Get Thee To Church
Before you start down your list of “go to excuses” for not going to church. Let me tell you they are all full of hot air. There are truly only a very few reason not to be in church and chances are your excuses are none of them. (No I am not telling you the reason to not be at church because if you are looking for a way out – I ain’t about to give you one…hello, I’m trying to get you to church.)
Now if you are anywhere near Clarksburg, West Virginia, I hereby invite you to CenterBranch Assembly of God. You will be welcomed with open arms. We have lots of smiling faces. We will not put you on the spot for visiting us. We even feed and water you (coffee too) prior to service, except during the fast – you just get water for the next two weeks.
For everyone else that subscribes or stumbles across my blog, I realize a trip to West Virginia whether from North Carolina, California, the United Kingdom, Japan (I think it was Japan), or other points unknown to me, is a little out of the question on a weekly basis. Before you turn on your TV to the TBN network, the Catholic channel, stream another service or pop in another religiously based movie…find a church. When I said “Get Thee to Church” I mean get to a church, brick and mortar building, tent, steel, amphitheater or whatever else it might be made of. Yes, you can be saved and not go to a church. However, one thing we need to do as Christians to mature in Christ is to fellowship with other believers. It is hard to develop a relationship when you are a solo act. So, get thee to church.
We have clearly established that Sue is not a theologian. Unless a door is opened that involves no additional student debt, Sue is not returning to school to become a biblical scholar or minister. However, if God opens a door – I am walking right on through. Sue can also take a hint. (The third person thing is a little creepy isn’t it?) I am not a minister, but I know a guy. (couple of guys, my Pastors). Being slightly inclined to nerdyness I take notes during sermons. Back in June we were getting to the end of a series called the Other 166. (Find out more by watching the series on Livestream at http://livestream.com/accounts/17973963/events/5249535/videos/124494851 ) We had been discussing the four components or disciplines of our relationship with God. The four disciplines being study of God’s word, giving/serving, prayer, and fellowship.
Fellowship is a non-negotiable part of the equation to have a full relationship with Christ. Think about it. It is hard to be part of the Body of Christ, if you are not attached to any other believers. One of the scriptures referenced during this segment of the series was I John 4:7-11. Ironically enough, writing this blog reminded me of a song I sang in children’s choir some 30+ years ago. The song was just a little ditty but the words were the actual scripture from I John 4: 7 & 8 (KJV) “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God and every one that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not, knoweth not God for God is love, beloved, let us love one another.” (Try singing that without your front teeth as a little kid.)
The point is, corporate fellowship is not an al carte option. It is necessary. We are called to love one another. If you are not loving one another, you are not knowing God. It’s right there in I John. How much do you love people you don’t know. Fellowship helps us know people. Then we care and love them all the more. Which brings us great joy. When you have true fellowship in your church you have people you can share your triumphs and your heartaches with. I have had both while at Centerbranch. There is a Swedish proverb that goes something like this, “A joy shared is a joy doubled, a sorrow shared is a sorrow halved.” That is paraphrased, I always get the wording a little off, but the meaning is the same. It is true nonetheless. In fellowship we find strength in times of sorrow, not only in faith and our relationship with God, but in the love and support of fellow believers. In times of triumph and joy, we have others to celebrate with and for us. Jesus had this with his disciples, corporate fellowship, sharing of good times and bad. Since none of us are better than Jesus, logically this fellowship component is non-negotiable.
Excuses, Excuses, Excuses
Now for the elephant in the proverbial room. Excuses to not go to church 101. I am only hitting some of the top ones…at least these were my top reasons for not going and frankly they were all smoke screens.
I know, someone is saying “churches are full of hypocrites”. I know because I used that excuse…well, let’s just say I used it a lot. I am not going to sit at my computer and tell you there are not hypocrites in church. We refer to those as people as being lukewarm but we are praying for them. You pray for them too they need it most of all. We talked about how dangerous those folks can be, to themselves and others. However, that is not an excuse. What’s next? (By the way, if I can’t counter your excuse – I WILL find someone that can.) Promise, #smileyface
“I work all week and I am tired, Sunday is my only day to sleep in.” No problem, most areas have churches with Saturday evening services or you can go to an 11 am service. Also, studies show that it is actually contrary to your health to sleep in on the weekends. (www.usatoday.com/story/news/health/2015/11/22/why-you-shouldnt-sleep-late-weekends/76217048/) So, BAZINGA, get up so you don’t have health issues. (Come to church we have coffee.)
Before I move to the next excuse, let me get one out of the way I never used, but I heard a lot. “I like to watch ____ on Sunday.” The blank was filled with NASCAR, football or some other sport. In your case, get up and go to the early service, the Saturday service, or record the game/race and catch up when you get home. (For the record I could have gone all nasty and harsh, but true, with this one. Saying something like which is more important you eternal soul or who does what in that game? I did not go there, that is a tangent for a different day.)
Next. “I do not have any ‘church clothes’”. This is easy, you have a job, where your work clothes. Do you have clothes you can wear to the grocery story, wear those clothes. There is not a dress code to worship God. YES, it is preferred to be in good taste in what you wear (length, content regarding logos, etc.). God knows what you have and a church interested in saving souls is going to welcome you no matter how you show up.
“I don’t have a ride.” This can be a trickier obstacle; call the church you want to attend. Some churches have shuttles or buses to pick up folks who attend services. Some communities have public transportation. If these services are not available, chances are they can help you locate someone to help you get to the church.
“My kids are terrors; they won’t sit through a service.” Or a less scary “I have kids.” Use the nursery or children’s church. This ends up being a great way to connect with other parents and with church workers too.
“I don’t want to be embarrassed.” This excuse/fear stems from a few things. The dreaded, “Would today’s visitors please stand and let us welcome you.” (Seriously, that makes some people want to crawl under a pew and slither out the door.) The other end of the spectrum is visiting a church and not knowing what to do. My husband was raised Catholic and we have attended some Mass services. I am clueless in a Mass service. It is a beautiful ritual, but having not been raised in that environment, I do not “get it”. It is foreign to me. I do not want offend anyone or humiliate myself or my family. Likewise, my husband had no clue how to act in a Pentecostal Church in a Spirit filled service. For this excuse/fear, email the church. Just about every pastor or church secretary has an email address. Send a message to calm your fears.
If you do not have a church home, do a little research. I found my church by, literally, internet stalking them. I checked out their website, Facebook page and live broadcasts. I found out what they had to offer my family before I ever walked through the doors. My internet search of local churches proved to be essentially a review of churches. I was able to see if they had youth programs, do they have child care, I came across one post for another church that said the church was great except the music was too loud and the temperature was always too cold (another church not mine).
Here is what I am getting at. Most of the excuses I hear people giving for not going to church are junk, I can say that because I have used most of them. Visiting around and finding a church is a little overwhelming, but that is one thing I found the internet to be very helpful for in my search. My search efforts brought me to Centerbranch where I feel God is already using me and has plans to use be abundantly still. (Centerbranch.org) My church and the fellowship I have found there have changed my life. We have only been there about 6 months and it feels like forever in a good way. There are so many people I still do not know and others who feel like family, thought I am still getting to know them. Your church is not a social club. It is not a civic organization to put on your resume. It is a living, breathing part of your spiritual development. You have to cultivate it. You have to seek it out. You have to start somewhere.
So, Get Thee to Church