…he is not ashamed to call them brothers, saying, “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.” (Hebrews 2:11-12)
What Are You Listening for?
What are you listening for when you show up for church? What are you paying attention to? What kinds of things are you hoping to hear?
You most likely have a gut response to such questions—one that’s been forged by underlying assumptions about the purpose of the local church and its gatherings.
Perhaps you’re listening primarily to the genre and quality of the musical worship, or paying strict attention to how the preacher’s style of communicating resonates with you personally. Maybe you’re attuned to what events or programs the children and student ministries are offering your family in the coming weeks. It might be that you want to hear about what new ways the church is providing opportunities for you to connect with other believers in community.
These aspects of the church’s gatherings are certainly worthy of our attention, as they have the potential to aid us in pursuing faithfulness and obedience in the Christian life.
However, by listening primarily (or perhaps even exclusively) for such things, we’re potentially obscuring the real reason why we gather for worship on the Lord’s Day—to hear and respond to the voice of Jesus among His people.
The Most Prominent Voice Among Us
Hebrews 2:11-12 (quoted above) signals us to the reality that, although various aspects of our worship gatherings are administered through human agents, something much greater than mere human agency is at play.
In just two short verses, the writer of the letter to the Hebrews invites us to see that the most prominent voice among the assembled congregation isn’t that of the person preaching the sermon or leading the songs, but rather the voice of Jesus Himself.
You see, in our day and time it’s quite easy to get caught up in the capabilities of church leaders. Without even realizing it, local congregations often celebrate (or, if unimpressed, yawn at) the talents and abilities of those who serve the church pastorally because that’s what our culture has trained us to celebrate (or yawn at).
Through routine exposure to television shows like The Voice and the advent of communication-savvy resources like TED Talks, our minds are wired to applaud talented musicians and admire effective communicators.
While an eagerness to recognize someone’s gifting isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it can carry with it the potential to steal focus from the real reason why we’ve come to church in the first place (which, as I’ve already stated, is to hear and respond to the voice of Jesus). In fact, this was a major concern for the Apostle Paul when he sent his first letter to the church at Corinth (see 1 Co. 1:17).
Therefore, we must be careful not to allow anything to hinder us from hearing Jesus. In order for that to happen, we must remember the reality that what’s most significant about our gatherings isn’t our own subjective evaluation of the voices resonating in our ears from the stage.
Instead, what’s most important is whether, through the voices of others, the Word of the risen Christ is resonating in our hearts and minds to evaluate us. He speaks powerfully through the worship and witness of His gathered church in order that He might expose our unbelief, our sin and our apathy, leading us to take greater strides of repentance and faith for the sake of His Kingdom.
That’s really what all this comes down to.
So if we’ll show up to LifePoint’s gatherings good and ready to listen for the voice of Jesus among His people, odds are we’ll be deeply edified and encouraged, comforted and challenged, hopeful and happy in the Lord. For by hearing His voice in the midst of the congregation, God will be at work to nourish our souls in a profound way.
And yet if we remain insistent upon listening for something other than Jesus, God’s purpose for the ingathering of His people will be obscured in our hearts and minds. And sadly, it will fail to have its intended impact on our lives, which, ultimately makes it pointless.
So for you, which will it be? What are you listening for when you come to church?
As you ponder that important question, I’ll leave you with these words from our Lord: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27).
Songs for Sunday, October 16, 2016:
(Aaron Ivey, Matt Carter, Ross King)
And Can It Be (Amazing Love)
(Tyler Greene, Chad Watson, Charles Wesley)
How Deep The Father’s Love
Jesus Is Better
(Aaron Ivey, Brett Land)
How Great Is Our God
(Chris Tomlin, Jesse Reeves, Ed Cash)