What’s So Important About Attending Church?
The Christian faith has so many aspects to it, that it makes it very difficult to handle all of them from the pulpit. Some aspects are better addressed in written form, because it allows us to sit back and reflect on what we read.
In the previous post we looked at Part 7 of an essay by Cooper Abrams on the topic: “What’s So Important About Attending church?” This is the last post in this series,
Making the Commitment Once and For All.
May I share with you my personal testimony of how God gave me the victory over this matter? I know what it means to be tempted to stay out of church. In fact, the day I was saved, the very moment I was under deep conviction about the fact that I was a sinner and needed to ask God to forgive me, the Devil brought up church attendance to try and stop me. As I stood there, about to yield to the Spirit of God, the thought came into my mind, “If you do this, you will not be able to go bass fishing on Sunday anymore!” Friend, I dearly loved bass fishing, and Sunday was my fishing day. Do you see how cunning the Devil is? He tempted me with what I truly loved to do and tried to use it to keep me from being saved. Thank God, the Lord’s convicting power was mightier than the flesh, and “I repented of my sin and God gave me the victory!”
At first I had little difficulty; I was at the church early for every service. But in time, as the newness began to wear off, I began to struggle each time it was time to attend church. Sunday and Wednesday nights were especially hard. Then even on Sunday morning, it became hard to convince myself go to church.
On one Sunday morning it was especially difficult to get my enthusiasm up enough to go to church. It was a beautiful day and I was tempted to take this Sunday off and go fishing. I lived on a lake and I walked outside and looked across the water. I could see the ripples and hear the slashes of bream hungrily feeding. I began to reason with myself. Had I not been working hard lately and been faithful to the Lord? I had not missed any services at my church and what would be the harm in staying home this one Sunday? Didn’t I deserve a day of relaxation and rest? It would be only one Sunday and I rarely, if ever, missed any service. I almost let myself stay home that day (Ha-Ha). Somehow I fought off the temptation and managed to attend church that morning, and I am so happy I did.
Just before the service started that morning, I watched as a dear elderly woman named, Mrs. Davis, was being helped by her son and another man in the door and down the aisle to her seat. Her legs were swollen and afflicted with arthritis. I could see the pain in her face as she struggled along and I heard the sigh of relief as she settled down in the pew. That morning we had testimony time. She raised her hand, and the pastor recognized her. God used her words coupled with what I had seen earlier that morning to touch my heart. She simply said, “I just want everyone to know how good it is to be able to be in God’s house today. I thank Him for letting me come.” I said, “Amen to that.” That day I made a decision (with God’s help) that I would, from that point on, be faithful to my church.
As I reflect on it now, I know the commitment I made that morning has kept me faithful over these many years. It is clear to me that before that day I had never made the decision to be faithful. When I was first saved, I wanted to go to church because it felt good to go and that’s why I went. As it became a little inconvenient to attend, or other things came up I wanted to do, God began to test me. When I did not “feel” like going to services, it was hard to make myself go. However, that day as I watched Mrs. Davis struggle in pain to be in the Lord’s house, I learned an important lesson. She loved the Lord, and despite the pain and physical suffering, she wanted to show God she loved him. Thank God, for her testimony that day. Her pain bore fruit in the life of a young man that God was calling to preach. I love the Lord for saving me, and I want to please and bring glory to Him. I learned that day, that one way I could show others how much I loved the Lord was to be faithful to His house. That happened over twenty years ago and since then, with God’s help, I have always been able to be in church.
Since I made the decision, on that particular day, to faithfully attend all the services of my church, I have not had to make that decision again. When my family went to bed on Saturday night, we set the clock to arise in time to get to Sunday school and church. If we took a drive or visited relatives, we never went too far or stayed too late on Sunday afternoon that we could not be back in time for our church’s Sunday evening service. The same applied to Wednesday night. You see, the decision was already made, so we did what was necessary to keep our promise. We did not have to make the decision each time the church was to meet. Once in a while, friends would drop by, and I realized it was nearing time to go to church. I did not have to decide whether to stay home or not; that decision was already made. The question was how could I gracefully leave. The best way I found was to tell them it was getting close to church time and would they like to go with us. If they were from out of town, or staying overnight, the same rule applied. We would ask them to go with us, and if they declined, we showed them the kitchen, bathrooms, etc. We told them we would see them when we got back. Not once have we ever heard anyone complain. Most seemed pleased they were not keeping us from our church.
The times when lost (unsaved) friends or relatives were visiting, and would not attend church; if we tried to witness to them about the Lord, some of them would take offence. If they were there on Sunday, we would explain that we would be attending our church. My family chose to show our lost relatives and friends that our relationship to the Lord was real and was a vital part of our lives. We politely let them know it was important to us to be in our church at the appointed time. I think some may not have understood our commitment and love of the Lord but I chose to risk offending them rather than lose our testimony. People knew we were Christians and I think they often watched to see what we would do. Our actions proved we truly did love the Lord. I have no regrets concerning our actions.
I know in many ways over the years I have failed the Lord, and I asked Him to forgive me. But, I know there will not be one person at the judgment who can say I placed a stumbling block in their path by my unfaithfulness to the church. Not one pastor can accuse me of being a discouragement to him and others in the church because of being unfaithful to the Lord’s church. Had I failed that test, early in my Christian life, God may never have called me to be a pastor, preacher and missionary, and I would have lost the privilege of serving Him in that way. Thank God, Mrs. Davis loved the Lord enough, to come to church that day and be a blessing to me. No one had a better excuse to stay home than she did, but her love of the Lord was stronger than any pain and inconvenience she experienced. Not long after that she went to be with her Lord. I know that God will reward her for her faithfulness. I am sure she never knew the influence she had on me, and I will always be grateful for her part in my life.
