It's 7:30 AM on a Sunday. My alarm blares, and I open my eyes begrudgingly. It was another rough night of handling overnight baby wake-ups and dodging the acrobatic kicks of a toddler that often finds his way into my bed at 3 AM. I am tired.
Becoming cognizant of reality, I jolt up in bed. We must leave in one hour if we are to be on time for church. I groan. Feeding, clothing, and wrangling four kids out the door in under an hour feels all but impossible.
I begin to reason with myself.
Don't the kids need a slow day to recover before another busy week? Won't I just end up holding a fussy baby in the lobby and missing the service anyway? What's the harm in tuning into church from home today?
If I'm honest, this internal debate over church attendance happens most weeks. And over my three decades in the church, it's taken many forms.
Sometimes it's gone like this: I don't know that I want to be face to face with God this morning. I'm not ready to change in the areas He is convicting me.
Other times like this: I can't bear to see the person that hurt me so deeply on the platform proclaiming the goodness of God.
Or this: I seem to be doing fine on my own. Church isn't necessary for the growth of my faith.
Or even this: I don't fit in at church. I hate the way I feel alone there.
By the grace of God, through all of these seasons and struggles, I have more often than not found myself entering the doors of the church on Sunday mornings. And I do mean that it's by the grace of God. Left to my own devices I can think of a handful of times when I would have walked away and never looked back. But the Holy Spirit's leading and the truth I have found in Scripture kept me faithfully attending.
Church is hard. And church is holy.
Please, don't read what I'm not saying. There are certainly some exceptions to this. You may live in a part of the world where there is no church body you can join. You may live in an area where in-person worship is difficult because of Covid. You may be searching for a church to join. If you cannot currently gather with your church body for any reason, know that I am not here to condemn you but to encourage you to keep seeking a community with other believers in any way you can.
Furthermore, church is not just about Sunday mornings. It is about texted prayer requests at late night, meals provided in times of need, and online connections to worship and teaching when in-person meetings are not an option. Church looks different in different seasons for us all.
But, also do hear what I am saying, to thrive as a Christian, you need the Church, and the Church needs you. Scripture tells us this truth over and over, but one of my favorite places is in 1 Corinthians 12:12-31. In this passage, the Church is described as the body of Christ. Christ is the head, and each member is a piece that makes up the body as a whole.
As a Christian, your most important connection to the Church is to be connected to the head. God is the One who leads and sustains the Church. But you are also made to be connected to other members of the Church. If you are in Christ, you are a part of the body that makes the Church function. And God is meant to be glorified through you living out your purpose in connection to the rest of the Church body.
Christianity was designed to be interdependent. But, sometimes, being a part of the body is easier said than done. As we said, church is holy, but it is also hard. In the same passage listed above, 1 Corinthians 12:12-31, are two verses that describe how we should think about our connection to other members of the church. Verses 20-21 say, "As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, 'I don't need you!' Or again, the head can't say to the feet, 'I don't need you!'" Simply put, we cannot deny that we need one another. Our job is to seek out ways in which we can contribute and connect with other believers. It won't go perfectly every single time, but Scripture says we need each other, and therefore, we should seek connection with one another.
Scripture also says that believers are not to neglect meeting together in Hebrews 10:24-25. What does it mean to neglect meeting together? Does it mean you can never, ever miss a Sunday? Not quite. It means we should not abandon or leave behind a commitment to church attendance in pursuit of other things, like a little extra rest and relaxation or the pursuit of hobbies and passions. Certainly, there is nothing wrong with rest, relaxation, and meaningful hobbies. But to abandon church for these pursuits is not what is best for your spiritual health and growth.
Being part of the Church body is a piece of God's plan to equip, encourage, and uplift us in the faith. And after three decades of church attendance, I can wholeheartedly say this has been my experience. Even when it has felt like a duty, I have found delight. Even when it had been hard, it has also been holy.
Think about your connection to your local church body or the global Church. Are there ways in which you have been neglecting to come together with other Christians? Have you said with your words to actions, "I don't need you!" to another member of the body of Christ? What might happen if you brought these actions in line with Scripture?
For more on being part of the body of Christ, click here to check out our podcast episode, "Is Church Really Worth It?"