Back To Church Sunday

Stronger Together

(Ecclesiastes 4:7-12)



Good morning and welcome, everyone! It’s so good to see you all here this morning. It’s so good to be here together!


We’re honored that you’ve chosen to be here with us this morning. As you probably know, we are excited to be participating in and celebrating the national movement of Back to Church Sunday. All across the country, the body of Christ is gathering together to reflect on and to reclaim the true nature of the church as a place of Christ’s love and hope for ourselves, our friends, neighbors, communities, and world.


As a church, we are the collective hands and feet of Christ, who reflect Him and do His work in the world as we grow in our relationships with Him and with each other. That’s not just us as a group of friends and family within Idaville Church—it includes those who are gathering in the church up the road, down the road, and in the other small towns surrounding us, and virtually at home, and on the other side of our country, and around the world.


Sometimes we do a better job than at other times. And sometimes we’ve all done a lousy job of that calling to represent Christ. I know that everyone here today has a personal story and experience with the church—some good and life-giving; some bad and painful. For those of you whose experience with the church may have been painful, I’m sorry. I may not know each of your individual stories, but I do know how deep and how wide and how high and how pure God’s love is for each of you. And I am truly sorry for the pain you may have experienced when the actions of one or some of His followers fell short or contradicted His love for you.


But whatever path has led you here today, let me say that we are honored to welcome you and to get to know you. We are excited to be here together. This is a Sunday of belonging, and together is where we belong. We are stronger together!


If there was ever any doubt, or any sense of taking it for granted, the COVID-19 pandemic has sure reminded us how much we need each other. ‘You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone’ may be a cliché, but it’s cliché because there’s truth in it. Having to distance ourselves from each other sure has provided a powerful reminder of the value and importance of our need for connection. We have all been living through the most tangible reminder in our collective lifetimes that we need each other, that we belong in community, and that we are much stronger together.



  • ME

    • Hunting

        • For many years I hunted alone

        • I didn’t have a buddy to go hunting with

        • Those years were tough and I didn’t hunt as much as I wanted to, because it was lonely

        • I didn’t have someone to motivate me or that relied on me to be there for them

        • There wasn’t anyone to rejoice with in a successful hunt

        • God has provided a couple of guys that I get to hunt with now, and it is such a joy to be together with them and share stories


  • WE

    • Every one of us is probably part of a group that we cherish

        • I know we have some scrap bookers here

        • There’s also those of us who have our “shopping crew” for Black Friday

        • Maybe we’re thinking about our hunting, fishing, boating, golfing, disc golf, tennis, basketball, football, soccer, rock climbing, camping, hiking, kayaking, video game, genealogy crew (enter whatever activity you enjoy doing together with others

        • Think about those groups and what draws us together through them


In Ecclesiastes 4:7-12, the writer of Ecclesiastes mentions another thing, that he has observed in his life, that is meaningless. ​​ He talks about a man who is isolated and alone, without any one to help him. ​​ Then he contrasts that with the benefits of having at least one companion, but probably more. ​​ The writer of Ecclesiastes wants us to understand that . . .


BIG IDEA – We were created for community.


Let’s pray


  • GOD (Ecclesiastes 4:7-12)

    • Background

        • Ecclesiastes is one of the Bible’s wisdom books. ​​ Its narrator is the Teacher or the Preacher, depending on the translation

        • Most scholars credit Solomon as the author or someone writing for Solomon (it is not mentioned in the writings)

        • Most of us are familiar with the book of Proverbs

          • Solomon is the author of that book and he has packed it full of wise sayings

          • There are 31 chapters in Proverbs, so it’s easy to read one Proverb a day for most months (I’ve done that in past years)

          • So, I’ve read and reread Proverbs a lot, but I can’t say that about Ecclesiastes

          • Perhaps we’re all the same when it comes to Ecclesiastes

        • Ecclesiastes can be a little hard to read

          • It can sound downright bleak in spots as the writer explores the futilities and emptiness of life

          • The same saying is repeated throughout the book, “this too is meaningless.”

          • Ultimately, the book walks through the ironies and empty pursuits of life, pointing toward trusting God as the only absolute, and it offers many wise insights along the way

        • The Teacher begins with the negative and then turns to the positive – from the bleak to the hopeful

    • Isolation (vv. 7-8)

        • The Teacher begins this section by repeating the statement that He saw something that was meaningless

        • Alone

          • The man that the Teacher observed did not have a son or a brother as a companion

          • Nothing is said of a wife, daughters, or sisters

            • Perhaps he had one or all of those

            • As we see in the remainder of theses verses, it seems as though work is the primary focus

            • In the Ancient Near East, most of the time, the men would be tasked with working in the fields or at a trade, while the women would focus on the housework (there were exceptions to this depending on life circumstances; i.e. – a widow, orphan, etc.)

          • The man not only has to work alone, but he doesn’t have anyone to pass on his possessions or trade to – there is no male heir for his inheritance

          • Application

            • Some of us can relate to this man’s loneliness

            • We don’t have siblings or children that can work alongside of us or take over the family business when we retire

            • It can be very lonely and tasking

            • It can cause us pain as we think about having to sell the business that we’ve worked so hard to create and develop

            • Perhaps some of us are feeling the same way as this man – everything is meaningless

          • We may also be feeling burned out

        • No end to his work and no contentment

          • Because he is all alone with no one to share the work load, he recognizes that there is no end to his work

            • Those of us who own our businesses know exactly what this man is feeling

            • There are farmers and small business owners who have never taken a vacation – or have rarely taken time away from work (they understand that the buck stops with them)

            • When asked about a vacation, they will probably respond, “What is a vacation? ​​ I’m not familiar with that term.”

            • They know that to be successful they have to work and work hard

          • Contentment

            • Many times, these hard workers are not content with the wealth they have accumulated

            • Proverbs 27:20, Death and Destruction are never satisfied, and neither are the eyes of man.

            • The Apostle Paul gives us the key to contentment no matter what our circumstances may be right now

            • Philippians 4:11-13, I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. ​​ I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. ​​ I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. ​​ I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

            • #1 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Trust in God for His strength, no matter what my circumstances are right now.

          • Since this man does not have an heir, he asks two questions

        • Two questions

          • Who am I working for?

            • Some of us would answer this question with, “I’m working for the man!” (talking about our boss)

            • And in some instances, we may even say, “I’m going to stick to the man!” (again referring to our boss)

            • Paul helps us to change our perspective on this question

              • In writing to the believers in Colossae he provides some rules for Christian households

              • In that section it talks about slaves obeying their earthly masters, which for us can relate to obeying our bosses

              • Colossians 3:22-25, Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. ​​ Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. ​​ It is the Lord Christ you are serving. ​​ Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong, and there is no favoritism.

              • No matter what job you have, as Christians, we are working for the Lord

              • Perhaps that little reminder will change our perspective as we prepare to face another work week

              • #2 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Begin my work week by asking the Lord to help me remember that I’m working for Him.

            • The second question is just as important

          • Why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?

            • Those of us who are workaholics know that we have missed some important events in our family’s lives, because of work

              • I know a mother who missed her daughter’s preparation for her senior prom, because she felt like she needed to be at work

              • Illustration about Craig Groeschel from The Christian Atheist

              • I’ve known other people who have been reprimanded by their supervisor for prioritizing time with their children, for important events, instead of being at work

              • Others have been criticized for not participating in a work related event due to medical concerns with their spouse, child, or parent

              • I want to encourage everyone this morning to take time to enjoy life, especially with family

              • Let me paraphrase what Andy Stanley once said, there are hundreds or thousands of people who can do your job as good or better than you, but you are the only one who can be the husband/wife to your spouse and the father/mother to your children

              • That should change our perspective about being a workaholic and prioritizing our family

            • The man in this passage says that being a workaholic is meaningless

        • Toiling endlessly without a break is not how God designed us to function

        • We have to make time to be in community, because we were created for community

        • We are stronger together

        • That’s what the Teacher shares next

    • Community (vv. 9-12)

        • A few thoughts as we consider the importance of community

          • “The old aphorism applies: ‘I went out to look for a friend and they were nowhere. ​​ I went out to be a friend and they were everywhere.’” ​​ [Moore & Akin, Holman Old Testament Commentary, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, 58]

          • “Unfortunately, true community is not what people in many churches really want. ​​ What they really desire is either people meeting their needs on their terms or what some prominent sociologists have labeled ‘lifestyle enclaves’ (Bellah, et al., 71-75). ​​ Lifestyle enclaves are artificial communities. ​​ They are groups of people with the same socioeconomic background who exist solely to satisfy their individual and collective desires. ​​ This is not the biblical meaning of community.” ​​ [More & Akin, 58]

        • Work (v. 9)

          • The lonely man sees no end to his toil and doesn’t have any one to share his workload

          • The Teacher tells us that two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work

          • Biblical examples

            • Genesis 2:18, The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. ​​ I will make a helper suitable for him.”

