Why do we Gather?

Why Gather

Sunday 01/12/20

Series: Do we Really Believe?

Message – Why do we Gather?

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Why do we Gather?

Last week was a sobering wake-up call.

We looked at Rev. 2 where Jesus was talking to the church of Ephesus. This was NOT planned, but if you remember that is the very church we’d been dealing with in I Timothy before Christmas concerning their need for true Shepherds.

The Ephesian church however, was a deeply troubled church both on the outside and the inside.

If you remember, Paul probably first came to Ephesus in 52 AD, staying with them 3 years teaching and preaching and not failing to tell them all the counsel of God. He left in 55 AD.

Paul’s visit with its elders was about 4 years later in 59 AD.

We knew that problems were going to arise due to Paul’s words of warning to these elders, telling them to…

“Take heed unto yourselves, and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you bishops, to feed the church of God which He purchased with His Own blood. I know that after my departing grievous wolves shall enter in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.” (Acts 20:28-30).

Paul’s letter to this church was anywhere from 2 to 4 year later still in 61-63 AD and contained some of the most exalted and profound teachings of Christian doctrine to be found anywhere in the Bible. 

He had to encourage them in terms of personal purity and to not be deceived into the lie that one can continue unrepentant in their former sins and be a citizen of God’s Kingdom.

Then finally, he felt the need to send Timothy to them which is where Timothy was when he received the letter we call 1Timothy which was written about 67 AD.

Finally a letter was given them in the book of Revelation. Revelation is most reliably dated to around 96 AD. Nearly 30 years later and it appears the church listened to their rebukes, encouragement and teachings, but became SO diligent about not veering off to the right of the left that it lost sight of WHY! They had forsaken their first love!

As we progressed, I challenged you to consider a few things.

  1. Why you came here in the first place?
  2. Since we have changed SO much over the years, is what you are seeking now compatible with who we are.
    1. We used to offer solutions to problems, never-fail formulas for success and proof of weak faith if you failed.
    2. 100% never miss it “we always hear from God” leadership.
    3. Prayers that get you what you want without even having to really talk to God or mention His name at all.
    4. We promoted what Alistair Begg refers to as Christianity “lite”.

Who we are now, we attempt to only serve up Jesus! Ourselves united with Him by genuine trust borne out of face-to-face, one-on-one intimacy with Him.

The question was and still is – is this enough for you? Is it what you really want?

And the final and perhaps most important question was – Do you really believe what Jesus says? I believe I mean enough to diligently regulate your life by it because if you really believed His words you would obey His words.

As I mentioned last week I found a bit of a common soul in Francis Chan (and some of his former elder board) in that I’ve seen things in the scriptures that we were NOT doing. Some very fundamental things and realized we could not continue as we once had! Things HAD to change or there was NO POINT continuing as a church – because it would have been a charade… a lie. You cannot call Him Lord and then turn your back on what He said… What He taught! 

This morning we are going to hear an example of something very similar from Chan and then, we will wrap up. But one thing that I want to seriously change in here is taking the words of Jesus SERIOUSLY. We ought NEVER AGAIN come together as a church FAILING to seek the Lord in all urgency, humility and honesty to see where YOU are in relation to the words He graces us with while we were together.

The question should almost never be “Does this apply to me?” but, “Since this applies to me, how am I living like I believe it is true and that I both do and will stand before Him concerning them?”

Remember I encouraged you at the beginning of December when we were in 1 Tim. 4 that Paul told Timothy that what he should devote himself to in that church was reading, exhortation and teaching. And that the goal of this was to produce in them sincere love, genuine faith and a clear conscience. Can you see that if the Church in Ephesus had continued in those – Jesus’ warning to them in Revelation 2 would never have had to have been written?

We in the modern church really don’t believe that His words are that true… That Powerful! That we could simply read them and the Spirit would do His job in convicting and convincing us of there truth. 

