Ukraine Relief Fund

All Good Things ...

All good things must come to an end. Well, that’s not completely true. God himself is the greatest good, and he is eternal. But in this life, the good things, and the bad things – are temporary.

One of the good things – and frustrating things – that is coming to an end is online church. Now, as I’ll explain in a moment, online church is a bit of an oxymoron – like flying elephants, pink unicorns, and Scottish congregants who stand up in the middle of a sermon and say, ‘Preach it brother!’.

These last 18 months have been a frustrating combination of doing the best we can with what we have to present online worship – and as of 12th September, that season is over.

Thank you

Before explaining our plan going forward, it is fitting to say ‘Thank you’. First, thank you to everyone who has hung with us through this period. If you remember, we were in church together on the 15th; on the 22nd we had our first week of online church, and on the 23rd, the Prime Minister announced lockdown. In one week we shifted from being in person to doing everything online. Meetings went online, small groups went online, and our weekly worship went online. Thank you for faithfully engaging with us through a different and challenging season.

I also want to say ‘thank you’ to everyone who generated content for our online worship. I know – from doing this myself – the whole record and upload thing – it’s not easy, but you guys were champs and did an AMAZING job – thank you So many people contributed to making the last 18 months what they are. Our hosts and worship team and kids team and folk sharing words of encouragement and special announcements – everyone did such a great job. Thank you.

Finally, we need to give a special thank you to our production team who worked behind the scenes each week to get church online. These guys slogged away every week with the content that was handed to them and did an excellent job crafting all of that into a coherent service. When we use the word excellence, we simply mean, doing the best you can with what you have, and that’s what these guys did. Guys – thank you.

Oh, and one more thing before we move on. I gave the production team a bit of freedom with the programme today. We wanted to do a good job looking back and remembering, but also looking forward to where we going.

Why Re-gather?

So before I explain what’s happening next week and beyond, where and when we are re-gathering, I want to set this in biblical context and explain WHY we are regathering.

For eighteen months we have trained ourselves to sit at home on a Sunday morning and ‘WATCH CHURCH’. But here’s the thing: Church is not something we watch, it’s something we do. And now it’s time to do it again.

Having content online is useful, but remember: the Christian life is not a download. You can download a truthful sermon, but you can download the encouragement that comes from your brothers and sisters speaking truth into your life.

Remember, our faith in Jesus is personal, but we follow Jesus in community. I can’t believe the gospel for you, you have to do that. But as a follower of Jesus, Jesus calls us into the church that he is building.

The word church – ecclesia - means those who have been called out. The church are those that God has called out of the world and to himself through Christ.  The universal church or invisible church is all Christians of all times and places. But the universal church only ever manifests as local churches.

A local church is a community of Christians gathered for worship, the sacraments, and mission with leaders, under the authority of scripture, working together in God’s mission to make disciples. God gives us to the church and gives the church to us – not only for the sake of fulfilling our mission, but also for our personal development and growth.

You see, I could preach a brilliant sermon (in theory) on God’s call to love our brothers and sisters … but it’s not until you actually have to do some loving that you are forced to grow. Local church forces us to grow in love.

I can do a brilliant sermon (inn theory) on spiritual gifts, and you can gain cognitive understanding of what the gifts are and how they work. But you won’t getter better at using what God’s given you without using that gift to encourage others.

It’s like reading a book on golf. You can read a hundred books on golf, and you can gain deep cognitive insight into the mechanics of a golf swing and the physics of striking a golf ball. But the only way your golf game is going to get better is PRACTICE.

You can win the world cup on Xbox FIFA football, but that doesn’t mean your good enough to make the starting eleven for Stenhousemuir. What you can do online and what you can do on the pitch are two different realities.

Whether its spiritual gifts, serving, loving, encouraging – we grow more like Christ in the context of being together. Just to be as clear as I can – God designed your life in Christ to NEED the encouragement that happens when we come together for worship.

Here’s the point: gathering for in person worship is not an option; it’s a necessity.

