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Jesus Is Building His Church: How God Trains Us Through Church

A fishy tale

One morning, two young fish were swimming along together. An older fish swam the other way. “Morning boys, how’s the water today?” he asked.  It was not until 30 minutes later that one of the youngsters turned to the other and say “what is water?”

The point of this strange story is that we are surrounded by ways of living but we don’t see them. More seriously, we are being trained into wrong ways of living but we don’t notice it. Paul tells us we can be trained or influenced or conformed by the world

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Romans 12:1,2

The world is the things around us that influence us to think God can’t be trusted and his ways are not good for us. That happens through adverts, songs, internet, films and in the way people around us party, use their money and train their children.  An example is the world’s pattern for shopping.


The adverts tell us there is something missing in our lives. They tell us the answer to that gap is to buy something. Perhaps you have been influenced by this to buy things that you could afford?

We may go with others to the shops for a ‘trip out’. But shopping is not something that helps us grow together. Look at a group at the shops – when another person joins the group, everyone eyes up their fashion sense – they observe the shoes and handbags and mobile phone.

Shopping the world’s way teaches us to overvalue things (we enjoy them for making us special in the eyes of others, rather than just using the things).

The world tells us that buying things will make us feel better. But the product’s benefit quickly wears off. When we next feel low, we have learned that a shopping trip will cheer us up. So off we go and buy more.

Shopping the world’s way also teaches us to undervalue things (we throw them away to quickly because we think we need an ‘up-grade’).

When we go to the shops or shop on-line, we might be like the young fish in the story: We may not appreciate how we are being conformed or trained to fit in with the pattern of this world.

This view of shopping is just one of many ways the world influences us.  The good news is that God uses church to give us a true outlook.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Romans 12:2


If you are a Christian, God has already given you a renewed mind – a new way of looking at life. But we need to be trained or conformed to fit with that. Church is one way God does that.

The things we do in a church meeting follow a particular order;

  1. We meet one another, welcoming one another as people who need help just like we need God’s
  2. We start our meeting with God’s word, remembering who he
  3. We admit our sin to God and remember his kindness in
  4. We sing, using songs that will help us hear God’s truth, that will train us to fit the right emotions with that truth and that we can sing together, as one church
  5. We hear of church family events and ask God to be at Our prayers are not ‘me’ and ‘I’ but ‘we’ and ‘us’ – we are learning to be a family.
  6. We hear God’s word read and We trust the Holy Spirit will turn the words of the teacher into the voice of God that his children hear.
  7. We finish our time with words of scripture, spoken by all of us, to each other, encouraging each other to live as Christians in all of life, not just on a
  8. We continue to meet over coffee, trying to speak helpfully to each other.


  • Think again about Make a list before you shop so you don’t buy things you don’t need. Teach your children to spot the false lies in adverts. What ways is the world most effective in influencing you?


  • Think again about Don’t come expecting to be entertained, come to join in. Don’t act like a customer, expecting to get a good service, come to join in. Don’t expect it to be easy and soothing, training can be hard work, ask an athlete.

Jesus Is Building His Church: What Happens In Church?


God is concerned about his people gathering or meeting together rather than about the buildings we meet in. But what are those meetings meant to do? Church meetings are not a way for a Christian to affect God, to change him. Church meetings are a way for God to change us, to make us different (Ephesians 4:11-13).

Church is not for a Christian to come and go through the same words each week and think, ‘I’ve done what I ought to.’ We may be uncertain and fearful that we have not done enough. Or proud because we think we have done enough.

Church is not for a Christian to come and show God my feelings, to show him how much I love him. We may be uncertain and fearful that our expression is not good enough. Or proud because we think we have expressed such deep devotion.

We do express ourselves, our desires and hopes, in our prayers and in the songs that are to God. But that is not the main reason to come to the meeting. Church is one of the things God uses to change us. When we gather, God uses the teaching, the songs and the prayers to train us to love him and what he has done for us. He trains us to fit in with who he is and with his purposes. He trains us to no longer be fearful and uncertain, we know what he has done and is doing. He trains us to no longer be proud, we know he is the one at work, not us.

This may be a different way of thinking about church from what you thought it is about. You may need to read this sheet a couple of times and think it through.

