|Heb 10:25 Let us ' not give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another..'|
Today, I'm talking about church. Not any particular church but more how God has changed me, a fairly reluctant, even bored church goer into someone who wants to be there.
There are all the usual reasons as to why church can be more of a pain than a pleasure and I'm sure you know the list, here's a few common ones: people are unfriendly, your kids are left out of the social group, the sermon is pretty awful, you feel like you don't fit in, your disappointed by others behaviours (including the minister, or those who lead up front), your disappointed and distressed by your own behaviours as well, church is the day that your kids are the worst behaved EVER and make you want to not bother, its hard as a single because everyone seems to be married, its hard as a married with little kids because you don't get to hear the sermon, you get to sit in the creche every week and if your going to feel absolutely exhausted its got to be Sunday (well that's what happens to me).
(Of course, if its not working for your kids, absolutely find a church that does. If the truth is not being preached, find a church that preaches the truth. If your sick or exhausted or burnt out, then absolutely you will have to miss church until you are better. God knows and understands our circumstances, He is gracious and kind, NOT legalistic.)
Really good things happen in church as well but when you are having a downer about church its so easy to focus on the negatives. Churches are not perfect, how can they be when they are filled with imperfect people like me and you.
Anyway my attitude change, all started when doing a unit at SMBC on church . A slow feeling of guilt crept over me. We studied the passages that said how God builds us up as Christians, together, in community, not just on our own. You know, the passages on how as believers, we are all 'one body' in Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-13). I could feel my individualistic self crying out 'NO' I love being individualistic and as an introvert and writer I doubly love it. I love to be alone. But God was saying you need to be together with other followers of Jesus that's a big part of spiritual growth (Ephesians 4:15-16). I secretly wondered whether God was favouring extroverts with this whole set up of church.
And then He really brought it home to me; You and I need to be in church because:
1.God says He will use me to encourage others and if I'm not there its you guys at my church who miss out. As Australians I think our culture resists that, we do put ourselves down in jokes we are always self deprecating because that's our culture. But the truths of the Bible outrank our cultures. God is saying He intends me to be a blessing for others and He will use me as I am, so I'm thinking I'd better be there with all my faults, misgivings, doubts, sins, basically my imperfectness because if God has said it, He's going to do it and I'm going to trust that He will. You can see where I'm going with this, I really need you to turn up to church, with all your imperfections and difficult situations because God is going to use you to encourage me and I don't want to miss what God is going to do through you at church and how He will use you to bless us. Pretty much church is a community of believers, and we're waiting and wanting everyone to turn up so God can use us to be a blessing to each other, so we can grow up to be like Christ (Ephesians 4:12-13).
Even Paul when he writes to the Christians in Rome says he seeks to be an encouragement to them and also to be encouraged by them, he writes 'I long to see you that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong - that is that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith.' Romans 1: 11, 12.
2. I need to worship God. God has done so much for me and my family, he has never left me or forsaken me, I need to be in church, worshipping Him. I know all our lives, all we do and say should be about worshipping Him but God gives us this special community in which he desires us to worship Him together. After all isn't that what heaven is about extolling the virtues of God with all His peoples, with all the heavenly hosts, throughout eternity, Church is where we can get started now.
This all comes with a warning;
God warns us to NOT 'give up' or the Greek means to 'abandon' seeing each other (Hebrews 10:25) because we can't then encourage each other and we may fall away. No-one is immune from that.
So if you are finding church hard, remember, the people of God need you and me to be a mutual encouragement to each other and to heap praise on our most deserving and beautiful God until this life ends or He comes again.
"You are a chosen people...that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light." 1 Peter 2:9