First off, I'm a little ashamed of the first few statements I am about to make, but in order to get the message that I have for this article across, I have to be completely honest. Today, on this rainy Sunday morning, I didn't want to go to church. I heard the sound of my alarm, I rolled over, picked up my phone, turned off the alarm, and laid in bed for a minute waiting for the exhausted feeling to slowly fade away. Bundled up in my layers of warm blankets, I laid there for a few more minutes staring out my bedroom window, counting how much more time I'd have before I needed to start getting ready until my mind started going in a different direction. The longer I laid there in my bed, the easier it was to convince myself to stay there. The longer I laid there, the easier it was to find ways aka excuses to justify staying home. For example,
"I've been up early two mornings in a row. I'm too tired."
"I never miss worship services. One isn't going too hurt."
"I'll go tonight so it's okay if I just sleep in this morning."
I came up with excuse after excuse after excuse.
But then, another voice inside my heart told me I knew better. Something in my heart told me that I knew better than to continue laying in bed while I'm supposed to be getting ready for worship. So, in record timing I might add, I got myself ready and drove to church. I went to church where the lesson from the pulpit had my eyes watery, knees shaky, and heart pounding. I went to church and heard the most beautiful and honest response to a sermon than I have ever heard that brought more tears to my eyes and tugged at my heart strings. I went to church and was encouraged by the preacher, the members, and the words of my Heavenly Father. I'm a Christian who woke up this morning not wanting to go church. I woke up not wanting to go to church, but went, and I'm so glad I did.
Maybe you're reading this and you've been in that same boat before, but took the opposite route. Maybe you woke up feeling too tired so you chose to sleep in, but sleeping in on Sunday mornings soon became a habit, and now, going to church isn't much of a priority anymore. Maybe you were once a faithful member of a congregation but some sort of conflict arose or the services "bore" you and you no longer attend services. Maybe you're a person who has tried numerous congregations but no matter where you go or how many times you visit, you simply feel that you don't feel that you fit in. Maybe you're just discouraged. Maybe you're a person who simply feels burned by the body of Christ. If you fall under any of the above, here are three thoughts to hammer into your heart and by the end, hopefully, I will have got you thinking.
1. Church isn't meant for entertainment.
I have seen and heard a lot of things from Christians my age about their church experiences. I have had conversations with close friends who have left the Lord's church to attend a place that they felt "fit their personality better", "the music is better," or simply kept them from being bored. People are looking for a church that can be their entertainment center rather than a church that can truly minister to them with the truth of God's word and help them get to Heaven. It doesn't matter if the church they are choosing to attend preaches biblical truth or not, as long as they are comfortable and happy, it's okay. Wrong. Oh my sweet, sweet friends, this is so wrong. When we choose to leave the Lord's church because we are simply "bored with it" we are missing the whole point of why we should be there in the first place. If we read the scriptures where Jesus shares with us God's design for His church and aren't following it or change it to fit our personal designs, it isn't really His church. It becomes ours. When we are apart of His church, it's isn't for entertainment, but for eternal life.
2. Having differences doesn't mean you can't have relationships.
I heard this in a sermon giving by my college minister and it is such a true statement. As humans, we are always going to have people that we disagree with, even with people that we love, and yes, even with people that we go to church with. Just because you have differences with someone in your congregation doesn't mean that you have to let those differences affect your relationships with that individual or the Lord's church as a whole. There may be times when personalities clash or things that you simply disagree on, but you cannot let one or two people keep you from experiencing the body of Christ. We often let the smallest things interfere with our relationships with people and whenever those things and differences occur in our congregations, it often causes division, conflict and even disconnection between church members. When these conflicts arise, instead of letting it keep you from the body of Christ, even though it may be uncomfortable, try discussing it with the other parties involved instead of running away from the church. We all make up the Lord's church and even though we aren't there for a social club, being able to have relationships, love and get along with your brothers and sisters in Christ makes doing the Lord's work a lot more comfortable.
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. Matthew 18:15
3. No matter where you've been or what you've done, you are never too sinful to be loved.
For the discouraged and weary soul who may be considering leaving the Lord's church or haven't given "the whole church thing a shot" because they feel their sin is too great and don't feel good enough, there is absolutely no sin in this world that you could ever commit that could keep you from receiving the forgiveness and love of Christ. His love is so extravagant and so inexplicable that He loved us before we were us. He loved us before we existed. He knew many of us would reject him, hate him, curse him, rebel against him. Yet he chose to love us. God loves us because He is love. God sees our sinful and messy hearts and still wants us. He has never seen a person without sin, a sinner He does not love, or a sinner He cannot save. There is nothing more beautiful than that. There is nothing more beautiful than knowing that no matter how many times we fall into sin or things in life fall apart, Jesus is right there ready to offer forgiveness when we ask for it and still loving us just the same.
"If you struggle with being able to run hard after the Lord because you feel so unworthy, so unclean, so unsteady, listen up: “While you were still weak, at the right time,” God came to your rescue. And still does. And still is.”