There is but another reason why turning our house lights down is a detriment to what we are doing in the church, beside the fact that it turns our congregations' attention from the act of worshiping to merely the act of worship, and that reason is that it turns our congregations from a fellowship into a mere crowd.
A crowd is a great number of persons gathered into one place at one time. Depending upon the size of the place, almost any number (as small as three, perhaps even as small as two) can be a crowd. The emphasis here is on the number of bodies present and not really on anything else.
A fellowship, on the other hand, is a number of persons gathered into one place with the intent and the attention of being together there. Again, almost any number (as small as even two) can be a fellowship. The emphasis here is on togetherness and on whatever is going on mutually among the persons.
Since the earliest days, God's emphasis has always been on the fellowship of His people. He wants them together in togetherness. He wants them sharing mutually among themselves. He wants them to have a focus on what it means to be among the people of God as a person of God.
And so many beautiful things happen in fellowship. From the very beginning, love budded in fellowship, as God saw that it was not good for Adam to be alone and gave him a helpmeet - the first fellowship, of two. In Israel, the fellowship came together to confess and atone, to bless and to curse, to fight and to rest, to remember and to worship, to live and to love, to move and to stay, to plant and to harvest. Everything the people of God did was truly a movement of the people of God, the fellowship of the assembly.
The same things can happen in our churches today, if we'd let them. The assembly is still the same. When we come together, we come for the very same reasons that the people of God have always come.
Imagine your church in the spirit of this fellowship. Imagine what it would look like if your church came together to confess and to atone, humbling themselves before God and one another...together. Imagine what it would look like if blessings and curses were spoken there, affirming one another and holding one another accountable to the life of professed faith. Imagine what would happen if your congregation fought together; what battles could you win? ...if you rested together; what sacred rhythms would you learn?
Imagine if your congregation remembered together the work of the Lord, offering testimonies and continuing on the witness to God in this world, and then worshiped together the living God who still lives and works among us. Imagine if your congregation did life together, helping one another as necessary and being part of one another's big moments; wouldn't we call this also loving together, particularly if we could then turn this outward toward our communities? Imagine if you moved together, stayed together, planted together, harvested together.
Imagine if your congregation was truly a movement of the people of God...together.
How are they ever supposed to be that if, when they come to the church, they can't even see one another? How are we supposed to be "together" when the house lights are down so far that we're convinced we're "alone"? How are the people of God supposed to be a fellowship if we've made fellowship into a verb and relegated it to the few minutes before and after our formal service, to the time it takes to pour a cup of coffee?
Turn the house lights up, church. Let your people know they are not alone; they're together. They're not a crowd; they're an assembly. They're not a bunch of persons; they're the people of God. Together.
A true fellowship.
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