When we think church is all about me expressing myself to God it creates problems. If we understand that God is using church to change us, we avoid these problems. For example:

1. If I think church is for me to express myself, I will be tempted to be a hypocrite, looking good and not admitting my sin.

When we see that church is something God uses to change us, we will find it easier to admit that we are not scrubbed up, impressive people but that we are weak and inclined to sin.

2. If I think church is for me to express myself, I won’t bother coming to church if I don’t feel like it. After all, what is the point if I am not in the right mood to express myself?

When we see that church is something God uses to change us, we don’t have to ‘feel like coming to church’ for church to be good for us and for us to take part in. In fact, many of us don’t feel like coming on a Sunday morning. But after the church meeting, we are glad that we came. During church, we find that it is only once we start to sing that our feelings may catch up with the songs we are singing.

3. If I think church is for me to express myself, I easily become selfish. I complain about parts of church that don’t suit me.

When we see that church is something God uses to change us, we will join in. We do need to try to find out when we don’t understand parts of the service. Ask; What do these words mean? Why do we pray that prayer? Why do we always have the Bible read? And so on. But we join in, knowing God uses these to change me and others.

4. If I think church is for me to express myself, it is easy to think that what I do matters most, not what God is doing.

When we see that church is something God uses to change us, we see he is doing the main action, not us. He uses our meeting together to do that. We should join in because we trust that God will use our weekly meetings to change us and those around us.

5. If I think church is for me to express myself, I may make the mistake of thinking that words must be spontaneous and unplanned to be genuine and sincere. So using the same words in confession or creeds cannot be sincere.

When we see that church is something God uses to change us, we can find that carefully planned words help. We should take care we don’t use them thoughtlessly. But sometimes it is only by using words many times that the penny drops. We know that doing the same thing again and again is good in other parts of life: to keep teeth healthy by brushing, to learn piano.


Church is not for us to come and show God our devotion. It is how God re-directs our hearts, trains us to desire the right things. Church isn’t something we do to God, it is where God does something to us.


Jesus Is Building His Church: What Is Church?

People use the word ‘church’ for several different things: A building ‘he opened the door to the church’; a job ‘he went into the church’; a Christian meeting ‘they were late for church’; a denomination ‘I am in the Anglican Church’; a local congregation ‘the church were glad when the missionary visited.’

But what does the Bible mean by ‘church’? It is a gathering or people, a meeting. The word used for ‘church’ in the Bible is the normal, everyday word for a ‘gathering’ or ‘assembly’. (There is more information on this over the page.)

What makes us come together? You may sit together with very different people from you on the tube. You have come together on the tube because you all want to go the same way. Why do such different people meet together in Christian church? What connects us? It is our shared trust in Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus says he is building his church (Matthew 16:18).

What are some implications for us? Here are five:

1. So often what we call ‘church’ is a building made of wood or bricks or stone. That is not the church that Jesus is building. Jesus is making a gathering of people around him. We should look after our church building; keep it clean, maintain it. But our greater concern should not be for the building but for the people who meet. Some churches in hot countries meet in the shade of a tree. The Bible meaning of church is not a building, it is gathering of people.

2. So often what we call ‘church’ is not what the Bible means by it. Denominations (the Anglican Church or the Presbyterian Church) are not ‘churches’. They are organisations that help a number of churches. The real churches are the congregations or gatherings, where God’s people ‘assemble’. Denominations can be helpful, but they are not as important as the ‘church’ that Christ is drawing together.

3. We should try to keep the focus of church, of our meeting together, on what Jesus has done for his people and is doing to his people. In our songs and prayers and sermons and coffee time chat we should keep reminding each other of important things: The great work Jesus has done to rescue us; the way he wants us to get on with each other; that we must be looking forward and getting ready for the day he comes to judge all humans.

4. We can expect our local church to be a letdown. Why? Because it is a gathering of others with sin in their life just like me. Sin will show itself in selfishness, in laziness, in refusal to treat each other as God wants. All those things mean that church will be a letdown. We should not be surprised when it is a letdown. But we should be working to try to join in church in the way Jesus wants.