Today after we watch this video we will simply read and let the scripture do the talking. YOU will listen and take it seriously and ask yourself probing questions as you lay yourself out before Christ and the Holy Spirit this week saying – How am I living this? What needs to change in my heart so I might live like I truly believe this is Your word and Your will!

At this point we watched a clip from a message from Francis Chan on what pleases God when we gather. The audio of that clip is included in this recording, but the full video may be seen here.

Reading, exhortation & teaching… 

As I mentioned earlier, it was last month prior to Christmas that I touched on this command from Paul to Timothy regarding things he needed to do with regularity in his ministry among them – which included training up elders who would carry on the work after he left. The fact that this was part of ministry training is important since, it implies this command was not temporary – but to be illustrated before the elders-in-training as a continued practice.

The list is unremarkable in many respects, except we find it hard to do in today’s culture of “entertainment”. One of the commands was to simply READ THE BIBLE PUBLICLY! It doesn’t say read the bible and offer commentary – though that IS scriptural [see – Nehemiah 8:8].

It doesn’t say read small portions of various scriptures and weave them together to make, establish or illustrate a point as biblical – thought that is clearly an acceptable practice which Jesus and all the New Testament writers employed. No, it just says – READING.

This was no shock to a Jewish believer since it was a well known Jewish practice, which isn’t right just because it’s Jewish, but because God commanded it to be done at certain times. We really haven’t and I dare say most ministries don’t simply have times of scripture reading. It is something we are going to begin to employ – in faith believing that the Holy Spirit upon and within the believer is enough to do His work of convicting and convincing of the truths it contains…to reveal Christ Jesus in the reading!

Now the word Exhortation is paráklēsis, and it should be known that actually all of Scripture is said to be paráklēsis. That is, an exhortation, admonition or encouragement for the purpose of strengthening and establishing the believer in the faith. 

So we are going to read a passage, which addresses something else which please God – in addition to what brother Chan taught. This passage tells us what God’s intended purpose for Why we Gather in a local assembly of BELIEVERS. As we read, we will simply allow the Holy Spirit to lead us as to whether we stop and discuss a certain portion or not – but I want each of you to ask yourselves the questions I mentioned earlier.

Namely…“Since this applies to me, how am I living like I believe it is true? How am I living like I both do and will stand before God concerning my obedience to them?”

Eph. 4:11-32, “(11) And He personally gave some apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers,  (12) FOR 

  • the training of the saints in the work of ministry
  • to build up the body of Christ,  (13)  
  • until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, 
  • growing into a mature man with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness.  

“(14)  Then we will no longer be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit.  (15) But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into Him Who is the head–Christ. (16)  From Him the whole body, fitted and knit together by every supporting ligament, promotes the growth of the body for building up itself in love by the proper working of each individual part.”  

“(17)  Therefore, I say this and testify in the Lord: You should no longer walk as the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their thoughts. (18)  They are darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them and because of the hardness of their hearts.  (19)  They became callous and gave themselves over to promiscuity for the practice of every kind of impurity with a desire for more and more.  (20)  But that is not how you learned about the Messiah,  (21) assuming you heard Him and were taught by Him, because the truth is in Jesus:” 

“(22)  you took off your former way of life, the old man that is corrupted by deceitful desires;  (23) you are being renewed in the spirit of your minds; (24) you put on the new man, the one created according to God’s likeness in righteousness and purity of the truth.  (25)  Since you put away lying, Speak the truth, each one to his neighbor, because we are members of one another. (26)  Be angry and do not sin. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger,  (27) and don’t give the Devil an opportunity.” 

(28)  The thief must no longer steal. Instead, he must do honest work with his own hands, so that he has something to share with anyone in need.  (29)  No rotten talk should come from your mouth, but only what is good for the building up of someone in need, in order to give grace to those who hear.  (30)  And don’t grieve God’s Holy Spirit, Who sealed you for the day of redemption.  

(31)  All bitterness, anger and wrath, insult and slander must be removed from you, along with all wickedness.  (32) And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ.”

God Bless!