            • Luke 10:1-2, After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. ​​ He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. ​​ Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

            • Acts 13:1-3, In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. ​​ While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” ​​ So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.

            • Even after Barnabas and Saul/Paul parted ways over John Mark, Paul took Silas with him and picked up Timothy along the way (they were serving in ministry together)

          • Application

            • Pastor Marc and I have experienced this here at Idaville Church

            • We are a great team!

            • When either of us gets stuck with sermon preparation the other person is always ready and willing to listen and give ideas

            • When there are important decisions that need to be made, we are talking them through together

            • Pastor Marc knows I’m a verbal processor and is always willing to listen

            • I praise the Lord for Pastor Marc’s friendship and partnership in ministry

          • We’re not only stronger together when it comes to work, but also as it pertains to hurt

        • Hurt (v. 10)

          • Do you remember the catchphrase, “I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up!”

            • In 1989 LifeCall began running commercials using this phrase [show picture of woman who has fallen in the bathroom]

            • This was probably new technology at that time, to have this pendant that was worn around the neck in case of an accident or emergency

            • All someone had to do was push the button on the pendant and it would alert a dispatch service

          • Importance of having a companion to help when we fall

            • It’s certainly important to have a friend and community who can be there to help us when we fall down physically

              • When our boys were small, I woke up one night in the middle of the night, with something in my eye that could not flush out

              • I needed to go to the emergency room, but knew that Judy would have to get all three boys up for her to be able to take me

              • I called my best friend, Dwane, and asked him to take me, which he willingly did

              • How many of you have experienced the love and generosity of the community here at Idaville Church when you have gotten hurt or had to recover from surgery or another illness?

              • When Jesus was teaching about the final judgment, in Matthew 25:31-46, He talked about taking care of those who were hungry, thirsty, a stranger, needing clothing, sick, and in prison

              • Matthew 25:40, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”

              • Galatians 6:9-10, Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. ​​ Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

            • It’s also important to have a friend and community that surrounds us when we fall down spiritually

              • Galatians 6:1-2, Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. ​​ But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. ​​ Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

              • Jesus taught in Matthew 18:15-20 what our responsibility is when a someone sins against us (one-on-one; one or two others with us; before the whole church; treat them as we would a pagan or tax collector)

            • Even in our hurt, we were created for community

          • There are times when we need each other just to survive

        • Survival (v. 11)

          • Literally

            • “The warmth of lying beside each other does not refer to sexual activity, nor are the two necessarily husband and wife. ​​ It is an image derived from that of travelers who must lie beside each other to stay warm on cold desert nights.” [Garrett, The New American Commentary, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, 308]

            • This passage has been used during wedding ceremonies and can certainly pertain to a husband and wife (if you’re married, you understand sharing body heat to stay warm in the winter, especially when your wife’s feet are like ice cubes and she puts them on your legs to warm them up)

            • In the Ancient Near East, those who were traveling together needed the shared body heat of two people as they slept under the stars or in a tent

            • It was a survival technique

          • Metaphorically

            • Some scholars see this reference to staying warm as a metaphor for “emotional comfort against the coldness of the world.” ​​ [Garrett, 308]

            • 2 Corinthians 1:3-5, Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. ​​ For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.

            • Perhaps every one of us can remember a time when we have experienced the comfort of others who have gone through the same things we have

            • In God’s sovereignty, He provides the right people at the right time to comfort us

            • Maybe God is prompting someone here today to be a comfort to someone else

            • I encourage you to listen to that prompting, because we were created for community and we are stronger together

          • We need each other in work, when we’re hurt, for survival, and finally for protection

        • Protection (v. 12)

          • Standing our ground

            • It’s difficult to stand our ground when we are standing all alone

              • Most people are bolder and more outspoken when they have some friends standing with them

              • If those same people were alone, they may not speak out or stand up at all – they may just remain silent

            • Mark 3:23-26, So Jesus called them and spoke to them in parables: “How can Satan drive out Satan? ​​ If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. ​​ If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. ​​ And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come.

            • It’s a reminder of the saying, “United we stand, divided we fall.”

            • We need each other to help with accountability

              • Hebrews 10:24-25, And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. ​​ Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

              • Ephesians 6:12, For our struggling is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

              • We need to encourage each other to put on the full armor of God

            • “If one is bad, and two is good, how much better is three! ​​ In this regard note the Targum’s interpretation, ‘if two righteous people in a generation are useful, how much more useful are three righteous people in a generation!’” ​​ [Longman III, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament, The Book of Ecclesiastes, 143]

          • Cord of three strands

            • Rope

              • Most of us have used rope at some point in our lives

              • Have you ever taken rope apart? ​​ (it’s made up of different strands braided together)

              • Individually each of those strands might hold a little bit of weight, but it’s when those strands are woven together that their strength multiplies exponentially.

              • Examples

                • Would you rather water-ski behind a boat with a line of craft string or with a braided nylon tow-rope?

                • Would you rather rock climb on the thousand-foot rock faces of Yosemite attached to a long line of yarn? ​​ Or tied into a climbing rope?

                • Would you rather strap your harness to a tree in your tree stand with jute twine or a thick racket strap?

              • The important thing about rope is that it has always been made by twisting and weaving multiple strands or fibers together to make it stronger than one strand alone

            • Relationships

              • We are very much the same

                • We are like rope

                • We are stronger as we are woven together by and with Christ, and that happens when we are in community together

                • We were created for community

                • “The point of the image of the three-strand cord is rather that strength can be gained through human relationships.” ​​ [Longman III, 143-44]

              • #3 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Commit to being in community with other believers.


  • YOU

    • Do you need to trust God for His strength for a situation in your life?

    • Who are you truly working for? (God or man?)


  • WE

    • We all need to remember that we were created for community and we are stronger together



“Pachomius was an Egyptian soldier won to Christ by the kindness of Christians in Thebes. After his release from the military around A.D. 315, he was baptized. Serious about his new faith and determined to grow, Pachomius became a disciple of Palamon, an ascetic who taught him the self-denial and solitary life of a religious hermit.


In early Christianity, the model of devotion was the recluse dedicated to resisting the corruption of society. These hermits wandered the desert alone—fasting, praying, and having visions. Many went to extremes: eating nothing but grass, living in trees, or refusing to wash.


Such was the popular image of holiness: solitude, silence, and severity. And such was Pachomius's early spiritual training. But he began to question the methods and lifestyle of his mentors.


How can you learn to love if no one else is around?


How can you learn humility living alone?

How can you learn kindness or gentleness or goodness in isolation?


How can you learn patience unless someone puts yours to the test?


In short, he concluded, developing spiritual fruit requires being around people—ordinary, ornery people. ‘To save souls,’ he said, ‘you must bring them together.’


Spiritual muscle isn't even learned among friends we have chosen. God's kind of love is best learned where we can't be selective about our associates. Perhaps this is why the two institutions established by God—the family and the church—are not joined by invitation only. We have no choice about who our parents or brothers or sisters will be; yet we are expected to love them. Neither can we choose who will or will not be in the family of God; any who confess Jesus as Lord must be welcomed. We learn agape love most effectively in our involuntary associations, away from the temptation of choosing to love only the attractive.


So Pachomius began an ascetic koinonia, where holiness was developed not in isolation but in community. Instead of each person seeking God in his own way, with the dangers of idleness and eccentricity, Pachomius established a common life based on worship, work, and discipline.


In community with flawed, demanding, sometimes disagreeable people, followers of Pachomius learned to take hurt rather than give it. They discovered that disagreements and opposition provide the opportunity to redeem life situations and experience God's grace. Thus began genuine monastic life.


Pachomius, while largely forgotten in church history, points out to us that as attractive as solitary sanctification may seem, it is life amid people, busyness, and interruptions that develop many of the qualities God requires.”


Condensed from our sister publication Leadership journal, © 1993 Christianity Today International. For more articles like this, visit


Marshall Shelley, "Developing spiritual fruit requires being around people – ordinary, ornery people," Leadership journal (Spring 1993).







