Criticism of the church is probably at an all-time high today. It's increased over the last couple decades and a fair amount of it is warranted.
Much of it comes down to answering the question— Does the church exist for the people or should people be there for the church?
Some of the answer to this question comes down to the consumeristic attitude of American culture. But the church—across denominations and groups—can hold a pretty myopic and monolithic view of its place and purpose.
We live in the 21st century. It may be a futile effort to try to capture the simplicity and closeness of the early church, as seen in the early book of Acts, but we can learn some relevant values intrinsic to the early church.
We must continue to hold firmly to our declaration of faith. The one who made the promise is faithful.
We must also consider how to encourage each other to show love and to do good things.
We should not stop gathering together with other believers, as some of you are doing. Instead, we must continue to encourage each other even more as we see the day of the Lord coming.(Hebrews 10:23-25 GW) [Context– Hebrews 10]
We must also consider how to encourage each other to show love and to do good things
Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions
What do we need to continue to do? What should our motivation be to do so?
What are two things we need to encourage each other to do? How do you think this should be done and what should it include?
What are we to not stop doing and in what ways do you think this should be done?
What seems to be the reason behind the urgency for this exhortation? Is this still relevant?
At times, it may seem that genuine encouragement is a lost gift among believers. Encouragement is not flattery nor is it the same as a like on social media. True encouragement is personal and specific to the person we encourage.
The church is not an institution or the building where the church meets. It's a living organism called the Body of Christ and has many members—people who are followers of Jesus. Each person has a useful and necessary place and purpose within the Body (Eph 4:16).
Each of us is called to encourage one another. This includes accountability and exhortation along with gentle words of correction and comfort. Again, it's much deeper than shallow praise or congratulations.
True encouragement reminds those of us who are believers of our need to continue following Jesus together. It's one of the ways we prepare for the Lord's return.
Make it personal...
Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions
How is the first exhortation connected to those that follow and the ones in earlier verses?
How do you see these exhortations as relevant for believers and churches now?
In what way do they all relate to our current (American) cultural environment?
Are any of these exhortations difficult for you? Is one more difficult than the others?