5. Jesus is building his church. What is he using? People who come to him. You may have been in church meetings for years, but you are not part of the church if you are not a Christian. Being a church-goer does not make you a Christian, but being a Christian should make you a church-goer, because you want to submit to Christ and meet with his people. You may be a person who should spend more effort on helping the church and not just ‘attend church’. How can you help out?


The meaning of ‘church’ – not a religious word
In Acts 19:32 Luke, the writer, tells us the assembly, is in confusion – who is this about? Look at v28. This is the Ephesian crowds. In Ephesus silversmiths who made models of false gods are worried because of the Christian preachers. They start a commotion, the whole city gathers or assembles. The gathering is called ‘the church’. But it is not translated church ….because a religious meaning is given to church today. They are called the church again in v41. The same word is used in verse 39 – ‘a legal church’. The Bible word that is translated ‘church’ in other places is not a religious word for Christians meeting. It simply means ‘gathering’ or ‘assembly’.


Is Jerusalem the capital of Israel?

In the last days,  the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and all nations will stream to it.     (Isaiah 2 verse 2, N.I.V. translation)

Last week, the President of the USA, Donal Trump, recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Many Christians in America think this is God’s plan. Their view has influenced American foreign policy and international relations. Many believe that it is a religious duty to help the state of Israel to fulfil God’s promise – that includes establishing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. On the other side, from the Muslim view, it seems like Christians have attacked them to support Jerusalem. It seems that seeking God’s promise may even bring conflict and war. Is this a step towards God keeping his promise? Should we rejoice?

What should we think? It is no good laughing off these views as fanaticism – when you laugh at people they often just dig their heels in. There is a better answer than laughing it off. That is to read the Bible carefully.

As followers of Christ, we want to read the Old Testament the way he read it. His teaching should be our guide. Jesus and his apostles who wrote the New Testament show that God often keeps his promises in an unexpected way. What does that mean for the promises about Jerusalem?

Isaiah’s language is picture language. In Isaiah’s time, people believed that mountains were the place that you meet with your God. That was where heaven and earth meets – it is a good place for altars and temples. God showed Isaiah that amongst all the mountains, all the different religions, one mountain will stand supreme – all other mountains will be insignificant. It will be unique – there are not many ways to God, there is only ONE mountain. That means it is exclusive – this way and no other. But it is also inclusive – it is for everyone who will come. Isaiah says in the next verses, all nations will learn to go that way.

To expect that the city of Jerusalem will somehow end up higher than any other point on earth is not what Isaiah was promising. That is misunderstanding. He was not teaching international relations but about the way to life with God.

Jesus said that he is the answer to the promise. When a woman asked him which is the mountain to worship God on, Jesus said, “Now I am here, God wants those who worship in truth, in the Spirit I will. give” (read his exact words in John 4:21- 24). He did not say, “Isaiah was right, you have to go to the Mountain of Jerusalem”. (Nor did he say, “All mountains lead to God, there are many ways to truth”), It is not by going to Jerusalem that we find God, but by going to Jesus. Jesus is the exclusive way to God. He said, “No-one comes to the Father except by me” (John 14:6). But Jesus is inclusive, whoever – whatever nationality – whoever believes in the Son, has life with God (John 3:36). In a surprising way, God keeps his promise through Jesus.

So Isaiah’s message is not an excuse for war or political claims. How tragic that it is used for that. When we read it like that, we miss the real message – the promise of God to make a way for all nations to know him. Let’s pray for Christians who influence political policy in America and elsewhere, to understand this real message.

As Christians, we must take care to follow Christ’s way of understanding the Old Testament promises – not ignoring the Old Testament; but seeing how the Father keeps his promises, through the work of Jesus, in surprising ways                                             

Building news

Great news – we have funding!

Dagenham Parish Church are very pleased to announce that we have been supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for an initial grant on the repair work to the church tower.

HLF logo



As well as addressing urgent repair works and carrying out essential conservation work to the church building, we will also be running an activity programme around our heritage so more people can engage with the church and its history.

Church history

Development funding of £47,500 has also been awarded to help us progress plans to apply for the full grant at the end of this year. We hope to then begin the capital works in Spring/Summer 2017.

We will be sharing more about our activity programme and gathering people’s opinions and support for the project.

If you’d like to know more, please speak to Steve.



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