This morning, we are participating and celebrating this Back to Church Sunday as part of a national movement. This is a great opportunity and we are excited to be joining with other parts of the body of Christ across the country to reflect on and reclaim the true nature of the church as a place and expression of love, peace, and hope for our friends, neighbors, communities, and world. As a church, we are the collective hands and feet of Christ, who reflect Him and do His work in the world as we grow in our relationships with Him and with each other. So whether you are new to Idaville Church or have been here all your lives or somewhere in between, we are better together.

This phrase, “Back to Church” got me to thinking about the reasons why people leave the church and don’t come back, maybe, for a month, a year, or even longer. So, of course, I googled it. Here are some of the reasons I found why people leave the church. One, they got out of the habit. They stopped going one Sunday and that one Sunday became two and then four and then a year later they are still not back in church. Two, they were hurt by someone or something that happened in the church and stopped going to church. Third, they never felt connected to others in the church. Four, some stop going to church because a favorite pastor left or retired. Five, sometimes young people stop going to church after high school. They go off to college and get out of the habit and stop going altogether. Finally, some people move away or get a new job with different hours and stop going to church.

Now I think it’s only fair to also tell you the reasons why people come back to church and maybe you can identify with one of these reasons. First, people come back to church because they were invited. That is the number one reason why people come back to church. Two, some people start going back to church because they’ve passed by a church and something stood out to them, maybe it’s the modern look of the building or the denomination. Three, some see the advertising on the church’s website or Facebook page and they decide to try that church out. Four, people get married, have kids and realize they want to bring their kids up in the church like they had been. Five, whatever causes them to stop going to church in the first place ends, like a job, and they go back to church. Lastly, the Holy Spirit draws them back to church.

Which brings me to my story of going back to church. When I was about 18 or 19, working on my Associates degree in Law Enforcement, and I started working part time as a security guard in two office high rise buildings. I worked on Friday and Saturday nights from 11 pm to 7 am and for the year I worked there, except for a couple of times, probably Christmas and Easter, I did not go to church. I used the excuse that having worked all night I was tired and needed to sleep. About the time that I finished my degree and had decided that I needed a full-time job I was given the opportunity to work for a family owned business. So I quit the part-time night security job and took the full-time job working Monday through Friday during the daylight hours and guess what? I went right back to church. The thing that I let keep me away from church ended and because my parents had instilled in me the priority of going to church, it made it a no-brainer to go back.

But I also fully believe that the Holy Spirit was calling me back to church. God had far reaching plans for me that started that day back in March 1986 when I decided to go back to church that still impacts my life today. The continuation of my story is that as soon as I went back to the church that I had grown up in all my life I met a person named Jackie who was from Pennsylvania. She had started to attend my home church and was in the same young adult Sunday school class I was. She had moved down from Pennsylvania to get a job and was living with a family who also attended my church. One Easter Sunday, as my family was out of the country, she invited me to her house for lunch. Her mother and sister were down from Pennsylvania and were going to be there as well. Maybe you have heard the story or can guess where this is going but the sister that I had lunch with that day was my now wife, Judy. I still marvel at how God orchestrated the seemingly random events of finishing my degree to quitting my part-time job to finding just the right daylight job to making the decision to go back to church to meeting Jackie to meeting my wife to getting married and moving to Pennsylvania to being led into ministry to now standing before you preaching a sermon. It was a God-thing. It is also a God-thing that all of you are here this morning as well. Whether this is your first day back in church in a while or you haven’t missed church in a long time, God has us all in this place for many reasons. One of those reasons is because we are better together than apart.

Now, I can’t promise that you will find a wife at church but you will find new friends and you can experience peace through the different relationships you make at church. You may not became a pastor or missionary but can find peace by being in ministry and serving God in the church. I can promise that if you come to church with the intent to grow spiritually and strive to be more like Christ, you will have peace in your life and you will find peace with God. Which brings me to our big idea this morning which is “in fellowship together we can find peace.”

But before we start to unpack this idea of being at peace in fellowship together let’s dedicate our time this morning to God with prayer. Let’s pray:

Father, we come before you this morning asking for your Holy Spirit to fill us so that as we hear your message today from your word, our faith will be increased. We ask that you would use your word which is living and active and sharper than any double edged sword to rightly divide us even to soul and spirit, joint and marrow. Use your word to expose the thoughts and the attitudes of our hearts. And use your word to give us practical next steps that we can use in our daily lives. In Jesus’ name. Amen

The theme for Back to Church Sunday is Together, and as I thought about togetherness and what it means for us as followers of Jesus, I thought of Legos. Who could have imagined that these pieces of plastic would be worth billions of dollars? The Danish toy company that began in the 1930s has built a Lego empire around the building bricks that they introduced in the 1950s. Individually, Legos are just cheap pieces of plastic—but despite their basic design, the magic is in the way they fit together. Legos are designed to be together—that’s what those little raised circles are for, to attach each brick to another. And together these plastic pieces can be made into fantastic creations. So if you didn’t know Pastor Stuart collects Legos. Here are some pictures of the Lego structures he has in his office.

Full-scale models of castles, cars, airplanes, spaceships have all been built from Legos. If you’ve ever been to one of the LEGOLAND theme parks, you’ve been treated to scaled replicas of the world’s most famous buildings and landmarks. It seems that Legos can be put together to create almost anything. They are just pieces of plastic, but together they create something much bigger and better than the sum of their parts.

The church is like Legos, a collection of individuals of various sizes, shapes, and colors. Individually, we may be kind of a big jumble at a glance, but when we come together the way God intended, we form the Church, which is a creation much greater than the individual members. God takes our chaos and, by His design, makes something spectacular and gives us purpose. In real life, this concept is powerful and life changing. Christ invites us to be together with Himself and together with one another. Together we are on a journey of transformation and “in fellowship together we can find peace.”

This morning we are going to be looking in the Book of Ephesians, chapter 2, verses 17-22. Ephesians was written by Paul while he was in prison in Rome. He wrote this letter to a group of believers in the city of Ephesus about 30 years after Jesus’ death and resurrection. The theme of this letter is “togetherness” and Paul comes back to it again and again. Like all of the early church, the believers in Ephesus got their information in a very communal way. The people receiving this letter did so by gathering together and listening to it being read. When it came to processing and understanding what the letter meant, the people of Ephesus did so—together. Together they listened and learned and shared and discussed and wrestled through the challenges of living out their faith in Christ in the midst of a culture that operated in a vastly different way. So we will be following their lead together in wrestling with the ways Christ invites us to live both together with Him and together with one another and by doing so have peace.

Paul had previously spent time in Ephesus as a missionary, so he knew the culture and the challenges this group of believers faced. He knew that they were a group of people surrounded and challenged by other ideas, beliefs, and practices. The church at Ephesus needed the strength of unity to grow and survive, not unlike our church today.

Paul wrote this letter to encourage and instruct the young church in how to have peace. Our world seeks peace in so many different ways. We seek peace among nations, peace in our cities, peace in our families, peace in our churches, and peace in our own hearts and minds. As we explore the concept that “in fellowship together we can find peace”, let’s look at Ephesians 2:17-22. This is what God’s Word says: “[Christ] came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.”

According to this passage there are three ways we can have peace. The first way we can have peace is in unity with other believers. Do you ever find yourself, or those you know, searching for a place to belong? Are you searching for a way to be part of something bigger than yourself? Where can you experience that sense of belonging? Paul says that the body of Christ—the church—is our place of belonging, rooted in the restoration and unity brought by Jesus.

Paul takes us directly into the central issue of togetherness, which is unity and foundational to this unity is grace. Nobody can claim a higher position or status, because all believers are of the same status. We are all sinners in need of grace. Ephesians 2:8-9 says “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” When we recognize that it is grace that has saved us, it forces us to open our arms and hearts to all in gratitude. We have all been there. We have all experienced the same need. We have all been offered the same gift. Grace does not allow exclusion, instead, it brings us together in unity.

Paul goes on to explain how Christ’s purpose was to unify the two major divisions of people—Jews and Gentiles. By including these two groups, Paul is including everyone. In chapter 2, verse 14, Paul says, “For he himself (talking about Jesus) is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility.” By coming to save the world—all people of the world—Jesus broke down the deepest divisions of eternity between God and man, and the deepest divisions of humanity between God’s covenant people and others. In doing away with that separation, He brought peace, real, lasting, ultimate peace. Obviously, that peace will not be completely realized until Christ returns to complete God’s ultimate restoration. But through Jesus’ death and resurrection, the door to peace is open to all of us. And it opens up unity as a definitive characteristic of God’s people.

