A couple of weeks ago, I was talking with John, one of the fellows who walks at the mall at the same time I do. I asked him if he had a church home, and he told me he and his wife are Catholic. Although she is active in church, he has been taking a “sabbatical” from church for the last thirty or forty years.
Hmm? Say what? “But you still consider yourself a Christian?”
“Oh, yes. I just don’t go to church.”
We ran out of talk time, and I wasn’t sure whether I ought to ask why he’d dropped out, anyhow. I probably wouldn’t understand anything related to the Catholic part of his answer if I had asked.
Nonetheless, our conversation has led me to do a lot of thinking. My wife and I love going to church. We don’t go out of habit or a sense of obligation, but because we enjoy being there. When activities are cancelled because of bad weather, we’re apt to feel cheated.
We don’t have many close friends, but those we have are fellow church members. Yes, of course we enjoy seeing them at church, but that’s not our purpose for attending.
We normally come on Sunday mornings for Bible study and worship and return at mid-afternoon for choir practice, followed by the evening worship service. Then we’re back again on Wednesday night for a time of prayer and Bible study.
What is it about those activities that makes us want to be there? Why aren’t we tempted to take an extended sabbatical the way my friend John has done?
The Bible teaches that church members ought to meet together. Specifically, these two verses from Hebrews 10:24-25 tell us not to avoid meeting together:
22-25 So let’s do it—full of belief, confident that we’re presentable inside and out. Let’s keep a firm grip on the promises that keep us going. He always keeps his word. Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching. (MSG)
Yes, Christians can worship on the golf course, but they’re missing something special by not being in church. But what?
I could rave about the desirability of the preaching and the music at our church. I could speak equally enthusiastically about the Bible studies and the prayer time. And let’s not forget special activities like the Family Fishing Day and the Fall Festival. Although those activities are an important part of our desire to come to church, they’re not the real reasons.
As I look once more at those verses from Hebrews 10, I realize that the real reason for our going to church–the reason we enjoy being there and participating in a variety of activities–is the importance of “spurring each other on,” something that all of those activities contribute to. That “spurring each other on” is like knowing our spiritual batteries are running low and we’re not going to make it much further without a visit to a central charging station where we can encourage other people who also need recharging.
Yes! I think that’s it. When God’s people meet together–with Him at the center of their activities–they experience the kind of recharging they need to survive a few more days in a highly secular world. To survive and thrive until the next available time to return for a fresh spiritual recharge.
Are you active in church now? If not, have you–like John–taken an extended “sabbatical”? How about leaving a comment?
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