Did you go to a church gathering this week?
When Gallup pollsters ask Americans that question about 40% say, “yes”. But further research has found that what we say we do and what we actually do differ by quite a lot. A recent survey of church attendance by Americans indicates that the rate of weekly attendance is actually about 20%.
Attending church once or twice a year is like only watching the trailer for The Lord of the Rings without ever reading the book or watching the movies. Sure you’ll get the gist of things, but you’ll miss out on so much!
It’s almost impossible to grow in our faith alone. I remember my pastor preaching a sermon on the Church and its role in our spiritual growth. He said that you can’t force growth; all you can do is put yourself in a place where growth is facilitated and let God do the work.
I love the way The Message translates Matthew 6:27, Has anyone by fussing in front of the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? The same is true of our spiritual growth. We can’t squeeze out some growth by trying really hard. The only thing we can do is put ourselves in a place that makes growth possible. The Church is where you can grow most easily. Join a church and you can be sure that growth will occur.
Church is a community, not a place. If you’re not in the habit of regularly attending church, you might have slipped into thinking that a church is a place, a building. But church is a community you join. A sense of community takes time to develop. You have to show up, over and over, and participate. Once or twice a year is not enough.
It can be hard to regularly participate in a Christian community if you’re busy, introverted, can’t find the right fit, have young children, have children who play soccer, are divorced, are tired, or just need some family time. I know it’s hard, but it’s important enough to make the effort.
Relationships take time. Your relationships with God and with other members of his family are no different. To reap the benefits of community life, you have to participate wholeheartedly: that means showing up and pitching in. It means not being the last person in and the first person out the door. But here’s the really great news: active participation in a healthy church community is an incredible blessing.
Church is not just a place to go at Christmas and Easter. Church is meeting friends for Bible study and prayer on Tuesday morning, when no one is ready and you’re late and you need a little more patience. Church is gathering together with others in moments of celebration and moments of heartbreak or sorrow.
To truly appreciate what Jesus did on Good Friday, you need to know the back story. You have to know what he gave up to come to Earth in the first place. You have to understand how much God loves you and you need a full picture of what would have happened if Jesus had never come. Don’t settle for the highlight reel. Instead, meet regularly with other children of God to discover all that the Father, Son and Spirit have done, are doing and will do. That’s what family is for.