I had to work on New Year’s Day morning a little over a week ago. It was a Sunday this year so we gathered as a church to worship, celebrate Communion, and to be challenged by God’s Word. Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about how I view church and how important the community of gathered believers is or isn’t to me.
While I had to be at church on January 1st this year I wonder if I would have made the effort to come if I had no obligation to be there. Who in their right mind really *wants* to get up early on New Year’s Day to go to church to sing songs and listen to someone talk for half an hour?
In reality I could put in my favorite Gungor album and hear a lot better music than most any church in town. I could find a podcast sermon that would probably be a lot better than anything I could hear at my church. What’s the point of making such a sacrifice to attend church?
I’ve sat with these thoughts over the past week because the reality is I doubt I would have gone to church. I’d like to think that I would but most often I choose the path of least resistance for myself before I think about those around me. Church, for most of us, is a place where we desire to “fill up our spiritual tanks” on great music and great teaching. But we can’t get those fillings in a lot of different places?
I write all this as a fairly conflicted person: Wanting to care so much about the community of believers that I choose to continually sacrifice my wants and needs for them, but at the same time desiring that I get what I want and need first.
I fear that my generation is growing up in a time where church (or the components of our program driven churches) has become so accessible that it’s diluted to the point where we don’t even understand why we *need* it. Why should we go to church early in the morning on New Year’s Day? Because it’s about the people we gather with.
Two quotes that have been a source of great conviction and encouragement for me this past week are from Lauren Winner and Dietrich Bonhoeffer:
God’s Trinitarian being suggests that we are not to simply invite people into our homes but to invite them into our lives as well. (Lauren Winner)
Self-centered love loves the other for the sake of itself; spiritual love loves the other for the sake of Christ. (Bonhoeffer)
On Sunday mornings I most often attend My Selfish Church where I value community so long as it values and benefits me. I never attend or get involved in church when it would involve me sacrificing more than I would prefer.
I believe we’re teaching the wrong message about church attendance and membership. We don’t do it because God commands it or people before us have done it that way (though those are valid reasons for church attendance and membership). We do it because we need each other. This is not some pithy statement, but the harsh reality.
The community of God’s gathered people is an instrument of His presence infiltrating our lives with skin and bones.
Much more than music and teaching, we need our brothers and sisters.