When it comes to church, I’ll admit: I’m a lifer. A lifer in the sense that I’ve gone my whole life, and also in that I plan to attend for the rest of my life. As long as I am physically able.
As to the first part of that, I wasn’t always so enthused with being a lifer. As a child, going to church every Sunday was non-negotiable. Like it or not, my mom would round my brother and me up and insist that we got in the church bound car and that we were wearing our Sunday best. For me, as a hardcore tomboy, that meant putting on a loathed dress.
Oh, how I hated wearing dresses. There is even a photo in my baby album of me, adorned with a cute dress and tights, with crocodile tears on my cheeks and my lower lip protruded to the max. That photo was taken on a Sunday morning and the cause for my tears was my outfit.
It’s not that I minded church that much. I actually liked it just fine, and I enjoyed seeing my “church friends” once I got there. There was just something about not having a choice in the matter, or in the forced dressing up, that stirred up the stubborn child in me.
When I moved out of state for college, and then to yet another state to begin my career journey, it was the first time in my life I was free of the mandate to go to church. To be honest, I cherished the freedom. I took advantage of it. It felt so glorious to sleep in on Sunday after staying out late on Saturday night. Or even skip just because I could.
I’m not saying a entered a time of wild rebellion because I didn’t. It was more like, laziness. I still tagged along with friends to church probably 50-60% of the time, because it seemed like the right thing to do. But I treasured, and often exercised, the option of not going.
Fast forward to now. Not only do I attend church every Sunday (unless I am out of town or sick), I sincerely look forward to it. That has been the case for most of my adulthood, save those several years in my early 20s I cited above.
Why? There are several reasons, which I will try to outline as briefly as I can.
It’s my second home
As a follower of Jesus Christ, my fellow believers in Christ are my brothers and sisters, if you use the analogy of the church as outlined in the Bible. Just as I am at home with my biological family, I am equally at home with my spiritual family. Being with my church family is as natural as heading to my folks’ house for dinner.
We all need a community of people around us with whom to fellowship and share life. Which includes sharing our burdens and helping to carry the burdens of others. Without it, life is dry and lonely. The church is that community for me. That is not to say that all my friends are at church because that is not the case. But within the church is where I have my most intimate fellowship outside of my husband and biological family.
Proper function of the body
Similar to the first two items, my reference to the proper function of the body means, the body of Christ, as we the church are called in the Bible.
“For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.” – 1 Corinthians 12:12-13
Living the Christian life means being a part of the larger community of Christians, the church. It is the way God designed it, and the way life works best – when I live out my part of the body, whatever that might be, in community with my church family.
Furthermore, I need the body and the body needs me
That sentence sounds weird, codependent and perhaps egotistical.
I’m willing to admit I need and cherish the community the church offers. But more than that, the Scripture tells us that is the case:
“For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. If they were all one member, where would the body be? But now there are many members, but one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.'” – 1 Corinthians 12:14-21
I rely on the spiritual gifts and wisdom that others offer, just as others may rely on that which God has given me to share with my community.
The most important reason of all
I desire to worship God and to learn from His word, preached by those trained in it. Not only do I desire it, I need it. Desperately. Day to day living can be exhausting, demoralizing and can steal joy before I know it.
I make a regular habit of spending time in God’s word and in prayer on my own. That sustains me from day to day, but it is not enough. The parched desert of life in a fallen world takes too much from me.
I’ve found as I continue to walk with God, that being in His presence among my church family, singing songs of praise, serving and fellowshipping with His people and hearing His word proclaimed is what truly restores my soul. It freshens my perspective and charges my batteries, so to speak. I can face the upcoming week with renewed vigor when I start it in His house. It fills my heart with joy, hope, purpose and an eternal perspective.
When life circumstances such as travel for work or sickness keep me away from church, my heart and soul miss the connection with God and my church family. A spiritual dryness begins to creep in. But it all gets washed away when, by the grace of God, I get to once again bask in His presence in worship and hear His word preached.