My schedule on Sunday mornings have not changed much at all over the last 40 years of my life.
Besides the number of people I am helping get ready for church, everything has stayed the same.
It’s no secret what my view on church attendance is, and the reason behind our priorities.
This past Sunday, I joined other members of my church and spent time talking about our persecuted brothers and sisters all over the world.
We heard statistics like these: There are no churches in Afghanistan. There are 400,000 Christians in North Korea. Over 75% of the world’s population lives in areas with severe religious restrictions. Each month, 332 Christians are killed for their faith.
Then there’s us.
Americans. And I am speaking to Christian Americans, specifically.
We are lazy.
We are selfish.
We are luke warm.
While families in Afghanistan would give anything to attend just ONE church service as a family?
We are attending church at our leisure. At our convenience. Whenever it works for us.
While Christians in Korea are being tortured and thrown in prison simply for professing faith in Christ?
We have few friends who even know what “Christianity” is, based on watching our lives.
I have been doing some studying on the tactics of our enemy.
The thing that our enemy likes to do, is to throw in some truth with some lies.
It looks a little something like this:
**Family is important! We need to keep our family close and keep our togetherness a priority!! (True)
**Being together as a family at a soccer game or at the beach is just as good as being together at church (Not true)
**Physical exercise is important! I need to care about how my body looks so I am able to give at work, and to my family the way I need to! (True)
**I can skip church, Bible reading and serving others because I can not miss the gym. (Not true)
As I heard the statistics on the persecution going on all around the world, I could not help but feel ashamed.
I felt almost guilty for the fact that I have several Bibles in my house, can go to church whenever I want, lead Bible studies and pray without anyone arresting me or punishing me for it.
I don’t know if I appreciate that freedom enough.
I don’t know if my attitude shows the gratitude I feel for this privilege.
And I can’t help but think about how God feels…
That his children are choosing sports over church, instagram scrolling over prayer time, book reading over Bible reading.
It’s time we wake up.
It’s time we wake up and see what we are missing out on.
We are filling the bleachers and leaving the pews empty.
Yet we are still expecting God to move. Expecting God to bless us. Expecting God to overlook it.
We have it backwards, don’t you think?
My God requires obedience, and there is a consequence when I choose to not obey.
My God gave me gifts specifically so I could serve the body with them, and when I don’t put myself in the position to serve in this way, I am basically telling God I could not care less about the gifts he gave me.
If I am not choosing church today when there is nothing stopping me from going?
Would I choose it when the law prohibits me from going?
If I am not choosing to lead others in the studying of God’s Word when there is no law saying I can’t?
Would I choose to do it when I could be arrested for doing so?
Our commitments are all in the wrong places.
We feel they are right when they sound good…like family, health, personal study.
But those things should not take the place of church.
Some see church as a place to invite others to hear about God.
I don’t necessarily disagree with that. It is obviously a place where people can hear about who God is and what He has done for them.
But I see church more of like a family meeting.
Those of us who have been adopted into God’s family come together and encourage each other, pump each other up, push each other to go into the week in a way that would bring glory to our heavenly Dad.
When our brothers and sisters aren’t showing up to the family meeting because they are at a sporting event, at the beach, or sleeping in, it is fine.
It’s just that they miss out on what is going on.
They miss out on what’s going on with the family.
They miss out on all the details, all the encouragement and all the connections.
And it’s everyone’s loss.
Not only are they missing out, but we are missing out on their encouragement and serving too.
And when the church attendance is sporadic, you can expect our friendships, our connections, our lives to show it.
We will not have the closeness the Father wants us to have when we are choosing to not put the time into those family connections.
And I wonder if it grieves Him.
I think about how I would feel if I wanted a family gathering and AJ decided to go hang out with a friend instead of coming to what I had planned.
I think it would break my heart.
My challenge to my brothers and sisters is this.
Stop for a minute.
Think about your priorities.
Think about what God has given you, how he has blessed you and what he requires of you.
And then think if you would be better off filling the bleachers or filling the pews.
If you would be better off filling the gym or filling the church.
If you would be better off filling the beach or filling the sanctuary.
Take advantage of the freedoms we have in America today.
I have a feeling that it won’t be long before we lose a lot of those freedoms, and our decision to going to the family meeting will be a lot harder than it is today.
Let’s work together as a family.
You need me.
I need you.
Let’s get our priorities right and do this together.
Less focus on us, more focus on HIM.