. . . But in a snow storm they huddle together so as to use only half the energy they would otherwise, enabling them and their chicks to successfully survive the Antarctic winter. Like so much in life we are better together.
Last week at Hobart Baptist I explored the first topic in my new preaching series “Challenging Church”. The title “Challenging Church” carries the idea that not only is the church being challenged by the rapid changes taking place in our society but that, in the midst of these challenges, the church itself is called to be a challenge to the world. Each week, as I explore different topics, we’ll take a look at the topic from these two vantage points.
Last week we looked at the Challenge of Gathering Together. Despite the fact that from its instigation, recorded in Acts 2, the church has been about gathering together, there are many in our community today that don’t bother to gather, yet they still call themselves Christians. Here is a challenge: what is it for Christians to take seriously the injunction, “not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing” (Hebrews 10:25).
We shouldn’t be surprised, in a consumer driven individualistic society where the church comes in for a lot of bad press – it IS a challenge to make a commitment to gather at church each week. In the past it was the “done thing” to go to church, so it was much easier. But today much in our community works against it. There are so many activities on our calendars on Sundays, especially for families. It is almost as if Hebrews was written for our day.
In the passage in Hebrews it says the reason we meet with other is to “spur one another on toward love and good deeds”. In other words, much like the penguins in winter, fellow believers need each other to help sustain a Christian life. This is all the more so considering the increasing hostility to the church.
“the reason we meet with other is to “spur one another on toward love and good deeds”
Not only do I need others to help stimulate and facilitate my relationship with God, the reality is that they need me. In fact, we need each other. How many people do you know who have stopped coming to church, only to find their relationship with God diminish as well?
The filmmaker Woody Allen said that 90% of life is about just showing up. While we might debate his 90% I believe his basic point is right. In an issue in Wired magazine on the success of Alcoholics Anonymous it said, “psychologists have long known that one of the best ways to change human behaviour is to gather people with similar problems into groups.”
This is the challenge of gathering together. But it is not only a challenge in the midst of a changing world; it is also a challenge to the changing world.
Gathering is a challenge to our community because it reminds us there is more to life than the individual and what they get out of it. It is not just about “me” it is about “us”. It’s not just about what I get out of it but also about what I put into it. Gathering is about acknowledging I have a responsibility wider than my own personal concerns, but that I am also responsible for the concerns of others. Just like Emperor penguins, we gather together not just to survive, but to ensure the entire community survives. We are to assume responsibility and watch out for each other.
We are, indeed, better together.
Stephen L Baxter