What Are We Doing Here … at Church? 

Years ago, I heard a sermon from Mike Cope on Romans 16. I’ve tried to find a copy of it, but can’t track it down. Still, I remember it well enough that I don’t really need the copy. As a tribute to that man who taught me much about preaching during the four years I listened to him, I’ll be preaching a similar—though far less memorable sermon—this Sunday. Here is the meat of it. I hope it encourages you, like Mike’s words once encouraged me.

“What are we doing here?”

Do you ever wonder about that on Sunday mornings? You get up early to get the kids bathed and dressed before church. It’s hectic. Maybe your body aches because you spent all day Saturday mowing the yard or visiting your grand kids. Maybe you were out late with friends Saturday night and into Sunday morning. When the alarm clock rings a few hours later, you are not in much of a “church mood.”

What are we doing here?

I mean, have you seen what is going on this world? Floods. Hurricanes. Wars. Disease. Terrorism. Inequality. Injustice.

What are we doing here … at church?

If you’re not a believer, then you probably say this world has gone crazy. If you’re a believer, you look at everything around you and can’t help but wonder if Satan will ever be stopped. Even the authors of the New Testament wonder the same thing. Satan is setting traps (1 Tim 3:7), masquerading about (2 Cor 11:14), a thorn in the flesh—a tormentor (2 Cor 12:7), preventing the good (1 Thess 2:18), and deceiving all the while (2 Thess 2:9-10). If that’s all true, if in fact there are cosmic forces bending the world around us into something violent and terrible and sad, well what are we doing here?

It’s in moments like that from time to time, when I sit down and pick up the church directory. Just to flip through it. Say a prayer or two because the odds just seem stacked against us.

Each picture I come across warms my heart a bit. There are some wonderful people at my church, doing wonderful work. Leading Bible studies, sharing the gospel with friends, fostering children, pressing on after losing a spouse, volunteering at a local hospital. They are good people.

Feeling just a little bit better, I set my directory down. Even if that question still lingers a bit: what are we doing here? I pick up my Bible, and I read from Rom 16. It is a little boring, but it’s kind of like Paul himself is flipping through the Directory of the Church of Rome. Seeing people he knows. People he’s sat by on Sundays in other churches, back before they moved on to Rome.

He reflects on the wonderful work each of them has done and continues to do. He says their names out loud as he reads their pictures. Then, when he finishes, he sets the directory down and says:

The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet” (Rom 16: 20).

I’m a bit taken aback here. Paul mentions Satan elsewhere in other letters, but this is the only time he does so specifically in this his longest letter. One time. What comes to Paul’s mind after flipping through that church directory is stunningly simple: Satan is doomed!

He has said similar things before. In fact, when you read about feet you might think it’s a quote of that line from 1 Cor 15:25, where we read that Christ will reign until all his enemies are put under “his feet.” But it’s not the feet of Jesus crushing Satan this time. It’s “your” feet. Our feet. The feet of all those in that church directory. The feet of those sitting beside you on Sunday morning.

The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet” (Rom 16: 20).

I know how easy it is to wonder what we are doing here. It is hard to get here on Sunday morning. The world is going crazy out there. There have been Sundays when I have been stumped by the question.

But maybe it is the wrong question. The right question isn’t: What are we doing here? The right question is: What is God doing here? What is God doing through us here?

The answer—in every picture of our church directories— is both simple and stunning. God is crushing Satan under our feet.

So I hope you’ll be there at church this Sunday. It’s worth it.

Eric and his wife Lindsey have been at Highland Church in Memphis since 2012. You are likely to find them walking the local Greenline with their sons Noble, Foster, and dachshund Tucker. Eric cares deeply about preaching and social justice. He has a BA in Biblical Text and a Master of Divinity from Abilene Christian University. Eric is a board member for HopeWorks, an organization that provides hope and job training to the chronically unemployed and formerly incarcerated in Memphis.
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Author:  Publish Date: September 15, 2017

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CHARIS hosts conversations of and about Churches of Christ. The website is intended to support education for Christian life and community through contemporary discussions and historical sources that variously witness to the gifts (“charis”) of God among Churches of Christ, especially their plea for visible unity among Christians through ongoing renewal and restoration of Scriptural beliefs and practices among God’s people.

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