Why I Like Going to Church

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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Best regards,
Roger

 

Pet Peeve…or Catch-22?

LittleLambs

As the son of a Baptist minister and a Christian myself, I grew up in church. And one thing people never did was applaud a solo or a choir anthem. During my (abundant number of) adult years, I’ve belonged to a number of churches that are just the opposite.

I can’t stand that. I don’t think of it as worshipful.

Oh, sure. I understand that people think they’re expressing praise to God when they clap that way, but they have yet to convince me of that.

Maybe the problem is we’re defining worship differently. One of the simplest definitions is “to show devotion to a deity.” Are those people really showing devotion to God by praising the singer(s) of a song? Isn’t that the same as thinking of it as a performance?

I can almost tolerate the clapping when the song is so rhythmic that people have been dying to clap along—or perhaps they have been. But when our church accompanist plays a quiet piece while the offering is being collected, I close my eyes in prayer. What a rude conclusion to my prayer time when the congregants clap when the accompanist finishes.

I don’t expect to change anyone’s mind—nor do I feel it’s my right to try—so I do my best to tolerate the applause. I love my church otherwise, and it’s my responsibility to accept the few things I’m less fond of.

That’s the pet peeve part of this post. Now for the Catch-22 part.

We have two of the most precious children’s choirs. The smaller kids form the Little Lambs and the older ones are in the Masterpiece Kids. (The teens belong to Set Apart.) Those two choirs typically sing one Sunday morning a month and again at the evening service. Everyone loves them, and often friends and family of the kids—people who don’t normally attend—will come to hear them.

When they finish singing, the applause is immediate, loud, and long.

Hmm. How do I feel about that? I can certainly understand the desirability of encouraging the kids by showing them how much we appreciate their accomplishments. So I try to ignore the applause.

Sometimes I clap, too. But do I do it to encourage the kids or to keep from looking like the only person in the sanctuary who’s not clapping? How worshipful is feeling that way?

Now to tie parts one and two of this post together. My theory is that the congregation never gets over wanting to encourage the kids as they join progressively older choirs and do progressively more challenging music. Hence, we end up with that applause that ends every piece of music.

I wouldn’t dare to even want people to quit encouraging the little kids, but isn’t there some point at which that can be done in what I would consider a more appropriate—or at least a more worshipful— way?

Probably. But I don’t expect to live long enough to see it happen. Not if I live to my hundredth birthday.

So I’ll just have to keep biting my tongue—or, more appropriately, say, “Lord, You know their hearts and You know mine. You know I have no right to feel critical. Please forgive me. But can’t you at least keep them from applauding the offertory?”

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Please leave a comment if something in this post has spoken to you. I’ll be back again on Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, just go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

By the way, “On Aging Gracelessly” isn’t my only blog. I use “As I Come Singing”check it out here—to post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years. Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. Check here to see the list.

Best regards,
Roger