If you want to anger a teacher or educator ask them why anyone should have to go to school when, for the rest of your life you are not going to use most of the stuff you learn. If you want to anger a coach ask him why you have countless rigorous practices that make the sport seem more like work than recreation. And if want to anger a pastor ask him why attendance every week at church is so important when you already think about God, read your Bible and pray at home. Schools shape our mind, study habits, drive, broad-mindedness and worldviews. Athletic practices shape our bodies, techniques, reactions, details and teamwork necessary to win. And church has a far broader impact in shaping relationships, attitudes, knowledge, wisdom, impact, purpose and meaning in life than we sometimes recognize.
Our world is getting busier and busier. Travel is easier than ever and we feel expected to attend weekend out-of-town get-togethers. Between school, sports and camps our kids sometimes set the priorities for the entire family’s calendar. And America has a passion for work, working longer and harder than most if not all industrialized nations. So with all these things pulling on Christ-followers what’s so wrong with missing church once or twice a month? Well . . . the same thing, I suppose, with missing only one practice or school day per week. Our society used to reserve Sundays for church attendance but Christian parents have been willing to relegate Sunday worship to a lower priority than it used to be in order to participate in secular opportunities. Culture has taken note and been swift to claim that day as well as the other six for secular rather than sacred use.
Coaches know what missing practice does for the athlete. Educators know the negative impact on those who don’t attend school. And pastors certainly see and work with dark repercussions of Christians who have become naïve to how critical church attendance and involvement is. So let’s step back and look at the bigger picture of how important it is for God’s plan to remain a priority for those who embrace Christ and want to follow His plans and purpose for His bride, the church.
First and most importantly, church prioritizes the truths of Christ, salvation and His eternal kingdom. It is easy to comprehend that Christ left eternity and came to earth only for a brief time to secure God’s plan for mankind. Jesus was on earth for a few short years before returning to heaven. However, we forget that if we live 10, 50 or even 100 years, it is still no different in relation to eternity than Jesus’ short time on earth. Though we didn’t come from heaven to earth, humanity was still created for heaven and eternity. Earth and this life are temporary and our focus on decisions for Christ and service to His kingdom will determine our rewards and positioning for all eternity. We are tempted to plan and live life down here as though it includes our beginning and our end. It doesn’t! Our work, accomplishments and treasures here will all be laid before the Judgment Seat of Christ. What we have done on earth is simply an interlude, like that of Jesus, before we receive that which remains for eternity. Just as priests, prophets and the temple were visuals that constantly reminded saints in the Old Testament of greater heavenly things, so too is church, the equipping of the saints, the Lord’s Supper, worship and service through the church.
Another important big picture we need to see is the importance of the relationships we develop. Our children have a far greater potential to embrace and live in righteousness, true joy and the worship of God through relationships within the church than on their secular teams, bands, and clubs or in school. Sports relationships are good, but woe can come to parents who allow their kids to lose interest and disconnect from church relationships and choose teammates who hold different values, goals, standards of good and evil, and usually a secular rather than biblical view of the world. I have sadly watched parents shock as they watch their teens crash morally and spiritually. But the process actually happened slowly as serving Christ and “the work of the saints” competed with the worldly allurements and enticements of secular activities. All three of my kids grew up heavily involved in sports. And all three were drawn to the glamour, acceptance and popularity that sometimes appeared to outweigh the simplicity, servitude and feelings of being “outsiders” that prioritized their Christianity. Robin and I made a point of consistently sharing the eternal benefits of building our conversations, priorities and values around Christ, spiritual relationships and living to please our Master above all others. I have no regrets in this. I met my predominant spiritual mentor through my church. I met my lifelong best friend in my church. I met my incredible wife of 30 years in my church. Both of my daughters and their husbands are active within church, share life with other God-seeking couples within their church and have experienced great benefits and fruit from a church community. My son is reaping the great benefits of those relationships as well. None of my kids were ever allowed to put secular pursuits before the things of Christ and His church, and none have abandoned those spiritual values. Church has been an instrumental part in our family as have child dedications, baptisms, marriages, decisions, and relationships, giving us the tools to deal with life in a very dark and complex world.
Another value of attending church every week is the opportunity to learn Christ’s truths and wisdom. In the world where up is down and down is up, evil is good and good is evil, right is wrong and wrong is right, a Bible-centered church teaches clear truth in a world in need of light. In a world where truth is often based upon each person’s own individual value system, it is beautiful when a Bible-centered church instills what God Himself has declared before man’s creation to be righteous or unrighteous. With so much strife and opinion on issues such as homosexuality, abortion, immigration, religion and the protests of so many claiming their rights, it is so important for Christians to know God’s stand on issues. He is our Creator and Judge and the scriptures teach we will all be held accountable some day for every word, deed and action. On FaceBook, in government and in culture people fight, argue and attempt to justify their opinions on important issues of life. But a church that teaches God’s Word declares the ultimate truth that will last throughout eternity.
Another value of church is the equipping of saints for service. Part of God’s plan is the giving of spiritual gifts to every believer. Every Christian has a supernatural gift(s) from God that, if developed and used, make a tremendous impact upon them, other people and the church as a whole. In church we have the opportunity to learn from, grow beside and live out all of God’s characteristics and ministries we see lived out and taught by others. No other place on earth has this dynamic. The teacher teaches supernatural truths from God’s Word, equipping others to teach what they have been taught. A person with the gift of mercy reveals the heart and actions of God the merciful, which are not natural in a world that shows little mercy. When I began getting serious about my involvement in church at the age of 17 I didn’t understand my strengths, potential or place in this world. But through church I was mentored, taught, counseled and then given opportunities to serve, grow and develop in leadership and impact. My gift of teaching was developed and cultivated, eventually expanding into the role of Minister of Youth. Then through a process God used my gifts in larger capacities as a Pastor/Shepherd. The opportunity through church to learn and employ my gifts hopefully blesses the church, but it certainly is a source of joy, fulfillment and encouragement to me personally. We all want to make an impact on our world. None of us may ever have a street, school or building named after us. But every Christian has the opportunity, through their church, to develop and make impact upon others, leaving a spiritual and eternal legacy.
I could go on, but finally, the church is our refuge and strength in a sin-stained and dying world. We Christians sometimes have our fusses. We are imperfect. Where people are there will be shortcomings. But the church soars above that which we are tempted to look to for security: education, the economy, government, etc. Those areas are under great dispute today. Many are fighting for more power and control. But the church serves a higher purpose than self. We are focused on the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. None but the church will be there when we need counseling, when we need help, when we need comfort, or during the death of a loved one. But the church rises during those occasions. Though imperfect, we serve a perfect founder, purpose and pursuit . . . Christ’s kingdom, power and glory! I love God’s design of the church! It is good and perfect. I love my church! Through all the highs and lows, mountaintops and dark valleys, it has been used by the Lord to keep me in Him, point me to Him and bring pleasure to Him! Enjoy all the opportunities the world offers us. But I love and have chosen Christ and His church above all else! I hope you do too!