Going to church
OK, I know all the trite axioms about going to church. Don't go to church, be the church. It's not your grandmother's church. The church is just a bunch of hypocrites. Going to church won't make you a Christian any more than living in a garage apartment will make you a car. Let's focus on going to Jesus rather than going to church. It's not religion it's a relationship. The church isn't a building. God want's spiritual fruit and not religious nuts. He who is near the church is often far from God. I've got nothing against God, it's his fan club I can't stand. And dozens of other clever negatives to justify the secular culture's distance from anything Christian.
The problem is, most of those sayings are announced by church people. You see, we've joined the chorus of tricky tag lines to soften our approach to the seeker populations still lingering on the edges of society. In the process church attendance has declined, especially among the younger generational cohorts. Today a whole new vocabulary of "nones" and "nominal Christians" obscures the spiritual snapshot of the nation even more. We're in the age of being spiritual with little evidence of it. Suddenly going to church labels us as old school throwbacks of a world that doesn't work anymore.
Let me tell you a story. It's true as shared by a good friend. The names of the people and locations have been changed but it's a vivid illustration of contemporary Christian witness without memorized evangelical templates or strangers at the front door or social media platforms. It's the power of the simple witness of going to church.
My friend teaches Sunday School in a large, traditional downtown Baptist
church. I'm not sure they call it Sunday School but it meets on Sunday mornings
in a house adjacent to their church property. The teacher and his spouse choose
the study themes and it is purposefully unorthodox in approach, though faithful
to Scripture. They've been blessed to build a strong fellowship of people who
have typically fallen through the church cracks. It's all low key, very casual dress,
with interaction defined by the participants.
One Sunday a new couple wandered in. They had never attended a Baptist church
before and were distantly involved. But, they came every Sunday for many
months. One Sunday my friend the teacher asked if anyone wanted to say
anything, This new young man raised his hand and then spoke to the people
circled around him. He told of a hard, wrecked life. Flunked out of college, drugs,
alcohol, two marriages, short term jobs, and hitting bottom. When he met his
current wife they decided they needed something different, a new direction, a
change in their destructive lifestyle. So, they had a serious talk.
That's when he told about his childhood neighbors. They lived next door to his
parents. They were a family of five, believers all, who attended church three times
every week. Every Sunday he would see them dressed and leaving for the Baptist
church where they were active members. He told the group that he and his wife
decided that people that committed to their church must be people whose faith
made a difference in their lives. As a result, their witness of regular church
attendance registered with this searching couple. That's why they were in that
church at that time.
The rest of the story is that they both accepted Christ, joined that church, and
are involved in ministry to his day. All because of the witness of people attending
You never know the power of your church attendance witness. The people who watch you drive out of the apartment complex or down your driveway every week may be people experiencing the same down circumstances of that one young man. Your steadfastness may be silent voice that shows them a new path or a changed direction. Yes, of course, you should live your life every day with the same devotion that guides you to church every Sunday or Wednesday. But, your going to that building, natural sinner that you are, may be the impetus for something miraculous in one of your neighbor's lives. So, don't make little of it.
Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time.
Colossians 4:5, ESV
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not
neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one
another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
Hebrews 10:24-25, ESV
A struggling neighbor may be watching.