Paul is clear that we find peace in unity, but that does not mean in uniformity or sameness. The church at Ephesus was full of diversity, and the goal was not to change this. The goal was unity in the midst of those differences. It’s the same goal for the church today and the same goal for us here at Idaville. We are all different. We are all different ages and we all have different personalities. We all have different thoughts of how things should be done in the church but we all love God and his son, Jesus. God doesn’t want us to be all the same, but he does command us to love one another and in doing so we can be unified by the gospel of Jesus Christ. We can be unified together as we fulfill the Great Commission to Pursue, Grow and Multiply Disciples.

We don’t find peace by separating ourselves from the world or from each other, but by leaning into the grace and unity that Jesus brings. What would happen in our lives and community if church was a place to come together in peace and allow God to remove all dividing walls of hostility? How would this change our church body right here at Idaville? Let’s be a people of unity. Let’s be a people of grace. Let’s be a people of peace. Which brings us to our first next step on the back of your communication card which is to willingly sacrifice my personal preferences in order to be unified as a body of believers.

The second way we can have peace is by being in God’s presence. We live in a world that seems increasingly full of discord and anxiety. News stories demonstrate every day that as a population we struggle with anxiety, depression, and isolation. Headlines proclaim divisions and conflicts of all sorts, from personal disagreements to political wars, both ideologically and physically. We need peace!

Paul is crystal clear in verse 14 that Christ Himself is our peace. Peace is not a thing. It’s a person. We find peace—both personally and as a body—in relationship with Jesus. In Galatians 5:22, Paul describes the fruits of the Spirit. He says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,” These are characteristics of people who are in relationship with Jesus and peace will be evident if God’s Spirit is living in and through us. Peace isn’t something we can create in ourselves; the Holy Spirit in us brings peace and enables us to live it out. Together as believers we are the collective dwelling place of God’s Spirit, who is our peace. That’s good news!

We are not alone. We are citizens, family, and most importantly, a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit. While our struggles do not magically disappear, together in the middle of our struggles we can experience peace. Even now as our church struggles with relationship and financial issues and a lot of our people and their families are struggling with physical and mental health issues we can experience peace because we have the presence of the Holy Spirit in us. And because of that we can also share and offer peace to others, even when struggles or disagreements arise.

So what does peace look like in our lives? First, I can tell you first what peace is not. Peace is not ignoring differences, ignoring conflict, or ignoring reality. Peace is not an image to be upheld or a feeling to be pursued. Peace is the presence of God in His people. And His presence through the Holy Spirit enables us to experience peace and to remind each other and the world around us that He is the source of all peace. Where anxiety and fear are strongest, we can be a living reminder that God cares for the details of our lives, as well as the eternal redemptive story of the world.

So maybe you are here this morning and you do not have peace. Maybe you don’t have a relationship with Jesus and so have never felt the presence of the Holy Spirit inside you. Jesus promised that when we accept him as our Lord and Savior he would come into our lives, as the Holy Spirit, and be our advocate, counselor, and comforter. Maybe you want the Holy Spirit to come into you today so you can have the peace that comes from a personal relationship with Jesus. If so, the second next step on the back of your communication card may be for you which is to accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior and to feel the power of the Holy Spirit in my life.

The third way we can have peace is by committing to the process of peace. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could find peace once and be done with it? But peace is not just a one-time event. When faced with an unpeaceful world, Jesus invites us to return to Him and to each other again and again. The prophets who foretold the coming of Christ gave Him the name Prince of Peace. And through His death and resurrection, He made the way of peace available to each of us. In the face of all life’s battles and an unpeaceful world, Jesus offers the terms of peace and the way forward. When we daily surrender to His power and to His will we embrace the way of peace.

But what about the fact that peace seems so temporary and fragile? It seems that peace can be interrupted or destroyed in an instant. The peace we see in the world never seems to last. The good news is that as believers our peace goes beyond a circumstance or a feeling. That is because our peace is the never-changing, always-present Spirit of God. Jesus knew the hardships His disciples would face, and He promised them peace. He told them in John 14:26-27, “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

Just as Jesus promised, the Holy Spirit is with us continually and is our source of peace. But we all need reminders. We all need encouragement and support. We all need each other to relate with in unity and peace and to share it with a world that needs it. And that’s where the church comes in. We are better together.

Paul closes Ephesians 2 with this: “And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” Like those Legos we talked about earlier, we fit together to form the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit fills and enables us with the peace of Christ. Why do we come back to church, and invite others to join us? Because coming together here does not just put us in the church. Instead, it is here that we realize we are the church—and as the church, God dwells with us.

So we come together to live and worship in unity, to collectively turn our focus to Jesus and experience the source of our peace, and to offer the way of peace to the world. Together we are so much greater than the sum of our parts. Together we encourage and support each other when we are weak. Together we reflect the nature and relationship of God. Which brings us to our last next step on your communication card which is to encourage and support this body of believers and to reflect the nature and relationship of Christ to each other.

I want to close today with a story called “Clinker Bricks.” Although at times it seems as though the church is in ruin and rubble, God sees it as a beautiful building. Clinker bricks are bricks that did not quite make it. For some reason or another, they come out of the kiln misshapen or deformed. Gates Presbyterian Church in Rochester, New York was intentionally built of clinker bricks. Apparently, the congregation wanted to send a message, so they built their church of imperfect, rejected bricks. The message is that people are like clinker bricks. We are all sinners, we are all imperfect people full of weaknesses, but through Christ we become living stones in his church. We do not become living stones because we are so great, but it is Christ who is great. We are connected into his church through him.

May we all remember that we are imperfect, rejected bricks and are all sinners saved by God’s grace through his son, Jesus Christ. And by remembering we treat each other with love and respect and live in peace together though the Holy Spirit.

As Gene & Roxey come to lead us in our final hymn this morning and as the ushers get ready to pick up the communication cards lets pray:

Dear Heavenly Father, I pray that you would bring this community of believers peace and unity through your son Jesus. May we be good role models of peace and unity to the people around us, in the church and outside the church. May we strive to be more like Jesus, kind, caring, compassionate, loving, giving, forgiving and humble. Bring us together as a family. Grant us the patience to work together with understanding and compassion in our hearts. Let us not be rude or arrogant towards one another, as we light the way to your heavenly kingdom. In Jesus’ name. Amen


Back To Church

You Belong Here!

(Acts 2:42-47; Romans 12:10)



“In his latest book, John Ortberg writes about our need to meaningfully connect with others:


In 2015, researchers at the University of California at Berkeley announced they would be part of a $100 million dollar project for space travel to see if there's intelligent life in the universe. The plan was to send tiny nanocrafts—like spaceship butterflies—traveling at one-fifth the speed of light to Alpha Centauri. Stephen Hawking expressed the purpose poignantly: "It is important to know if we are alone in the dark."


The folks at Berkeley are not the only ones who want to know. We're all constantly sending out tiny little probes, emotional nanocrafts, to find out whether we're alone in the dark. They travel at high speeds, and it's easy to miss them. They can be small: "Did you see the game last night?" They can be poignant: "I don't think I'll ever call my dad again." They can be deep: "I'm not sure my wife loves me anymore." They can be urgent: "I have no one else to talk to; can I speak to you confidentially?"


These emotional nanocrafts are what researcher John Gottman calls "bids" for emotional connection." We start issuing these bids before we can talk. A baby's cry is a bid to connect. As we grow older, these bids—or invitations—for intimacy take other forms. "A bid can be a question, a gesture, a look, a touch—any single expression that says, 'I want to feel connected to you.'" Intimacy of every kind is either built up or eroded, based on how well we handle the subtle little nanocrafts of relational life.”


Adapted from John Ortberg, I’d like You More If You Were More Like Me (Tyndale Momentum, 2017), pages 67-68.





  • ME

    • Holding hands

        • Most of you know that Judy started teaching 1st Grade again this year

        • With her teaching, we have seen less and less of each other

        • Keep in mind that before she was just across the parking lot and I would be able to see her whenever I wanted to, throughout the day, but mostly at lunch time and in the evening

        • The last time we served at the Upper Adams Food Pantry, August 27, 2018, Pastor Marc and I finished preparing the food that Judy and the youth had worked on the night before

        • We traveled together to the food pantry, because Judy and Levi came directly from school to the food pantry

        • I walked into the kitchen after Judy had arrived and reached out to hold her hand

        • I just wanted to connect with her

        • Someone asked me if something was wrong and I told them, “I haven’t seen Judy for a while and just wanted to connect with her.”

