My son asked me this past Sunday morning, “Mom, are we going to church?” “Yes, son, our family goes to church.”
This post isn’t about a set of rules and regulations. Over the years, I have missed church. I have called some family “pajama days” on a Sunday when our family needed a day off from the world, and my children play sports so I attend their games if they occur on Sundays, like today for instance. Generally speaking, however, Sundays find me in church. My children will remember me as a die-hard church-goer.
What follows is a list of why I go to church. This list is not comprehensive. For example, I love to sing songs of worship, but worship is not on this list. Some of you just gasped, I know, but these are my reasons and an extension of my heart.
Reason 1: It’s a day of rest.
I am starting this list with the lightest of my reasons and ending with the most significant reason. I wake up every day of the week before the sun comes up facing a giant to-do list and a responsibility before God to live the day well. I work and care for family most days from before dawn until after the sun goes down, just like millions of women (and men) around the world. But on Sunday I wake up with a legitimate reason to take a break. It’s a day of rest (Genesis 2:1-2; Exodus 20:8). I guiltlessly ease up on everything on Sundays…exercise, cleaning, work…and I relax a bit. I don’t even feel the need to have a morning devotional time because I will be spending the morning at church. I sleep in a bit and linger over breakfast before going to church. Afternoons generally bring naps and family and simple suppers. Sundays make me happy.
Reason 2: Our need to meet increases all the more.
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing nearer (Hebrews 10:24, 25 ESV, emphasis mine).
If I am to trust God (which I do) then meeting together is important, and all the more as time passes. My guess has always been that as the world worsens around us (2 Peter 3:3-10) we won’t be able to make it without encouragement from each other, without meeting together. I have always assumed that I will not have the ability to maintain an intimate relationship with God and maintain a life of personal purity in a crooked and twisted world (Philippians 2:14-16) without meeting together with people who are encouraging me in the Lord. According to this verse, meeting together becomes a higher priority every day the sun comes up!
Some may think they can skip church and community with other Christians because today they are doing fine spiritually without community. Based on this verse, I respond with questions: Maybe today, but what about tomorrow? Will you be strong enough tomorrow? God knows what pressures are coming and has warned us it’s going to get worse. He says the key is to meet together….so meet together I will.
Reason 3: I don’t want to miss stuff.
A few weeks ago I went to church alone. I have some kids away at college and other family members went to a Sunday event.
The church service began with a father baptizing his young tween-aged daughter. That was special. Then his younger son entered the baptismal pool and the father baptized his young son as well. That was even more special. As if that wasn’t enough, as the father was hugging his son in the pool after just rising him out of the water, the daughter–seemingly unable to contain her joy–spontaneously re-entered the pool to “group hug” her father and brother.
There they stood together in a wet embrace, only matched by the tears in my eyes at the glory of watching it live.
I can tell people about this special baptism, but no description will match the experience of being there when it happened.
I don’t like to miss church because I miss stuff.
Reason 4: The Holy Spirit shows up in special ways.
Years ago I attended a church that was on fire. You never knew what each Sunday would bring except that it was going to be good! The pastor has since moved on to start another church, but during that time I attended a seminar taught by him. I remember a discussion about Matthew 18:21: For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them. The logic proposed by the pastor was yes, we can experience amazing communion with God while alone, but God does something extra when we are gathered. I remember an analogy He used about piano playing. No one can play a piano that only has one key. Sunday church services are like God’s opportunity to let His fingers dance across all in attendance as a virtuoso allows his or her fingers to dance across the piano keys and produce heavenly music. The music is extra special when there are more “keys” to play.
The impact of that seminar on my life is that on Sunday mornings, I pay attention. As I take notes on the sermon, I jot down all verses that come to mind because I assume I need them. If I have been praying for insight in a situation and an insight flashes in my mind, I make a mental note of that one in particular because it arrived when I was in a group where God’s “fingers were dancing across the keys.” If a particular person comes to mind I pray for them. In short, I continue to think that God does extra special things on Sunday mornings when His children are gathered. I listen.
Reason 5: The body of Christ needs me.
Years ago, while attending a church prior to the one mentioned above, I meditated on I Corinthians 12:12-26 where Paul talks about us all being part of one body, the body of Christ. Particularly, I thought about verse 26: If one member suffers, all suffer together…” As I considered the physical reality that if my ankle is injured, my entire body is affected, I had a spiritual epiphany. If I show up on Sunday mornings harboring sin in my heart, somehow I affect the entire body of Christ that morning. It’s as if I am a sprained ankle. The verse presented in Reason 1 says we are to meet together in order to encourage each other. If I am a grouch one Sunday because I am refusing to forgive someone, for example, I will most certainly miss encouraging someone. My mind and heart will be clouded by my simmering anger and I will miss opportunities that a clear-headed and clean-hearted person would not. I might even manage to say nice words to someone (haven’t we all faked it at some time?) but my words would not have been the best words the other person needed.
It goes both ways. If someone else shows up simmering with unforgiveness, they miss the opportunity to encourage me with God’s best words. I need the encouragement all the more as the Day draws near. We all do.
Does that mean I stay home if I am not right with God? No, I go. I need to live in such a way that gives room for God to woo me back to Himself, or to hear necessary strong words through a sermon that may jar me out of my spiritual slumber. However, I can honestly say I have climbed into the car on some Sunday mornings out of sorts with God and this Reason 5 has motivated me to make things right with God by the time I exited my car in the church parking lot.
Reason 6: It’s my way of telling God He is first.
This sixth and final reason has to do with Sundays when my heart is right but I am struggling. Perhaps circumstances have drained the life out of me. Or maybe God has just taken me into a new place to stretch my faith and I haven’t adjusted yet. Maybe someone has hurt my feelings and I haven’t yet sorted out my emotions. Some Sundays find me consumed with concern about a matter and I am sincerely struggling to cast my anxiety on Him even though I am not yet succeeding! There have been weeks in my life when it felt like I was struggling to breathe out the next word or take the next step. I am sure the same is true of you.
This is the number one reason I go to church…because of weeks like these. I may not have much else to offer God except my pain, confusion, mistakes or hurt…but I can go to church. It’s on Sundays when I am hurting and quiet, when I can’t even sing much during worship…that God knows I love Him the most…because against all odds, I showed up. You see, the #1 reason I go to church is to let God know He is FIRST and I can’t do life without Him. I leave each Sunday demonstrating that I need Him…no matter how incompetent I am, how much life has knocked me around, no matter how hurt I am, no matter what my family looks like, no matter how my career is going, no matter what my reputation, no matter how thin the checkbook.
I go to church because it’s my way of demonstrating He is my #1, the only Person I trust, the reason I live, the God I love.
© 2014 by Oaks Ministries. All rights reserved.
Laurie, thank you for so eloquently putting your reasons for going to church into words. So many Sunday’s I leave home in the worst place in my head and heart. And by the time I leave God’s Holy Sirit had recalibrated my being and I am righted and ready for what lies ahead. Thank you for this encouragement!