maybe that is what you are trying to do.  And we’re going to talk more about that next week.

As Christians, we are like a part of a fire that needs the rest of the fire.  If you have a fireplace you know that if you have a fire going and you pull one of the pieces of fire wood out and put it by itself, that it doesn’t take long for it to lose its fire.

That is the reason why the early church met so often, to encourage one another, to teach one another to keep the fire going.

In the same way, Dwight L. Moody reminds us that  “Church attendance is as vital to a disciple as a transfusion of rich, healthy blood to a sick man.”

The first two weeks in October there was a young couple who came out to church and sat right down there.

Now I get excited when I see a new couple in church, and after the second week I introduced myself to them and discovered that they were from Germany and were visiting Nova Scotia for a two-week vacation.

And as believers, they felt it was important to be with other believers, even when they were on vacation.

And I love it when parents work around hockey schedules, and cheer schedules and soccer schedules and kids show up in their uniforms, because life lessons are being taught.

And the reality is that many of things that people skip church to do on Sunday morning could be done on Saturday morning, or Sunday afternoon.

And if we go back to Hebrews 10:25  And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.

We discover that It’s about the Why  

 Many people would agree with Justin Bieber who said “You don’t need to go to church to be a Christian. If you go to Taco Bell, that doesn’t make you a taco.”
No, going to church won’t make you a Christian any more than going to Taco Bell will make you a Taco.  But the bible doesn’t tell us to go to church so we can become a Christian, but it does tell Christians to go to church.

By the way, Justin is a member of Hillsong Church NY.

So, why do we connect with other believers?  Because we were told to connect with other believers.  The church is part of God’s plan and as believers we are told to come together, to worship together, to sing together, to learn together and to be the church.

We are in this together.  When Paul was writing to the church in Colossae he told them   Colossians 2:2 I want them to be encouraged and knit together by strong ties of love. I want them to have complete confidence that they understand God’s mysterious plan, which is Christ himself.   Who was the “them” Paul was talking about?  It was the church, in the previous verse he said Colossians 2:1 I want you to know how much I have agonized for you and for the church at Laodicea, and for many other believers who have never met me personally.

And so today I want you, the church, to be knit together by strong ties of Love.  Let me pray for you.


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