    • Family Life Weekend to Remember

        • Judy and I attend the Family Life Weekend to Remember event in Hershey, PA every February

        • It is our way of making sure our marriage is “tuned up”

        • The one thing I really appreciate about the teaching over that weekend is that every couple is moving in one of two ways – either towards isolation or oneness.

        • They give every couple the opportunity to move towards oneness in multiple ways (activities to do after each session and a date night on Saturday night)


  • WE

    • Not really connecting

        • There is a misconception in our current technological age that we are connecting with more people, because of social media

        • Unfortunately, those connections are not always healthy and some of them are even “real”

        • We are looking for connection through “likes,” “follows,” “shares,” “comments,” “subscribers,” etc.

    • Wanting to connect

        • This shows us that people want to be connected

        • They want to be liked

        • They want to know that people value their ideas, thoughts, and opinions

        • They want to be loved and to be a part of a community


In Acts 2:42-47 the church is Jerusalem is formed right after Peter shares the Gospel on what we now call the Day of Pentecost. ​​ There were 3,000 people who became Christians that day. ​​ What was it going to take for the existing Christians and this newly formed church to be healthy? ​​ Luke outlines that for us. ​​ He wants us understand that...


BIG IDEA – Our actions toward one another shows our community that this is a place to belong.


A healthy church is one that is W.E.L.L. (Worshipping, Evangelistic, Loving, and Learning). ​​ [I have to let you know that Pastor Marc came up with this acronym. ​​ He is very gifted at doing that!].


We are going to look at all four of those attributes today, but we’ll be looking at them in the order they appear in the text.


Let’s pray


  • GOD (Acts 2:42-47; Romans 12:10)

    • John Stott’s commentary, The Bible Speaks Today, The Message of Acts, beautifully outlines these six verses – I’ve used his headers for the four points this morning [Stott, 82-86]

    • PRINCIPLE – Healthy churches pay careful attention to teaching, fellowship, prayer, and witness. ​​ [Gangel, Holman New Testament Commentary, Acts, 33]

    • Learning Church (Acts 2:42a, 43)

        • The first thing that these new believers did was devote themselves to the apostles’ teaching

          • The Greek word for “devoted” means “to be firm, persevere, remain faithful to a person or task. ​​ In regard to prayer, the idea is constant diligence, effort that never lets up, confident waiting for results.” ​​ [Rogers & Rogers, The New Linguistic and Exegetical Key to the Greek New Testament, 233]

          • The construction of the participle is such that it stresses a continual, ongoing action

          • The NASB has this construction in its translation, They were continually devoting themselves to . . .

          • The devotion these new believers had was to all four things listed there (teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayer)

        • First Century

          • The apostles were probably teaching the following things:

            • The person and work of Jesus Christ (Son of God, perfect/without sin, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension)

            • The way of salvation (by grace, through faith in Jesus)

            • How Jesus was concealed in the Old Testament, but had fulfilled what the prophets had said

            • The importance of a Christian witness

            • Matthew 28:19-20, Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. ​​ And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

              • These are the marching orders of every Christian given to the disciples when Jesus returned to heaven

              • Here at Idaville Church we summarize these two verses into a three-phrase tag line

              • Pursue Disciples, Grow Disciples, Multiply Disciples

            • The teaching of the apostles would have included obedience to everyone of Jesus’ commands

            • The apostles’ teaching was authenticated by the many wonders and miraculous signs they were able to do

              • This was God’s way of letting the listeners, who sat under the apostles’ teaching, know that they were genuinely commissioned by Him

              • The power to do many wonders and miraculous signs came from God

              • The same is true today of anyone who has the gift of healing – it only comes from God

          • This is certainly how the 1st Century Christians would have understood the teaching of the apostles, but what does it look like for us, today?

        • Today

          • The teaching of the apostles is now confirmed for us through the canon of Holy Scripture – the Bible

          • The New Testament, specifically, has the teaching of the apostles for us

          • What was concealed in the Old Testament is now revealed in the New Testament – the early church was experiencing the New Testament firsthand

          • God continues to preserve His Word throughout history

          • Opportunities to devote ourselves to the teaching of God’s Word

            • Worship Service (children’s church during the message)

            • Sunday school (we have classes for all age groups)

            • Discipleship Groups (we have groups forming right now that you can join, just see our Welcome Center attendant this morning and ask about Discipleship/Small Groups)

            • Wednesday evening (children, youth, and adults)

            • Sunday evening (youth)

        • “Let me say here that openness to being fed by the Word is key evidence that one is truly regenerated. ​​ Many people come to Christ to have a felt need met because they hear that the God of the Christians is a prayer-answering God. ​​ In their eagerness to be blessed by this God, they go through the motions of ‘making a decision.’” ​​ [Fernando, The NIV Application Commentary, Acts, 132]

          • This has been my experience with new believers that I’ve had the privilege of discipling

          • They are hungry for God’s Word and are looking for more and more opportunities to study God’s Word

          • I’ve experienced that hunger in a new believer within the past week

        • Making disciples is so much more than just a one-time conversion experience – it is a continual, ongoing process of growing together

        • The new believers in Jerusalem weren’t just devoted to the apostles’ teaching, they were also devoted to loving one another

    • Loving Church (Acts 2:42b, 44-45; Romans 12:10)

        • They were devoted to fellowship

          • The Greek word is koinonia and means fellowship, sharing in common, communion, close relationship

            • This Greek word would also be used for the mutual give an take of a marriage relationship [Bock, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, Acts, 150]

              • The love shared between a husband and wife is perhaps the closest relationship we can have here on earth

              • If the marriage is functioning as it should, moving toward oneness instead of isolation, then both people will be loving and looking out for each other

              • They will sacrifice whatever they need to for the relationship

            • This kind of mutual give and take should be evident within the Christian community also

              • The believers, here in Jerusalem, were fulfilling Jesus’ words to His disciples prior to His crucifixion

              • John 13:34-35, “A new command I give you: ​​ Love one another. ​​ As I have loved you, so you must love one another. ​​ By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

              • Romans 12:10, Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. ​​ Honor one another above yourselves.

          • Stott expresses that it is both sharing in together and sharing out together [Stott, 82-83]

            • Sharing in

              • 1 John 1:3, We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. ​​ And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.

              • 2 Corinthians 13:14, May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all

            • Sharing out

              • “In secular Greek the word was used for the sharing of possessions.” [Fernando, 120]

              • 2 Corinthians 9:13, Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with (koinonia) them and with everyone else.

          • Interesting note – the Greek word koinōnikos means “generous”

          • We see in vv. 44-45 what being devoted to the fellowship looked like

        • Sharing of possessions

          • They were together

            • The idea expressed here is one of unity

            • Philippians 2:1-4, If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. ​​ Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. ​​ Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

            • Acts 4:32, All believers were one in heart and mind. ​​ No one claimed that any of his possessions were his own, but they shared everything they had.

          • Everything in common

            • The Greek word for “common,” in v. 44, is another form of koinonia, it is koina

              • Jesus and His apostles shared a common purse (Judas was in charge of it)

              • This same concept was practiced by at least one Jewish party that was more rigorous in their belief system [Bruce, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, Acts, 74]

            • Luke explains in v. 45 what this looked like for the early church

              • Selling their possessions

                • Possessions is probably referring to their real estate or land holdings

                • The idea expressed through the imperfect tense of the verbs “selling” and “gave” is two-fold

                  • First, it meant that this was continual, ongoing practice of selling possession and goods and not a one-time “initiation fee” into Christianity

                  • It also meant it was voluntary and based on need (the apostles weren’t stock piling funds)

                  • When Peter confronts Ananias and Sapphira about selling some property, but only giving a portion of it to the Lord, he says, Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? ​​ And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? ​​ What made you think of doing such a thing? ​​ You have not lied to men but to God (Acts 5:4)

              • Selling their goods

                • Goods is probably referring to their valuables

                • This would include anything other than real estate or land

              • Giving to anyone as they had a need

                • When a need arose among any of the believers it was probably brought up to the whole community

                • Different individuals, led by God, would sell possessions or goods and bring the money to the apostles so they could distribute it to those in need

                • As a church, we do a great job of taking care of those within our church community

                • We also do a great job of taking care of those in our community

                • There have been some repeat individuals who have come by the church, looking for financial help, and my response to them is that the greatest help they will ever receive is to join with a body of believers

                • We see that Biblical precedence here

          • “This pooling of property could be maintained voluntarily only when their sense of spiritual unity was exceptionally active.” ​​ [Bruce, 74]

          • PRINCIPLE – God is pleased when His people help each other when they are in need.

