I started this blog months ago and never finished it. But it especially holds true now that summer is upon us. There seems to be a lot of churchitis in the summer months so this will be a good reminder to those who forget that vacations from work do not include vacations from church.
We've will have been in ministry 31 years next spring. Through the years, it seemed that we were blessed to be effective in what we preached, taught and lived. We always shrived to live what we preached because we believed it to be the truth and the correct way to obey and grow in God. That's not to say that we haven't ever changed things. Learning of Christ is an ongoing process and there have been things that we realized that maybe we were a little over-exuberant about but for the most part, the basic and foundational beliefs and practices have remained the same.
One thing that we have never budged on is our observance of the Lord's Day. Many will label this "religious" and they're right. Jesus never banged on religion. He condemned false religion. There is a difference. There are some things that we should do religiously like brushing our teeth, bathing, eating breakfast, telling our kids that we love them AND "not forsaking the gathering together of ourselves."
We religiously attended our home church every Sunday in that we left no stone unturned to make sure that we could be there every week. The only thing that kept us from it was the occasional illness or catastrophe in the barn-you'll have this when dealing with cows. They will occasionally get turned sideways while lying in a stanchion stall and break their spine trying to stand up at which point your only course of action is to call the rendering plant and have them come and get her. Or you will have a moose of a diary cow plug up the door leading outside and the rest of the cows will try to squeeze through and end up breaking a water pipe, thus flooding the barn. But these kinds of things are the exception.
Over the years, we have always taught the importance of being part of a local body and being faithful to church attendance. It has been one of our biggest struggles. On this issue, no one can accuse us of not practicing what we preach. It has nothing to do with the fact that we are in ministry. When we came to know the Lord, our favorite place to be was in God's house with God's people. There was no thought or desire to be in ministry then. We drove to church no matter the weather even though we lived almost an hour away in the middle of nowhere where even snow plows sometimes feared to tread. If we went to visit family and wanted to spend the night, we took a day off work and went on Friday so that we could be home and in our home church on Sunday. We let our kids sleep in their car seats and drove through the night to be HOME for church. God always blessed and gave grace, even to our kids for that. It taught our children to have the right view of the family of God, the Body of Christ, and the priority of God's meetings. We never missed-not for family reunions, not for moral/social events that were scheduled for Sunday, not for work-we never took a job if it required us to work on Sunday and usually not even for vacation if we could plan around it. I did lose a job once because they needed me on Sunday and I refused. God has blessed us for this decision.
Summer is coming and people just tend to go AWOL for no particular reason. I understand that people take vacations and I would begrudge no one that opportunity. Most people that I know do attend church somewhere when they are on vacation and for that I commend them. Still, others seem to have the view that as long as they go to church SOMEWHERE on any given Sunday that it is okay. Or they think that watching a live stream service of some pet preacher is the same as church attendance.
I'm not advocating the "I'm of Paul, and I'm of Apollos" mentality either. However, there are reasons that God has directed you to a certain church. If He hasn't, for heaven's sake find out where you're supposed to be and get plugged in there. You are needed somewhere and you need to be in a church where God can give words to you through his messenger, your Pastor. Yes folks, your Pastor has a higher purpose than comforting you when you're sick, marrying you, burying you, and giving you little pats on the back to assure you of your spirituality. He won't be held accountable with any of that, but he will be held accountable for what he preached and delivered. If he's accountable for presenting it, then you are accountable for hearing and heeding what he says.
Last year my husband contemplated putting a sign on the door one Sunday morning that read "Cancelled Due To Lack Of Interest". Of course, that would have only punished the faithful but it was very discouraging. So before you go running off to Anywhereland this summer consider a few things:
-God has given gifts to the church.
-He has placed those gifts in people.
-When he places a gift in a church, it is inside of a person.
-If the person is missing from the place where the gift was needed, thus being why God placed it there, then the gift is missing from the church.
-When gifts are missing, the Body suffers.
-Your Pastor seeks God for a message every week. It takes time, prayer and study. He delivers what God says the Body needs.
-If you aren't there, you won't get what God has for you that week. The potential for catasrophe exists when you are missing things God wants you to hear. If I had a nickel for every time I've heard someone say "I wish I had been there when that was preached" or my husband says "I really felt that the sermon was for so and so, but they weren't there", I'd be driving a new truck.
-It's just not about making sure you are in church somewhere. That is just religious activity and at its very heart, selfish. Well, I went to church, I heard a sermon, I worshipped a little, I paid my tithe so I'm in good standing with God. I'm still under God's blessing spout. It's all about me, me, me.
-Perhaps you could change your plans, cut your trip short one day, or some other type of sacrifice to actually be where God placed you to hear what He wants you to hear and minister to others in the way He has graced you to minister. Your gifts are important!
-Your home church won't be home long if you are constantly missing.
There will be times when it is impossible to be in your home church. That's understandable but it is important for you and those you call "family" to make HOME church attendance a priority. Some people will poo-poo this idea but it was preached of old and has proven in our lives to be a true source of blessing.
It's a matter of faithfulness. If you want to serve in a church, you have to prove yourself faithful. Maybe the reason you aren't asked to serve is because you haven't proven faithfulness to the body of Christ where God has placed you. Church attendance is a good place to start. Being there helps you connect and take ownership of a body of believers. It's important, even when it's summer.