I am also thankful for the example my parents set for me. It was my mother who first took us to church. My father was not saved for a few years, in those days, and did not attend church. However, my mother faithfully attended both Sunday School and church. When I was eight or nine years old my family moved to the small town of Pinetops in Eastern North Carolina. My mother began attending Pinetops Baptist Church shortly after we arrived. On Sunday morning, it was the order of the day to get up early and get ready for Sunday School. Although my mother does not drive a car, she made sure my father was ready to take us to church and get us there before starting time. She got up early each Sunday morning, fixed a hearty breakfast (always with homemade biscuits), and managed to get five children dressed in our very best for church. A couple of years later my father was saved and from that time on our whole family attended church. In all those years of our childhood, with five children to get fed and dressed, never do I remember our family being late or staying home, except for sickness. I do not remember once any question about whether we would attend church or not. You see, my parents loved the Lord and they loved us children and wanted to see us saved. I thank God for the example they set for me.
Seeing my mother’s example, has made me unsympathetic to mothers who use the excuse of the time it takes to get their children ready as their reason for not attending church or for arriving late. One mother, who had three children, was always late for services. I suppose feeling somewhat guilty about her tardiness, one Sunday she began to explain to me how hard it was for her to get everyone ready and to church on time. She said, “I just do not know what to do!” As tactfully as I could I told her I had the solution to her problem. She then said she would surely like to know what it was. I then asked her with a smile on my face, “Have you ever thought about getting up an hour earlier?” Her response was amazing! She said, “I never thought of that.”
An anonymous author described the condition of regularly missing church as “morbus Sabbaticus” or better, “Sunday sickness.” He said that this is a disease peculiar to some church members. The symptoms vary, but are generally observed and never last more than twenty four hours. The symptoms never interfere with the appetite, nor affect the eyes. The Sunday paper can be read with no pain. TV seems to help the eyes. No doctor is ever called. The patient begins to improve almost immediately after the services start. No symptoms are usually felt on Saturday. The patient sleeps well and wakes feeling well. He eats a hearty Sunday Breakfast, but then the attack comes and lasts until services are over for the morning. The patient then feels better and the problem seems to go away. The patient feels better and eats a solid dinner. After dinner, he takes a nap, and then watches one or two pro football games on TV. He may go fishing or work in his yard and feels well enough to do what he pleases. He may take a walk before supper and stop and chat with neighbors. If there are church services scheduled for Sunday evenings, he will likely have a relapse about an hour before service time. Invariably, he will wake up on Monday morning and rush off to work with no ill effects from the attack the day before. The symptoms will surely appear again the afternoon of the midweek service and probably the following Sunday as well. After a few of these “attacks” at weekly intervals, the disease seems to become chronic, it becomes worse and, for some, even terminal. Some are so affected that they quit going to church altogether.
The only cure for “morbus Sabbaticus” is to first repent of the sin of unfaithfulness and disobedience to Christ’s commands. You see it is sin and disobedience for a child of God to shun the church and fail to be at their appointed place and time. Before a Christian can become faithful and get back in fellowship with God they must confess their sin, and then God will give them strength to overcome their failure (1 John 1:9). The second part of the cure is to make the decision once and for all time, to be faithful to the Lord. Once the decision is made, you will not have to make it again.
My friend, have you ever made such a decision for the Lord about your own faithfulness to Him? I’m sure you say you love the Lord, but do you, by your life, prove you love Him? Jesus said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments. . .He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved by my Father, and I will love him, and will reveal myself to him ” (John 14:15,21).
“By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:2 3).
It is my desire that through this study of what God’s says in His Word, about church attendance and faithfulness to Christ, that if you have not made such a commitment to the Lord on this matter that you will do so now. I hope my experiences of how God has worked in my life will be an encouragement to you as well. My object is not to scold or condemn you, but to encourage you to live the happy, productive life the Lord has for you.
If you are not interested in Christ’s church, it may be because you do not know Him as your Savior. It is possible you are not saved. God says,
“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold all things are become new” (2 Cor. 5:17). Those that God saves He changes and makes them into a new person with a new nature who loves and seeks the things of God. Christians love one another and want to be together. “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death” (1 John 3:14). It does not hurt you to ask yourself this question. If the answer is that you are not sure or you realize you are not saved, then you surely know what to do. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and He will save you! (See Acts 16:31, Rom. 10:9 10)
If you are born again, and you are not faithful to the Lord, then you must ask yourself why? How can you not be faithful to Him, who suffered and died for you? You are surely outside God’s will and out of fellowship with Him.
Someone is watching your life! Christ surely is. I hope you can say you are faithfully serving the Lord. If you are not, God is love, and He is seeking to make you victorious, that you would be able to overcome the world. God wants you to have His peace and have satisfaction in your heart. But, my friend, He will not force Himself on you. He offers you His peace and joy, but you must accept it by living for Him. He cannot bless you, if you live in disobedience to Him.
If you have never made this commitment to be faithful, do it now and let God bless and use you.