            • As a body of believers, we can only help with needs that we are aware of

            • That means the need has to be expressed

              • We have a benevolence committee that includes me, Laurin Fleming as chairperson of the board, Bev Fleming as chairperson of the spiritual care commission, and Donna Kerrigan as treasurer

              • If you have a need, please let one of us know

              • My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Let the benevolence committee know that I have a need. ​​ (we will contact you for more details about your need)

            • The other side of this principle is giving to help meet that need

              • We can sometimes get so caught up in our own world that we are blind to those around us

              • We can very easily overlook someone who is obviously in need

              • We can also think that we can’t afford to help someone in need

              • I want to challenge you today to consider how and what God may be calling you to sacrifice, so you can help meet the needs of others

              • It may be property or personal possessions that you can sell in order to help

              • My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Ask the Lord to show me if there is anything He wants me to sacrifice so I can help those in need.

        • We have seen that a healthy church is a learning and loving church, but it is also a worshipping church

    • Worshipping Church (Acts 2:42c, 46-47a)

        • Their fellowship wasn’t limited to just caring for their fellow believers, but also in worshipping corporately

        • The third thing that the new believers were devoted to was to the breaking of bread

          • Most scholars agree that this is referring to the Lord’s Supper (communion) that took place during the larger agape feasts that were part of the early church

          • In the second half of v. 46 we see that they broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts

            • They were doing this every day, going from house to house, sharing a meal together, and remembering the Lord’s suffering until He comes (communion)

            • They were enjoying each other’s company, which speaks volumes about the unity they were experiencing

            • This is not to say that this early church did not have its faults (disagreement between the Grecian and Hebraic Jews over the treatment of their widows, Rom. 6:1-6)

            • I’m not trying to gloss over the difficulties they had in an attempt to guilt us into acting a certain way

            • I just want to encourage us to think about whether or not we could improve in the area of having meals together (hospitality)

            • I remember the years when my Mother would make extra food for Sunday lunch with the expectation that we would invite a family over for a meal – it was intentional and purposeful

            • We could come prepared each Sunday to invite a new family out to lunch, so they know that they belong here

          • They weren’t just sharing meals and communion together, they were also praying together

        • The fourth thing the believers were devoted to was prayer

          • This wasn’t just private prayer, although I’m sure they were practicing that too

          • This was corporate prayer times they had every day

            • They were meeting in the temple courts, probably under Solomon’s Colonnade and praying for the Jews who didn’t recognize Jesus as the Messiah and for their fellow Gentiles who perhaps didn’t believe in God at all

            • They were probably spending time in prayer before and after the meals they shared together from house to house

          • This is an encouragement for us to spend time in prayer informally when we get together to share a meal

          • It is also an encouragement for us to spend time formally in corporate prayer

            • We see this in our Sunday school classes

            • We have a Wednesday evening worship, praise, and prayer time for adults

            • We have a prayer warrior ministry that has started again during the worship service

            • We have a group that meets at the prayer rail on Sunday mornings at 8:45 am to pray for the morning services

          • PRINCIPLE – God is honored when His people worship Him through agape meals, the Lord’s Supper, and prayer.

            • When we honor through these acts of worship, then those in our community who do not have a relationship with Jesus will see a difference

            • We will enjoy the favor of all the people

            • This only comes through the power of God when we focus on Him and His people instead of ourselves – when we strive for unity and love within the body of Christ

        • There is one more aspect of a healthy church, one that is W.E.L.L. and that is evangelism

    • Evangelistic Church (Acts 2:47b)

        • John Stott explains that we can learn three vital lessons about local church evangelism from these early believers [Stott, 86-87]

          • First, the Lord (Jesus) is the one who added to their number

            • He obviously used the teaching of the apostles to share the truths of God with unbelievers

              • Gospel

                • Sin problem (Rom. 3:23, 6:23)

                • God’s solution (Rom. 5:8; 1 Cor. 15:3b-4)

                • Our response (Rom. 10:9-10)

              • My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Confess with my mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in my heart that God raised Him from the dead to take my punishment for sin.

            • He also used the koinonia fellowship through the body of believers to encourage and strengthen those who were seeking the truth

            • 1 Corinthians 3:6-7, I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. ​​ So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.

            • Those early believers and unbelievers had found a place to belong

          • Second, what Jesus did was two things together: ​​ he added to their number . . . those who were being saved

            • There weren’t nominal Christians in the church who weren’t transformed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ

            • There weren’t people who simply believed in God, but didn’t have a relationship with Jesus

            • He also didn’t save them to a solitary Christian life

            • They were added to the community of believers

            • Hebrews 10:24-25, And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. ​​ Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

          • Finally, the Lord added people daily

            • The verb “added” is in the imperfect tense meaning “kept adding” – a continual process

            • PRINCIPLE – God promises to add believers to His church when His people focus on worshipping, evangelizing, loving, and learning together.

              • A W.E.L.L. church is a healthy church

              • “What happens to believers who worship, work, and witness for their Lord? ​​ The Lord grows the church. ​​ Let’s not miss the order – first godly relationships with each other, then growth.” ​​ [Gangel, 32]

        • While the Lord did the adding, we have a responsibility to plant and water


  • WE/YOU

    • Our actions toward one another shows our community that this is a place to belong

        • To be a healthy church we have to focus on being W.E.L.L. (worshipping, evangelizing, loving, and learning together)

        • We have to teach new believers to obey every command that Jesus gave His disciples

        • We have to love one another by sharing in and sharing out

        • We have to find joy in worshipping together as a unified body of believers

        • We have to be committed to Pursuing, Growing, and Multiplying Disciples

    • What part do you need to play in helping our church to be W.E.L.L.?



“When we have forgotten the past, the community helps us re-learn our own story. The case of ‘Benjamin Kyle’ is instructive. In the early morning of August 31, 2004, employees of a Burger King in Richmond Hill, GA found a man unconscious next to a dumpster. He was naked, sunburnt, and had bites from red ants. His skull had three depressions, apparently from blunt force trauma. He also had amnesia and was unable to remember his own name, much less how he came to be found beaten behind a Burger King. The employees called 911, and he was taken to a hospital in Savannah; but without identity papers or memory, they listed him only as ‘Burger King Doe.’


For more than ten years he was unable to remember his name and thus was unable to get a Social Security card. He could not obtain a job nor collect any kind of benefits from the government. He named himself ‘Benjamin Kyle,’ sensing that his first name might have been Benjamin, and he sought a community that knew him previously to help him piece together his identity. You see, without a community, this man had no access to his story. Finally, with the help of investigative reporters and genetic testing, ‘Benjamin Kyle’ learned his real name and likely family of origin. As he started to identify with his community again he said, ‘Looking at all these names, all these people, kind of gives me a sense of belonging,’ he said. ‘I have a history. I'm not just some stranger that materialized out of thin air.’


Jeffrey Arthurs, Boston, Massachusetts; source: ​​ Kent Justice, “Man with no name finally knows real identity,” (9-15-16)





15th Sunday after Pentecost (National Back To Church Sunday)

A Place To Belong

(Hebrews 10:19-25)



“One of the greatest tragedies of the 21st Century in America is the realism that millions of people who claim to know Jesus Christ rarely attend a local church or participate in the worship services. ​​ In so many of American churches, a lot of people basically attend three times in their entire life. ​​ The first time is when they’re born to be [christened] dedicated. ​​ The second time is when they are married. ​​ The third time is when they are buried. ​​ In other words, when they’re hatched, matched, and dispatched!


Yet, in the New Testament, if one consistently and deliberately missed the assembly, the coming together as a church, it was assumed that this person was no longer following Christ. ​​ They assumed that this person had gone back into the world and was no longer a part of the local church. ​​ In this case, New Testament Christians would eventually conclude that a person was no longer a Christ-follower simply because he/she was no longer attending the local assembly. ​​ The saw the worship service not only as a privilege and a priority, but they saw worship as a solemn duty.”


(James O. Davis, What Difference Does Church Attendance Make?).





