What’s it all About?

“I go late because I don’t like the music.”
“I don’t like how our preacher seems to preach the same message every week.”
“I want to make my kids happy. They want a church with a better youth group.”

I’m pretty sure that, after decades of actively serving God, I’ve heard it all. There’s one big problem with all of these statements – the word I. Want to know a secret – that isn’t a secret? Church isn’t about us, what we want, or what we like.

I mean, seriously. Do you think every Israelite man wanted to make the trip to Jerusalem to worship as they were commanded to do? Man is the same throughout the ages, so I’m pretty comfortable saying, “No.” Some of those men didn’t want to make the trek to Jerusalem just as surely as many men today don’t want to make the trip to church on Sunday morning. So why did they go?

Because they knew it wasn’t about them, that it was about God and the worship He deserves as God. No matter how many miles they had to walk hauling livestock for sacrifice, no matter how much they hated crowds and noise, no matter how long they would have to wait in line, no matter if they knew going in that they wouldn’t enjoy themselves at all…IT WASN’T ABOUT THEM.

In 1 Cor. 12:18, we are told that God plants us in the church as He wills. We want to pick and choose our churches like we select our food at a buffet. God wants us to attend the churches He has selected for us. And yes, we may at times disagree with His choices.

We may think the church is too far away, we may not like the music at all, we may resent parents letting their kids be noisy in service, we may feel we could have found a better sermon on TV… None of that matters. What matters is that God has told us, “Here. This is your spiritual home. LIVE in it.” If He hasn’t told you that, didn’t lead you to the church you’re in, go talk to Him about it. Now.

If He did lead you to your current church, He put you there for at least one reason. Just like a good gardener studies soil content, sunlight, and other factors before setting a prized plant in the ground, God carefully selected where He planted you. If you dislike things about where you are, don’t whine about it to the other plants or, worse yet, try to dig up your own roots and move. Talk to Him about it.

You may well – probably will – be surprised by what He has to say. He may be pointing out needs in the church that He wants you to help meet. He may be working on expanding your horizons of what you like. He may point out that you don’t eat only two meals a week and shouldn’t rely strictly on your pastor for your spiritual nourishment. He might simply explain that it’s time you get over your self because church isn’t about you at all.

It’s about Him. It’s about bringing our week-wearied bodies to the sanctuary as a sacrifice of worship. It’s about lifting our hearts to Him in worship and praise whether the song is a hundred years old or ten minutes old. It’s about intentionally ignoring distractions and focusing on what He is trying to say to you – not only through the sermon, but through every part of the experience.

When we shift our focus off ourselves and whether or not someone in pre-worship fellowship took the chocolate-covered donut we wanted, and turn it to the One who is the whole reason we are on this planet in the first place, our walks with God will change radically.

THAT is what it’s all about!

Celebrating Jesus!
Tammy C

Why Church? Multi-generational Benefits

This one may surprise you – or may not. Another of my favorite things about my church is its multi-generational composition. With our current lifestyle, we often end up surrounded only by people in our own general age range, but in my church we have people of all ages as well as ethnicities, backgrounds, etc. When my kids were growing up, they had grandparents nearby, but if they had not they would still have had their “church grandparents,” those seasoned family members who have so very much to offer those of us who haven’t walked as far down life’s road.

I’m thinking of a particular couple right now. They’ve been married longer than any other couple I’ve ever known, and still obviously love each other dearly. They are a constant example to those of us who are married, or who want to be married. Their love of God, their understanding of Him as sustainer, their persistently positive outlook on life… These are things developed over time, and I am truly grateful to be a partaker in what they have, what they are.

Celebrating Jesus!
Tammy C

Why Church? I Never Thought of That!

One of the things I most appreciate about church is the many “AHA!” moments. God has given me a pastor who is unique and obviously chosen just for me. He sees things in the Bible that I’ve never noticed before, and shares them in ways that can be truly unforgettable. I don’t know how many times I’ve been sitting in church and, whether through his specific words or the Holy Spirit using his words as a springboard, been shown something I’ve never seen before.

I love sharing those moments with the rest of the family too, hearing what they take away from the service, seeing how each of us implements the things we’ve learned, and learning more from friends with whom I “geek out” over the Word. No, we don’t stand around all day talking about religious matters, but many a lunch has turned into a “Have you ever noticed…?” session. Again, family shares common interests, and these particular common interests help us grow in the Lord as we share and learn from one another – as “iron sharpens iron.”

Celebrating Jesus!
Tammy C

Why Church? Family

This is something that is particularly hard to explain to someone who has never experienced a church family. Even if you go to church, but are one of those who arrive late and leave early, you’ve likely never known what I’m talking about. I don’t just “go to church.” I spend time, at least twice a week, with my church family.

Family dynamics can be just as complicated in church families as in biological families. Relationship building requires time, and clashing cultures can create moments of confusion. As is true in any family, you have times of both triumph and testing. Nothing can take the place of my biological family, and nothing can take the place of my church family. If God told me to move, I would, but barring that I’m stuck to these people like glue.

