Not too long ago, a family entered our church lobby looking fairly stressed. Having had a few fights on my way to church over the years, I understand the potential for family tension on the way to worship. It also seems that Murphy’s Law is extremely active when people are on their way to something that’s good for them.
As I smiled and said, “Hello” to this family, one of their kids (a junior high boy) said under his breath, “Church sucks!” From the look his mother gave him, I suspect he was grounded for a long time following that comment. Unfortunately, the dad almost winked at him as if to say, “I understand how you feel son; I don’t want to be here either!”
As you can imagine, this is not a great confidence booster for pastors.
You see, for pastors, church is like the Super Bowl, except it happens every Sunday. We love it! We’re excited to connect with our community of faith. We look forward to investing in the lives of people we love. So when they don’t show up, or worse yet, they show up with an attitude, it’s hard for us to understand.
Sure, at times I’ve left after a service and thought, that sucked, but that feeling is reserved for those times when I felt like I’d bombed. Generally, however, church refreshes my soul, and I leave thankful for what God did in our midst.
So what’s going on? Why the growing attitude by some (many?) about Church?
Perhaps some have developed a consumerism mentality. For them, church is about being entertained or having their needs met. So if they don’t like the songs, the volume, the message, the room temperature, or whatever, they get irritated.
Perhaps some are too busy, and other things matter more. They’ll show up only if their kids don’t have a soccer game, they’re not up too late on Saturday night, their favorite sports team isn’t playing, it’s not too cold or snowy (you wouldn’t want to die on your way to church!), or it’s not too nice and sunny (why waste a gorgeous day inside?).
Perhaps some have convinced themselves that they don’t have to go to church to be a part of the Church. They think: I’ll watch it later online, or I don’t have to go to church to be a Christian.
Perhaps their church really does suck and is a waste of time.
(Congratulations if you’re still reading this blog! Hopefully, that means you care about this thing called the Church of Christ.)
Can I suggest a few things for your consideration?
1. It’s not just about you.
Of course, every pastor hopes you will be blessed and personally encouraged at church, but what if that song you dislike is a favorite of someone else and just what they needed? The message on any given Sunday may be “old news” to you, but what if it’s just what Dr. Jesus ordered for someone else?
By the way, when a church tries to be everything for everybody it rarely is anything good for anybody.
Here’s a radical idea: What if you went to church praying, “Jesus, what can I say or do today in church to demonstrate what You have done for me, and how can I be a blessing to others today?” What if you went with a serving attitude rather than worrying about what you’ll get out of it? Isn’t it more blessed to give than to receive?
2. Church should involve sacrifice.
For hundreds and hundreds of years, the Jews understood coming to the tabernacle or temple as an act of sacrifice. It cost them time, energy and money to participate in worship. Sometimes they traveled great distances. And they always brought the best of the best to offer in grateful sacrifice to God. King David once said in 1 Chronicles 21:24 (NIV), “I will not . . . sacrifice a burnt offering that costs me nothing.”
Jesus said in Matthew 6:33 (VOICE), “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.” Some might argue that Jesus was talking about the kingdom, not the church. Uh . . . He created the Church and without a doubt He and His followers would absolutely include the community of faith in God’s kingdom.
Frankly, when we place other things, other activities (like choosing sports over church) or even more sleep above gathering together as His bride, we are simply not putting His kingdom first. People make time for the things and activities they value most.
3. Being a Christian involves being in community.
Yes, church is more than just an hour on Sunday. And yes, I suppose you can be a Christian without going to a church service. But going to church matters. You truly can’t and shouldn’t do your faith alone.
We need each other. We need to sit next to others who are very different from us yet have the same Spirit inside. We need to join our voices together in song and praise. We need to be refreshed and refueled by the teaching of the Word through the pastor God has placed in our lives. We need to serve others. We need to understand that God never condones isolation. We need to prioritize in our lives the gathering of the saints. We need to make church not about our convenience but all about a sacrifice of love for the One who sacrificed His all for us.
I don’t care if you meet in a home, a garage, a tent, a stain-glassed cathedral or a former K-Mart! But if all of the above is not happening in your life on a regular basis and in whatever church you’re a part of, then you’re missing it.
By the way, if your church actually does suck, then find one where you can whole-heartedly engage, and stop making excuses for staying in bed on Sunday.
For the first century Christians, and even in most of the 20th century, church was at the center of community for believers. Instead of attending 2-3 times a month, the first church worshiped daily (Acts 2:46-47). I, and maybe many of you, grew up attending church 2-3 times a week.
Sure, the culture has changed, but I humbly suggest that we still need the influence and encouragement that best comes through a community of like-minded believers. Frankly, we need each other now more than ever.
Let us consider how to inspire each other
to greater love and to righteous deeds,
not forgetting to gather as a community,
as some have forgotten, but encouraging each other,
especially as the day of His return approaches.
Hebrews 10:24-25 (VOICE)
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