  • ME

    • Growing up in a Pastor’s home

        • My father was a pastor from before I was born

        • As I grew up, it was pretty much a requirement that I be at church

        • I went to college in IN and my parents lived in AL (750 miles apart)

          • They would never know if I attended church or not

          • But church was an important part of my life

          • I’m a people-person and an extravert, so I’m energized by being around people

          • So, going to church in college was something that I wanted to do for myself and not because I thought my parents wanted me to do

    • Attending church as adults

        • Judy and I got married between our Junior and Senior year of college

        • After graduation we moved to FL

          • We didn’t have any family nearby

          • We found a great Southern Baptist church

          • The members of that church became our family

          • We attended Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday evenings

          • We were part of the choir

          • I served on the Stewardship committee

          • We helped with work days (I got stung by fire ants working outside)

        • In every state that we have lived in, the church members have become our family

          • We’ve lived in OH (UB), MO (Wesleyan), and CA (Calvary Chapel)

          • We were close to Judy’s family in OH, but we didn’t have any family in MO or CA

          • Throughout our married life, Judy and I have found that the churches we’ve attended were places to belong

          • We feel the same way about Idaville Church – it is a place to belong


  • WE

    • Idaville Church

        • Many of you have attended Idaville Church for most if not all of your life

        • You’ve found it to be a place to belong

    • Those attending for the first time or returning again

        • If you who are returning to church after being gone for a while or if you’ve never attended church before, we hope that you’ll find Idaville Church to be a place where you can belong

        • We hope that Idaville Church will be a place where you can grow in your walk with the Lord and see your faith develop and blossom


The author of Hebrews is writing to Hebrew Christians and all believers in Christ. ​​ They were perhaps struggling in their faith, like we do too, and the author wanted them and us to remember that . . .


BIG IDEA – Faith requires closeness with God and being in community with other believers.


Let’s pray


  • GOD (Hebrews 10:19-25)

    • In this passage of Scripture, the writer of Hebrews uses the same phrase three times to exhort the Hebrew Christians he is writing to

        • The phrase is “Let us”

        • It’s found in vv. 22, 23, and 24

        • These three exhortations are for us today as we consider Idaville Church as a place to belong

    • Draw near (vv. 19-22)

        • Basis for drawing near to God (vv. 19-21)

          • There are two bases for drawing near to God and we see those identified with the word “since”

          • Basis #1

            • The “therefore” points back to what the author said previously

              • At the beginning of chapter 10 there is a reminder of the sacrificial system that had been established in Israel

              • They had to sacrifice the blood of bulls and goats in order to cover over their sins, but those continual, ongoing sacrifices never took away their sins

              • We see then that Jesus’ sacrifice was offered once for all to take away every sin

              • When we believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior, God sees us as perfected through the blood of His Son, Jesus

              • It’s through Jesus’ once-for-all, perfect sacrifice that we can have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place

            • Confidence to enter the Most Holy Place

              • The Most Holy Place is where God’s presence dwelt and every Israelite knew that

              • Prior to Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, the High Priest would go into the Most Holy Place once a year with a bowl of blood to sprinkle on the mercy seat (the covering of the ark of the covenant) in order to atone for the sins of the nation of Israel

                • The High Priest may only get this opportunity once in his lifetime

                • This was a solemn and serious duty for the High Priest and required that he be purified before entering

                • There was a ritual purification that took place prior to entering the Most Holy Place (atoning for his own sins and the sins of his family with the sacrifice of a bull)

                • If the High Priest entered without being purified, he would run the risk of dying before the Lord

              • In the OT, the tabernacle had a heavy curtain in front of the Most Holy Place that sealed it from view. ​​ This same heavy curtain was part of the Temple in Jerusalem during NT times, but Jesus’ perfect sacrifice, offered believers a new way of coming into the presence of God

            • New way of coming to God through Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection

              • The High Priest would have to lift the edge of the curtain to enter the Most Holy Place

              • But, when Jesus died on the cross, God tore the veil from top to bottom, showing that a new way of coming to Him and being in His presence was now available

                • Matthew 27:50-53, And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. ​​ At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. ​​ The earth shook and the rocks split. ​​ The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. ​​ They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

                • The curtain that concealed what the Most Holy Place looked like was removed, by God, when Jesus’ died

              • New and living way of being in God’s presence

                • Everyone now had the opportunity to be in the presence of God, not just the high priest and not just once a year

                • “The Old Covenant high priest visited the holy of holies once a year, but we are invited to dwell in the presence of God every moment of each day.” ​​ [Wiersbe, 315]

                • It was new, because the Israelites no longer needed to use the sacrificial system with the blood of bulls and goats in order to have their sins covered over

                  • It was also new in the fact that Christ did something that no one else had ever done or will ever do again – He died for the sins of the world

                  • The idea of it being something new also carries the meaning of “previously unavailable”

                  • God established the sacrificial system for the Israelites until He sent Jesus to fulfill His plan

                  • God’s plan was set before the creation of the world

                  • 1 Peter 1:18-20, For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. ​​ He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.

                • Being in God’s presence is now also living

                  • Jesus didn’t remain dead

                  • Jesus’ resurrection from the dead was God’s way of saying that He approved of Jesus’ perfect sacrifice for sins

                  • Jesus’ resurrection showed that God has power over sin and death

                  • The way for us to be saved from our sins is living in the fact that it is effective and enduring [Lea, 186]

                  • It wasn’t just offered the Israelites, Samaritans, and Gentiles in the 1st Century

                  • It’s offered to everyone in every generation until Jesus Christ returns a second time

            • PRINCIPLE – God provided a way for us to draw near to Him through Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection.

              • Sin (All, Rom. 3:10-12 [#2]; Punishmnt, Rom. 6:23)

              • God’s love (Jeremiah 31:3 [#3])

              • Jesus’ sacrifice (1 Cor. 15:3b-4)

              • John 1:12-13, Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

                • God promises, every ​​ person who repents of their sins and believes in Jesus Christ for salvation, that He has a place for them in His family – a place where they can belong

                • Perhaps that’s right where you are today

                • You’ve been trying to find a place to belong, but everywhere you’ve looked has worked out – it’s left you empty and alone

                • My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Repent of my sins, believe in Jesus’ name, and become a child of God.

            • This is the first basis or reason why we can draw near to God – a new way of being in His presence

          • Basis #2

            • The second basis for why we can draw near to God is because Jesus is now our high priest and He sits at the right hand of God interceding for us

            • Hebrews 4:14-15, Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. ​​ For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin.

            • Romans 8:34, Who is he that condemns? ​​ Christ Jesus, who died – more than that, who was raise to life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.

          • The bases for drawing near to God is clear, it comes through Jesus’ perfect sacrifice for us and His position at the right hand of God the Father

        • Exhortation (v. 22a)

          • So as followers of Jesus Christ, we can draw near to God

          • But, the writer of Hebrews tells us that there are two manners in which we should draw near to God

        • Manner in which we draw near to God (v. 22b)

          • Sincere heart

            • The Greek word for “sincere” is better translated “true” and has the idea of being “real, genuine, and loyal” [Guthrie, 343]

            • Throughout scripture the heart often refers to the part of us that thinks and feels – the seat of our emotions

            • It involves our thoughts, will, emotions, and character [Guthrie, 343]

            • Proverbs 4:23, Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.

            • God knows whether or not we are coming to Him with a sincere, genuine, and loyal heart

            • Jeremiah 17:9-10, The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. ​​ Who can understand it? ​​ “I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve.

            • Illustration – Kyle Idleman, Not A Fan, page 145, first 3 paragraphs under heading “Living in Denial”

            • God knows if we are drawing near to Him with a sincere heart of a follower and not a fan

            • We must also draw near to Him with full assurance of our faith

          • Full assurance of our faith

            • We have to draw near to God knowing that He has provided full access to His presence through Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice

            • We have to claim the promise from God that the author of Hebrews quotes from Deuteronomy 31:6 and Psalm 118:6, 7

            • Hebrews 13:5b-6, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” ​​ So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. ​​ What can man do to me?”

          • Drawing near to God with a sincere heart and full assurance of our faith comes from two things

        • Means with which we draw near to God (v. 22c)

          • Hearts sprinkled

            • First, it’s having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience

            • We see here a reference to the ritual cleansing that the OT priests went through on a daily basis

              • They had to wash at the laver before entering the holy place (Ex. 30:18-21)

              • On the Day of Atonement, once a year, they had to go through various washings and the applying of blood also

            • Fortunately, as believers today, we don’t have to go through those ritual sprinklings, but we do have to come to the Lord with a pure heart and a clean conscience

              • PRINCIPLE – Fellowship with God demands purity.

