Editor’s Note: The AMI devotionals for July 20-24 are provided by Pastor Ryun Chang.
Devotional Thoughts for Today
1 King 20:13-18: When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 14 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.” 15 The Lord said to him,. . . 18 Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him.”
Since not many people serve God in “reckless abandonment” as Elijah did, grasping the aloneness he felt would be a stretch for us. Believing that he was the only true believer left in Israel, Elijah felt so overwhelmed and spent—no wonder he said, “O Lord, take away my life” (19:4). But I wonder what George Barna would have told him at that moment
“No Church? No Problem,” said the heading of an article appearing in a 2006 Christianity Today, which dealt with the pollster Barna’s book Revolution. According to Barna, there were “some 20 million people . . . who live ‘a first-century lifestyle based on faith, goodness, love, generosity, kindness, and simplicity’ and who ‘zealously pursue an intimate relationship with God.’” But these folks no longer attend church—which was just fine with Barna because, to him, the “meeting-in-a-building” model is a social construct (i.e., man-made) that can be deconstructed for a more relevant model.
Barna is right if you believe that the Church is a Church only if you congregate inside of a building with a pulpit in the front, surround by stained glass windows. But Barna is wrong if he believes that a lone individual seeking God constitutes the Church that God had in mind. While individuals ought to constantly seek God, our communion with Him isn’t complete until “two or three [believers] are gathered in [His] name” (Matt. 18:20) to praise, pray, partake of His word and share the sacraments. In that collective moment, the sense that God is “among us” is truly enhanced.
I wonder how Elijah felt when he learned that he wasn’t alone in his battle to defend God’s honor because there were 7,000 others like him in Israel. Personally, I would’ve been encouraged and would’ve wanted to meet them to “stir up one another to love and good works” (Heb. 10:24). And that’s what the collective body of believers does when they gather— “Encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (v.25).
So, don’t just go to church out of habit. Worship God with others, and then encourage one another to strive for God’s honor in this increasingly secular and rudderless society.
Lord Jesus, I exalt You today because it was by the blood shed on the Cross that the Church was constituted through the Spirit. Forgive me for my spiritual negligence in missing the corporate meetings of my church over frivolous reasons. Help me to be the Church as well to seek you daily and to encourage others.
Bible Reading for Today: Amos 2
Lunch Break Study
Read Acts 2:46-7: And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
Acts 12:12-3: When Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.” 12 When he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying.
Question to Consider
- In what sense did these gatherings constitute a Church?
- Note where these believers met: What does that say about what constitutes the Church?
- How can we incorporate Barna’s comments in our walk with God without giving up on the Church? How is your commitment to your local church?
- A collective group of believers was gathered to praise God, pray together and break bread (i.e., sharing sacraments and a meal afterwards).
- They met at homes as well as at the temple. Either way, it was a place where a group of believers gathered to worship and pray together—that’s the Church.
- While we meet as a corporate body at a designated time and place, individually we should seek God and do good deeds on our own—it doesn’t have to be an either/or.
Have you ever seen yourself as a Church—a place where the Spirit dwells? That makes you a temple of the Holy Spirit. So when you go to your secular workplace, in a sense, you are bringing the Church there. In that light, how did your coworkers, fellow students, or family members benefit by your presence today? Can you think of one thing that you did or said that made someone think about God and His goodness? Pray for a more meaningful day tomorrow.