This Sunday morning, we have a guest speaker coming to our little church. I say “little” to distinguish our congregation from the mega-churches in big cities—nothing against those, as they must have their own special challenges.
No, the assembly Bob and I attend is quite small, living in the rural community that we do, and as such there is ample opportunity to “get involved” since you don’t usually have to be an expert at anything to be included on a team or committee. Bob and I are on the worship team—he plays bass and I play guitar and sing, (well, at least I try to.) Every week with only a few exceptions here and there.
For the past 20+ years.
Which means that people sort of get used to us to be there, I suppose. But today…
Today, we have a visiting “friend of the fam” so to speak. He and his wife will do the worship, and he will give the message. Which means my presence isn’t really necessary.
Or is it…?
Which leaves me asking myself—why am I going to church today? Is it just that old “expectations of others” which has historically been such a dominate and destructive influence in my decision-making process? Even with healthy activities, it’s important to be motivated correctly. Therefore, I am reminded that my attendance isn’t just instrumentally important (pardon the pun), but intrinsically valued.
To begin with, Sunday mornings aren’t just about what I do, but who I am. If I fall trap to attaching my church attendance merely to some function, then I’m missing an important aspect of why our gatherings exist in the first place.
Many years ago, I had another guitarist tell me once that if he wasn’t on the team any longer, he wouldn’t be at church either, since that was the only thing he had to offer. This is a tragically limited view of God’s ability and desire to use us, as well as His sovereignty to move and expand our influence in other areas. It shows a lack of creativity on our part concerning what the Creator can do through us.
Along those lines, my presence (apart from any function I may provide) lends authenticity to whatever is happening. This is something we tend to miss. Time is a currency, just like money. And although I can make more money, I cannot make more time—once I spend it, it’s gone for good. When I “spend” such a valuable resource like time at church, it sends a message to everyone else that I think this gathering is important.
Which in turn can lend encouragement to others. And God knows, encouragement is in short supply these days. When we read all the “one anothers” in the New Testament, we get a definite sense of how important being together is to pursuing our own personal commitment. Speaking of expectations again, in reality some positive peer pressure is not a bad thing—it’s called accountability. God never expected me to live this life in seclusion, but in community.
The topic of encouragement leads to another important point—information. I believe in the Holy Spirit to communicate to me through others, and not merely the sermon.
Years ago, I was asked to head up a musical project with several churches involved. A friend warned me that this was a minefield which, if you’ve ever worked with musicians, you’ll understand. I told God that I would “go out on a limb” for Him and trust Him to make the limb strong; but if the limb broke, I would trust Him catch me; but if I hit the bottom, I would trust Him to make the ground soft. No matter what, I go out on that limb.
Shortly thereafter, a friend came up to me (at an evening service) to tell me that she had had a mental picture of me standing out on a limb with my hand up in the air, and she “saw” God reaching down and holding my hand to steady me….
I’m really glad she hadn’t stayed home that night.
Sure, personalities flare up, hypocrisy offends us (especially our own!), and relationships take time, but that whole “don’t forsake the assembling of yourselves” wasn’t just a suggestion. My teapot is now empty, so it’s time for breakfast, then off to church.
Leaving the guitar at home, of course.
“We promise together not to neglect the Temple of our God.”
“Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you?”
Nehemiah 10:39; 1 Corinthians 3:16 Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.