I hope this message will bless you richly…not because I taught it, but because it reveals Christ. He alone is our blessing and if in any way – whether big or small, 100% accurate or even just partially so – I have revealed our great God and Savior to you in a relationally knowable way, then this was time well spent on both our parts.

We at Living Grace Fellowship encourage you to place your trust in Jesus Christ, deliberately choosing Him and bowing the knee to Him as your Master and Lord, so as to come to realize Him as your Savior.

You have a special place in God’s family & kingdom. The fact that you exist… that you are His creation, says you were in His heart, you are His delight!

If you do not know Him, please reach out to us. Give us a call at the number located on every page of this website or use our ‘Contact Us‘ page. We would be deeply honored, if you gave us the privilege of introducing you to the Lord. Neither money nor attendance at our church will EVER be mentioned.

If you HAVE been spiritually fed by this ministry and WANT to give, we truly appreciate that and you may do so here, but please understand that all the outreaches of this ministry are FREE for you and anyone to enjoy at no cost.


Hi my name is Mark and though I am opposed to titles, I am currently the only Pastor (shepherd/elder) serving our assembly right now.

I have been Pastoring in one capacity or another for nearly 30 years now, though never quite like I am today.

Early in 2009 the Lord revealed to me that the way we had structured our assembly (church) was not scriptural in that it was out of sync with what Paul modeled for us in the New Testament. In truth, I (like many pastors I am sure) never even gave this fundamental issue of church structure the first thought. I had always assumed that church structure was largely the same everywhere and had been so from the beginning. While I knew Paul had some very stringent things to say about the local assembly of believers, the point of our gatherings together and who may or may not lead, I never even considered studying these issues but assumed we were all pretty much doing it right...safety in numbers right?! Boy, I couldn't have been more wrong!

So needless to say, my discovery that we had been doing it wrong for nearly two decades was a bit of a shock to me! Now, this "revelation" did not come about all at once but over the course of a few weeks. We were a traditional single pastor led congregation. It was a top-bottom model of ministry which is in part biblical, but not in the form of a monarchy.

The needed change did not come into focus until following 9 very intense months of study and discussions with those who were leaders in our church at the time.

We now understand and believe that the Bible teaches co-leadership with equal authority in each local assembly. Having multiple shepherds with God's heart and equal authority protects both Shepherds and sheep. Equal accountability keeps authority and doctrine in check. Multiple shepherds also provide teaching with various styles and giftings with leadership skills which are both different and complementary.

For a while we had two co-pastors (elders) (myself and one other man) who led the church with equal authority, but different giftings. We both taught in our own ways and styles, and our leadership skills were quite different, but complimentary. We were in complete submission to each other and worked side-by-side in the labor of shepherding the flock.

Our other Pastor has since moved on to other ministry which has left us with just myself. While we currently only have one Pastor/Elder, it is our desire that God, in His faithfulness and timing, may bring us more as we grow in maturity and even in numbers.

As to my home, I have been married since 1995 to my wonderful wife Terissa Woodson who is my closest friend and most trusted ally.

As far as my education goes, I grew up in a Christian home, but questioned everything I was ever taught.

I graduated from Bible college in 1990 and continued to question everything I was ever taught (I do not mention my college in order to avoid being labeled).

Perhaps my greatest preparation for ministry has been life and ministry itself. To quote an author I have come to enjoy namely Fredrick Buechner in his writing entitled, Now and Then, "If God speaks to us at all other than through such official channels as the Bible and the church, then I think that He speaks to us largely through what happens to us...if we keep our hearts open as well as our ears, if we listen with patience and hope, if we remember at all deeply and honestly, then I think we come to recognize beyond all doubt, that, however faintly we may hear Him, He is indeed speaking to us, and that, however little we may understand of it, His word to each of us is both recoverable and precious beyond telling." ~ Fredrick Buechner

Well that is about all there is of interest to tell you about me.

I hope our ministry here is a blessing to you and your family. I also hope that it is only a supplement to a local church where you are committed to other believers in a community of grace.

~God Bless!