Advancing church perhaps, sounds a little trivial – isn’t church just somewhere we go to worship? Or should we be taking advantage of our time there for growth, reflection and direction? If so, how exactly can we advance our Sundays?
I want to talk about a time, before Jesus, and a story that can be found in Nehemiah 8:15-12…
In the seventh month, all the Israelites came together, to listen to Ezra bring the book of the law before a great assembly. As He preached, they listened with heart, but not only this, their yearn for God carried a response – they began to praise God, and they bowed down to worship – they heard God calling them, and they surrendered to the next journey in their lives.
Whilst this was going on, the teachers of the law read from the bible (book of law) but also took time to explain it; they ensured that everybody was able to understand what it meant to follow God, and God spoke through these teachers into the hearts of the Israelites. In fact, when we think about it, if these teachers had not been alert, had not been paying attention to God within their own individual lives, then many Israelites would have gone home without responding. They would have fallen short. The attention of the teachers was vital.
But what has this got to do with advancing church? The Israelites didn’t just go to worship, they went to listen and respond – to advance church…
When I began to read this passage, verse 9 really stood out to me – “this day is holy, do not mourn or weep.” When we come together, listen and respond to God’s message, it’s so holy! However, often these responses can be outlining areas for growth, and it’s so easy to become overwhelmed by tears of guilt, fear and weakness; so much so that we stand grief-stricken. Yet this is not the answer – don’t let your human self blind you from God’s holiness, because in these moments, God is revealing himself through your weakness, leading you onwards and allowing you to encounter the God who made the universe! So be still, and don’t grieve – instead, rejoice, praise God, and celebrate what God has spoken to you either through your own thoughts, or the words of others.
Oh, and thank God for a new understanding – just as the Israelites, celebrated with great joy!
This story is such a great example of hearts, yearning, and seeking God in His fullness! The Israelites were together on the 7th month – nowadays, we get the chance to advance our faith, every single week! As well as daily through personal studies! Just like the Israelites, it’s important that each time, we reflect, respond and worship – a little rule of three. After some thought, I came to realise areas in my own church life, that I need to change/advance and so I thought I’d share:
- Listen with more heart – start having the intention, of response! To start to take notes in a service, prepared to learn something afresh.
- During worship/praise sessions, simply pray and ask God to come, and speak in me again – to welcome the Holy Spirit into my life, to provoke response and deepen my journey of faith.
- Stop focusing on “making myself better” and be still, focusing on an image, on the cross, or on the silence – leaving room for God to come and move.
- After church, review notes, close the door, pray, and reflect. Use the privacy to respond in heart – set a target for the week and fulfil it, hand in hand with God.
- Pay attention – God may be speaking, and asking me to respond by telling another, just like the teachers of the law.
There are so many ways to seek God more – these are the things God placed has placed on my own heart after reading Nehemiah. Go, pray and ask God to deepen your faith, help you to get more out of church, and ultimately say yes to response!