We didn’t do online church as a convenience, we did it because we had to. We had no other choice, and now, as we return to in-person worship, we are doing it as a necessity, because God designed us for this and we need this.

So when we talk about the benefit of gathering for in person worship, we’re talking about worship, God’s word, encouragement, and service.

All of those – singing praises to God, being encouraged through God’s word, being encouraging by others, using your gifts and talents to serve others – all of that happens much better when we are together in person.

I deeply appreciate all the work our worship team has done to have singing as part of our weekly worship experience. But it is simply not the same. These areas of ministry are so much qualitatively better in corporate worship to the degree that they really can’t be compared with what we were doing online. The very essence of being the church of Jesus is being together. And you need this.

Before I explain our re-gathering process over the next few weeks, let me mention three key scriptures.  

1) 1 Corinthians 11.18
when you come together as a church

Paul’s assumption is that they were coming together; but notice this little phrase as a church. When they came together they were A CHURCH in a way they were not when they were dispersed. Remember, not only are we part of THE CHURCH, God calls us to follow Jesus in A CHURCH. And to be ‘A CHURCH’ we have to come together.

2) Hebrews 11.24-25
 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another.

Here the author of Hebrews links encouragement and stirring up one another to love and good works with meeting together. Some he says, neglect to meet together, and he says this is what we are NOT to do. Let me be as clear as I can – if you are follower of Jesus and you are part of this church, the pattern scripture gives us is that you are with us in worship each week. This is normal Christianity. Now – the benefit of that is two-fold: first, when you show up, you are encouraged by others; second, when you show up, you encourage others. So when you’re not with us, it means that whatever encouragement God ordained for you from others, you miss out on that. And when you’re not with us, whatever encouragement God ordained for you to give to someone else, they miss out on that. SO – this is reasonably simple – our corporate encouragement quotient goes up when we are in worship together regularly.

3) Psalm 122.1
I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord!”

Finally, we have this beautiful statement from David. There are three things here I’d like you to notice. The house of the Lord, going, and gladness.

The House of the Lord – when David wrote this, there was not temple; the closest thing to a temple would be the tabernacle. The common denominator is that ‘house of the Lord’ is the place where God’s people gathered together to worship him.

The second key word is ‘go’. There is effort required in gathering witih God’s people for worship. One of the strange things about these last 18 months of online church is that you could roll out of bed at 10.25 and make it to church on time. Those days are over. God hasn’t designed following Jesus to be convenient. Jesus said, if you want to follow me, die to yourself, pick up your cross, and follow me. If Jesus can carry a cross to Golgotha, the least you can do is make it to church on time. But because Jesus did go to Golgotha, the good news for us is that rather than death, when we go to church, we experience life.

But then finally, the key this verse is I WAS GLAD. David was so inspired at the thought of gathering for worship with God’s people that GLADNESS filled his heart just at the mention of it.

David was known to go so excited about worshipping God that he danced on his way to church. Now, I don’t expect you to come into the worship gathering next week dancing … but feel free! But I do expect – God expects – GLADNESS to fill our hearts because we get to gather to worship him.

Gladness because we get to be together; gladness because we get to encourage one another and serve one another – but most of all – gladness because we will be worshipping God, glorifying God, enjoying the presence of God – together.

So, let me summarise: the nature of the church is corporate, connected, and gathered for worship, encouragement and mission. Re-gathering is not an option, but a calling, and as we re-gather, God is going to refresh us in the blessings we have been missing in this season of being scattered.

The Plan

We are regathering for weekly worship beginning 19th September 2021. For Edinburgh, we will be meeting weekly at 4pm at King’s church; the details are here. For Bathgate, we will be meeting weekly at 6.30pm at the High Church; the details are here. Our Bathgate will return to Simpson Primary School, hopefully soon, possibly from the 3rd of October. All the details will be available here on the website

Finally, regarding our online worship gathering, this is changing. From next week, we will be posting videos of the sermons. As before lockdown, audio sermons will be available by Monday of each week. Sermon videos will be available one week after they have been preached.

See you soon!




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