I love going to church.
This has not always been the case. In fact, there were many years that I actually disliked going to church even though I call myself a Christian.
I was a Christian who hated going to church.
Unfortunately, being a Christian who doesn’t like going to church has become kind of popular.
We like to disguise it by saying things like:
“I just can’t bear to put on a happy face and go through the motions”
“The preaching isn’t deep enough. I’m not being spiritually fed”
“Church is full of men who are pansies and women who are burned out”
“I don’t want my money going to pay some pastor’s hefty salary”
“They are too focused on programs and not enough on people”
I know all of these statements because I used to say them. And maybe some of them are even true. Heck, maybe all of them are true at various times.
But I don’t think they are good reasons not to go.
There’s a popular saying that goes, “Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than sitting in a garage makes you a car.”
And while I don’t believe you have to go to church to be a Christian, or even a good one, I do believe it’s important.
We don’t have to go to church. We get to go to church.
Living in a free country allows us the freedom to gather with other people of like faith. We are permitted to worship together, soak up Biblical teaching together, encourage one another and just plain be together every week.
*We Christians like to call that last one “fellowshipping” even though that’s not even a real word :)
I’m so thankful that God softened my hard heart and gave me a desire to be in church again. Not because I feel obligated to be there, but because I feel privileged to be able to attend.
These days going to church on Sunday feels like soaking in a nice, warm bath. I talked yesterday about how much I love hot showers, so you can see how comparing Sunday church service to a warm bath is a very good thing in my book :)
But seriously, attending church each week is a restorative element of my weekly rhythm. All week long I engage in the daily grind and anticipate the weekend. I get things done and I lose myself in my to-do list. I think and plan and ponder all kinds of things. I get focused on the here and now because that’s what is staring me in the face each day.
Then comes Sunday morning. Sure I may rush out the door in the nick of time and hurry to get Grace signed into her class before breathlessly falling into our regular seats (second row on the left :), but then the service starts.
Worship happens all around me, and I may be distracted for a song or two, but then it happens. I take a deep breath and engage. My heart opens up to thank God for who He is and all He’s done. I let go of the baggage of my week and start aiming my ship back in the direction I know to be true. My selfish priorities quiet down and I’m open to what He might have to say to me. My whole paradigm shifts.
After worship I sit through a sermon that may or may not be earth shatteringly moving. But it contains God’s word which is promised not to return void:
So is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. -Isaiah 55:11
When that’s over we all mill about, gathering our children from their classrooms and chit chatting in the hallway. I’ve been prayed for in those brief hallway encounters and those times of prayer have comforted my aching soul.
That kind of thing just doesn’t happen when I bump into someone at the grocery store. Those moments are ushered in by everything that just happened over the past hour and a half in church.
Sure I could stay home and read my Bible or pray, but I think that would be selling myself short of what God has for me each week when I go to church.
It’s a weekly adjustment, and over the past couple of years I’ve really started to understand just how awesome and valuable it is.
My own experiences aside, I believe we as Christians should be going to church because the Bible tells us to…
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. -Hebrews 10:25