When you’re an active part of the right church family, the family God has called you to, you are covered in love and surrounded by people who’ve got your back. Jesus said, in John 13:35, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” In my church family, we have this love for one another, and it shows. It’s one more irreplaceable gift that comes from being a “fitly joined together” part of a church.

Celebrating Jesus!
Tammy C

Why Church? Where Two or Three…

In Matt. 18:20, Jesus says, “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”

In the introduction to this series, I mentioned the man who told me he could get just as close to God on the lake as at church. I know you can get very close to God on the lake, but if that is your only place of worship you ignore this verse. Now, he might answer, “My buddy and I are two…” but I’d hazard a guess that he and his buddy would have gathered in the name of fishing and merely invited the Lord to join them. That’s not quite the same thing.

There are obviously many places in which two or more gather in Jesus’ name and enjoy being in His presence. Care groups, prayer meetings, small groups… They’re all wonderful, and I strongly support them for many reasons. I can’t see them being a replacement for church, though. The more we come together in His name, and enjoy the benefits of being together in His presence, the better.

Celebrating Jesus!
Tammy C

Why Church? The Commanded Blessing

In Psalm 133, we see the benefit of truly being part of a church family. “Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.” Verse one gives the conditions that must be met for the blessings to come. We, brothers and sisters in Christ that we are, must “dwell together” and do it “in unity.”

There’s a big difference between living with your siblings and seeing them only on rare occasions. There is as great a difference when we’re talking about brothers and sisters in Christ. In my church, I have many with whom I dwell. Some I see more often and some I see less often, but those of us who come together as a unified body know that blessing the Psalmist talks about. It IS good. It IS pleasant.

In the last few words of Psalm 133, we see David pulling together the pictures he’s given us. Why are all these things so good, so pleasant, so precious, so nourishing? “For there the Lord commanded the blessing – life forevermore.”

I want that commanded blessing in my life, so I choose to be an active, integral part of a church family that strives to live together in unity.

Celebrating Jesus!
Tammy C

Why Church? The Big Picture

Coming together, as a body, in God’s presence, has been a part of our relationship with God from the first day He walked with Adam in the cool of the evening. When God laid out the Law through Moses, as He worked on turning this group of people into a true nation, He specifically told them to come to the place of meeting for certain feasts every year – no matter how far away they lived.

In Jesus’ day, they customarily went to Temple every week. We see repeatedly that it was Jesus’ custom throughout His ministry, and in the book of Acts we learn that the disciples continued to do the same. The disciples also met from house to house in the book of Acts.

I see an interesting progression here. At first, the requirement was to gather a few times a year, though obviously the more often a man came to Temple the better. In Jesus day, on the Sabbath was a standard. After the death, burial, and resurrection we see the true disciples meeting pretty much daily.

Now look at us. A very few who claim to be Christians meet twice a week. A few more meet once a week. The majority (here in the US anyway) who claim to be Christians might make it to church on Christmas and/or Easter.

It looks to me like we’re regressing rather than progressing.

Celebrating Jesus!
Tammy C

Why Church? Stability in Unstable Times

We all go through hard times, some being worse than others. One thing we all need during those times is stability.

One particular time, for me, was more devastating than any other before or since. I felt like every natural thing I’d built my life on was coming apart, and that its foundation was crumbling. At that point, all I could rely on was God.

It would have been easy to back away from church right then, to draw into myself and give in to the pain and fear. Instead, I did two very important things. I kept one (ONLY one!) very close, mature friend up on what was going on so that I had her prayers, encouragement, wisdom and support, and I stayed active in church. When many others would have run away from the church, I ran to it.

My problems didn’t disappear when I walked through those doors, but as I served Him in my appointed ministry, and as I soaked in the sermon, I found true peace. I seriously understood the Psalmist’s words, “For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand.” In truth, church services, during that time, always ended too early for me.

Different denominations use different words, but we call the room where we worship the sanctuary, and that’s what it was for me – in every sense. I found sanctuary there, protection, refuge, comfort, peace…stability.

I learned many things during those horror-filled months, and this is one of them. The church, if you are truly an active part of it, offers stability in unstable times.

Celebrating Jesus!

Tammy C

Why Church? Introduction

For years, I worked in my family’s sporting goods store, and I got to know our customers. I remember one in particular telling me, “I don’t need church. I can get closer to God on the lake.”

These words sound good; I know from personal experience just how close to God you can feel when you’re surrounded by His glorious creation. The problem is that getting with God on the lake only gives Him part of what He wants from us, and gives us only part of what He wants us to have. Church attendance is about much more than we see at first glance.

As is true for pretty much everyone, there was a time when it was easy for me to not go to church. The more I learned about walking with God, though, and the importance and value of doing things His way, the harder I worked at getting there.

It was challenging at first. Setting aside my pillow on Sunday morning was as hard for me as setting aside sugar is hard for a diabetic. I did it, though, and have spent decades reaping the rewards. I love church, and don’t want to see anyone miss out.

So I’ve come to answer the question, “Tammy, why do you see church attendance as so important?” It will take a series of posts to get there, and they’ll be my personal answer (as opposed to the learned, theological answers you could read elsewhere online), but it is an answer I’m ready to give. Part 1 is on the way.

Celebrating Jesus!

Tammy C