I can think of all kinds of things that I would get to avoid if I didn’t have to go to church every Sunday morning, but I also know there are a least 3 things that I would definitely miss.
My wife and I would get to avoid sacrificing one more morning of the week to hustling a pack of kids out the door. I’d avoid having to myself up early and out the door on a morning that I could be using to enjoy any number of possible leisure activities, or getting stuff done around the house that I never seem to have to the time do.
On my more introverted Sundays,
skipping church would mean getting to avoid interactions with people, even some
very wonderful people, with whom, sometimes, I just don’t feel like I have the
energy to interact. And what if the music isn’t to my liking that morning, or
the preacher is having bad day? Skipping church would mean getting to avoid all
of that as well. And seeing as I’m usually the one preaching and helping with
the music, I sometimes wonder if my skipping church might actually be doing
people a favour.
But for all the less than perfect
things that we avoid by skipping church, or by choosing to get our church
online instead of in person, there are some really important things that we
miss out on when we don’t go to church.
Obviously, as a church leader my
perspective on this topic is fairly biased. But trust me when I say that I know
how imperfect and sometimes downright unpleasant going to church can be.
I also know, however, that while going
to church isn’t everything, there are at least three things that it offers followers
of Jesus that nothing else can.
Let me also say that I recognize attending
or not attending church isn’t always a choice. I know a number of people who
would be in church a lot more if they could, but their life circumstances, and
the limited range of service times that are available to them make regular
But for those of us who do have a
choice, here are 3 things we miss when we choose not to attend.
1. We Miss Uninterrupted Time Focused on God
The range of preaching, prayer,
worship, meditation and study resources that are now available to us at the
swipe of a screen, no matter where we go, is incredible. The problem is that none
of these apps or online resources has the ability to remove us from the
countless distractions that keep us from offering our undivided attention to
God. Most, in fact, are designed so that we can listen to a sermon, study the Bible,
worship and/or pray all while doing any number of other things at the same
time, like exercising, working, driving, or chores.
These apps and other resources
are incredible and can really help us grow, but none of them is a substitute
for giving God our undivided attention, because it’s precisely in those times
of extended focus, of waiting and listening for God that God actually speaks to
his people. We see this again and again in the Bible and it’s true to this very
day, and no app or online resource will ever replace the experience of having
God speak to you directly.
Of course, there can be lots of distractions at church too,
but unlike anywhere else at any other time of the week the operating assumption
at a church service is that we are there to focus on God which, in spite of all
of the potential distractions or interruptions, makes it an invaluable time and
place to practice giving our undivided attention to God.
2. We Miss Getting to Express the Value of God with Our Own Voices
At no point in Christian history
have we ever had the amount and quality of inspired and inspiring musical
worship available to us as we do right now. There is far more and/or far better
worship music available just on YouTube on any given Sunday than there is in any
church in the whole world. But listening
and even being moved and inspired by the very best praise music is not the same
thing as raising our own voices with the voices of others to proclaim the
goodness and love of God and to express the value of God in our lives.
Listening to inspired worship
music can be very uplifting and spiritually nourishing, but true worship isn’t
just spiritual nourishment. True worship is also spiritual exercise. It’s an
offering of our effort in service to God, which, as we practice, makes us
The result of only ever consuming
worship music and never exercising our own worship muscles is, in a spiritual
sense, the very same thing as if all we ever did was eat physical food and
never exercised our physical muscles. We become spiritually weak and even ill.
Although it isn’t always as
immediately pleasurable as listening to the very best worship music available
to us, the practice of regularly lifting our own voices together, as well as we
can, to praise God is absolutely essential to our spiritual growth, our
spiritual strength and our relationship with God.
3. We Miss the Power of Joining Our Lives in Christ with the Lives of Others
Going to church isn’t always much fun, and it isn’t always as
inspiring as we would like it to be. But
every time we go to church we take a step towards joining our lives in Christ as
followers of Jesus and members of God’s people, with the lives of others, and
there is always power when we do that. And the more we join our lives with
other followers of Jesus the more of that power we get to experience and be a
In a blog that actually inspired a lot of my thoughts on
this subject, blogger Sarah Piercy (http://unitedanduntied.com) talks
about each of our lives being like a “babbling brook,” each with its own energy
and vitality. But then she asks, “what happens when you cross paths with
another brook. And another. And another?”
“Something bigger starts to happen. Something one babbling brook can’t do on its own. Momentum happens. Then power happens. Then Niagara Falls happens! (Note: did you know Niagara Falls generates enough energy to power almost 4 million homes? No babbling brook does that.) In the same way, 10s, 100s (or even 1000s) of people moving in the same God-given direction is POWERFUL. And it doesn’t happen when we are disengaged.” (Sarah Piercy-“What you never know you miss by skipping Sunday Morning”-careynieuwhof.com)
It’s true that just going to church isn’t the same thing as
being truly engaged with the life and mission of Jesus. You can attend church
and not really be engaged. But it’s pretty hard to be engaged without at least
making it a priority to attend when we can. Engagement is another reason
attendance really does matter.
So what do you think?
Does attendance matter? Why don’t you swing by St. Paul’s Hampton this Sunday and let me know in person 😊
Thanks for taking the time to read this.
Sincerely, Rev. David Turner