              • We have to continually confess our sins to the Lord

              • As followers of Jesus Christ we’ll still make mistakes, we’ll give in to temptations, but God promises to forgive our sins when we confess them to Him

              • Read 1 John 1:5-2:2 (#1)

            • “The Jewish cleansing with blood related only to that which was external, and could not make the conscience perfect, but the sacrifice offered by the Saviour was designed to give peace to the troubled mind, and to make it pure and holy.” ​​ [Baker, 234]

            • We have to have a pure heart and a clean conscience, but we also have to have bodies washed with pure water

          • Bodies washed

            • Some scholars believe this is a reference to baptism and perhaps it is

            • Pure water

              • A basin of water was available at both heathen temples and religious temples so that worshipers could be cleansed before entering the temple

              • Pure water was drawn from fresh wells or fountains

              • Water form pools and ponds was not consider pure or fresh

              • Sea-water was usually regarded as the best source for pure water, because the salt was supposed to have a cleansing property

              • Igor Fredrick (Ukraine) – laying in the Pacific Ocean for its health benefits

            • Others believe that it is symbolic, just like the sprinkling of our hearts

            • “If it is symbolic, the hearts sprinkled from a guilty conscience would picture our salvation, and our bodies washed would symbolize a righteous lifestyle.” ​​ [Lea, 186]

            • 1 Peter 1:13-16, Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. ​​ As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. ​​ But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ​​ “Be holy, because I am holy.”

        • The first exhortation is to draw near to God and the author tells us the bases behind why we can do that and the manner and means with which we do it, but he shares a second exhortation to believers who may be struggling in their faith

    • Hold unswervingly (v. 23)

        • The exhortation is for us to maintain spiritual consistency

        • Hold

          • The Greek word is in the present tense, which perhaps emphasizes that we are to continue to do this on an ongoing basis – we should never stop holding on to our faith

          • The Greek word for “hold” means “to hold fast, keep secure, keep firm possession of”

          • We should be keeping a tight grip on our Christian faith

          • We should not let our faith slip through our fingers

          • The truth of the Gospel never changes – it is sure and secure – even when our emotions and feelings change

          • So we can hold on to our faith, but how should we do it?

        • Unswervingly

          • “. . . ‘unswervingly.’ ​​ This rich word literally means ‘that which does not bend’ or ‘that which is straight,’ which communicates the concept of stability or immutability.” ​​ [Guthrie, 344]

          • It also has the idea of an object standing absolutely straight

          • In the 1st Century the hearers of this letter were probably experiencing persecution for their faith

            • These believers were former Jews or rather Messianic Jews (followers of the Messiah, Jesus)

            • They were probably being pressured by the Jews of their day to return to Judaism and abandon Christianity

            • In the midst of that pressure, they were to continue to hold on without bending to the Gospel of Jesus Christ

            • That is what we are called to do as followers of Jesus Christ – we too are to hold on to the Gospel without bending when others around us mock us, make fun of us, and marginalize our hope

          • We need to hold on to our Christian hope, which is rooted in who Jesus is and what He came to earth to do, without allowing the ever changing circumstance of our lives to affect it

        • God is faithful

          • One of God’s attributes is His immutability – that word simply means that God is unchanging

            • That same attribute is found in Jesus Christ

            • 1 Peter 13:8, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

            • Since we serve an unchanging God, we can trust His promise of hope through Jesus Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection

          • We can become God’s child when we repent of our sins and believe in Jesus

        • The first two exhortations are best accomplished within a community of believers – we can draw near to God through worship and studying God’s Word, and we can hold unswervingly when we do it together with fellow believers

    • Spur one another on (vv. 24-25)

        • This exhortation calls us to be responsible for each other

        • PRINCIPLE – God’s plan for His people is for them to encourage one another by serving one another.

        • Consider

          • This is not just a casual thought about others, but rather taking time to concentrate and pay attention to them

          • It means to “notice, consider, pay attention to, look closely at.” ​​ [Guthrie, 345]

          • Paul helps us understand this in his letter to the Philippians

          • Philippians 2:3-4 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. ​​ Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

          • We are to look closely at how we can spur each other on in our faith

        • Spur

          • The word “spur” has also been translated as “provoke”

          • Its original meaning is “to arouse, to excite, to call into action”

            • When I hear the word spur I think of the apparatus attached to a horse riders boot

            • They use that apparatus to encourage the horse to move more quickly

            • That is the sense of the word here – how can we as fellow believers encourage each other in love and good deeds

            • “It is interesting to note that the emphasis here is not on what a believer gets from the assembly, but rather on what he can contribute to the assembly.” ​​ [Wiersbe, 315]

          • Love and good deeds

            • Love is the motivation behind the good deeds that we do

            • Hebrews 6:10, God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.

            • Galatians 5:13-14, You, my brothers, were called to be free. ​​ But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. ​​ The entire law is summed up in a single command: ​​ “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

            • Application

              • Are we serving each other in the body of Christ out of love?

              • Are we encouraging/spurring each other on toward love and good deeds or are we content to sit back and wait for others to that?

              • It is encouraging to me and our commission chair people when individuals feel led by God to step up and serve without having to be asked

              • I’ve been reading the book Not A Fan and have been challenged by what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ instead of just a fan

                • One single father was transformed by the Gospel and began to serve in the church, give sacrificially to the church, and witness to his family and friends

                • He was unashamed and all in

                • No one had to ask him to serve, because He was compelled by God, through a close walk with Him

              • Your service here at Idaville Church may encourage other members and attenders to do the same thing

              • My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Commit to serve at Idaville Church and consider how my service may encourage others to serve also.

                • You may be thinking, “I don’t know where I can serve?”

                • That’s fine, we’ll help you to find a place to serve

          • One tangible way to encourage fellow believers is meeting together regularly

        • Meet together regularly

          • Some of the readers of Hebrews were neglecting to meet together for worship

            • It’s hard to be an encouragement to others when we’re not meeting together regularly

            • It’s also hard to be encouraged by others when we’re not attending worship on a consistent basis

            • Statistics

              • 73% of Americans identify as Christian

              • 73% of Americans say religious faith is very important to them

              • When a self-identified Christian attends a religious service at least once a month and says that their faith is very important in their life, Barna considers that person a “practicing Christian.” ​​ After applying this triangulation of affiliation, self-identification, and practice the numbers drop to around on in three U.S. adults (31%) who fall into this classification

              • Barna researchers argue this represents a more accurate picture of Christian faith in America

              • In the past, a regular attender was someone who came almost every Sunday in a year – they rarely missed

              • A regular attender today is someone who comes once every 4-6 weeks

                • Coming once a month (every 4 weeks) means individuals only come 13 times in a year (25% of the time each year)

                • Coming every 6 weeks means individuals only come 9 times in a year (17% of the time each year)

            • It’s hard to be encouraged and to encourage others with those attendance numbers

              • “Encouragement cannot take place in isolation.” ​​ [Guthrie, 345]

              • My desire is that Idaville Church will be a place where you can belong

              • It will be a place of encouragement and growth

              • We need each one of you to come, so you can be encouraged and encourage others

              • My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Make church attendance a priority in my life, so I can encourage others.

          • The need for encouraging one another and being encouraged is so important as Jesus’ return gets closer

        • Jesus return is coming soon

          • As followers of Jesus Christ, we have been commissioned by Him to accomplish the Great Commission

          • Matthew 28:19-20, Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. ​​ And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

          • We’ve been commission to Pursue, Grow, and Multiply Disciples

          • Every one of us needs encouragement while we pursue, grow, and multiply disciples


BIG IDEA – Faith requires closeness with God and being in community with other believers.


  • YOU

    • PRINCIPLE #1 – God provided a way for us to draw near to Him through Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection.

        • Perhaps that’s the step you need to take today

        • Repent, believe in Jesus, become God’s child

    • PRINCIPLE #2 – Fellowship with God demands purity.

        • We’re human and will sometimes give in to sin and temptation

        • God promises to forgive us when we confess our sins to Him

    • PRINCIPLE #3 – God’s plan for His people is for them to encourage one another by serving one another.

        • We need your help to serve here at Idaville Church

        • We need you to attend church to be an encouragement to others


  • WE




“It is said that the giant redwood trees of the Western United States have a relatively shallow root system. ​​ Their enormous weight is supported, in part, by the interlocking of the tree’s roots with those of the other trees around it. ​​ As Christians we need ‘interlocking roots’ with other believers in the church to withstand the enormous weight of life. ​​ We need others spurring us ‘on toward love and good deeds’ in a world so bent on self-centeredness and self-gratification.” ​​ [Guthrie, 352]