Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Church Attendance

I started reading “Charles Stanley’s Handbook for Christian Living.” When I got to the following section in the chapter on church attendance I thought of you, because I know you’ve been struggling with where to go/what to do. So I just thought I’d share it.
If you attend a church where you are not encouraged and spurred to action and continued faithfulness, you may need to consider looking for a new church. After all, if the church you attend does not accomplish the primary thing it was designed to do, what is the point in going? If you are like many believers, you feel guilty when you miss. But easing your conscience is not a good reason to go.

If attending your church of Sunday school class has the same effect on you as showing up at the garden club or the athletic club, you are fooling yourself. For all practical purposes, you have abandoned the spiritual stimulation of assembling yourselves together. Form without function is more dangerous than no form at all. You are lulled into thinking that everything is okay. After all, you’re in church.

There must be a spiritual dynamic. If the teaching and fellowship do not challenge your character and behavior, it may have church in its title, but it is not functioning as a church. We are to be involved in order to be encouraged and held accountable. From God’s perspective, to participate in a church that does not accomplish His purposes is not to have gone to church at all.

Attending a church that does not encourage you to remain faithful and hold you accountable in your walk with God is like joining and attending a health club but not exercising. What good does a health club do you if you attend three times a week to have coffee with a friend? Sure, you are in the building, but nothing is happening that will benefit you physically. No one could fault you on your attendance, but your health is not affected. You are in no better shape than when you joined.

“But wait,” you say, “aren’t you being a little hard on my church? We sing together, and our pastor always brings a well-reasoned sermon.” Yes, but does being there, with that group of people, encourage you to cling to the hope that is in you? If not, I recommend you visit another church. Keep in mind, however, that there is no perfect church. Find one that accurately presents Scripture and practically demonstrates God’s love. Remember, too, you have a responsibility to actively use your spiritual gifts for the benefit of other believers.

I encourage you to carefully consider how God can use you in your present church. You may be so intent on having your needs met that you are overlooking how powerfully God can use you to help others. God may have you where you are, even if far less than ideal, for some significant ministry purpose. Try volunteering in an area in which you are comfortable, and your attitude may become the primary thing that changes. (pp. 13-14)
As I was writing this out, I remembered a conversation that I had with the youth/assistant pastor at my previous church, Plymouth. Joel was a recent grad of Moody, so he definitely had the education and knew where I was coming from, having graduated from a Bible college. I was not growing from the messages that the pastor at Plymouth was preaching. However, I had some amazing friends, and we had a good Bible study among us “young adults.” In this conversation, Joel reminded me that there were other people in the church who likely needed to hear exactly what the pastor was saying; he also gave me a little insight into the pastor’s preparation and knowledge of the congregation. It made me decide what was more important at that time: learning from the pastor during Sunday mornings, or cultivating friendships with my peers and learning in different ways from them. I stayed at the church and found excellent teaching on the radio. Eventually I left the church to move here, but I made friendships that will probably last a lifetime.

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