Philip Yancey starts his book “The Jesus I Never Knew” with the following words, “I first got acquainted with Jesus when I was a child, singing “Jesus Loves Me” in Sunday school. Addressing bedtime prayers to “Dear Lord Jesus,” watching Bible Club teachers move cutout figures across a flannelgraph board. I associated Jesus with Kool-Aid and sugar cookies and gold stars for good attendance.”
To which my response was yes! That was exactly my experience too. His words made emotion well up within me. It brought long forgotten people, images, sights, and sounds back to me with startling clarity. And it made me incredibly grateful that I was raised in a church that brought me to a saving relationship with Christ.
The pastors, teachers, youth group leaders and mentors who invested time, and prayer and energy in me and gave me hugs – so many hugs – over the years made a vital impact on my life. Going forward for the children’s story, singing in the children’s choir, doing lock-ins with the youth group where we slept overnight in the church, and volunteering in the church nursery were all regular occurrences in my childhood and teen years.
These fond memories come from being raised in a small Baptist church in a small Iowa town. That church and those people had a profound and lasting impression on my growing up years and are a vital part of the person I am today.
Church attendance was not optional in the house where I grew up. It was expected and just a regular part of our weekly routine. I am so thankful for parents who modeled regular church attendance, small group Bible study, volunteering and the importance of the fellowship of other believers.
How we spend our Sunday mornings matter. Hebrews 10:25 says, “Do not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Gathering as a body of believers allows us to grow deeper in our faith, use our spiritual gifts, increase our Bible knowledge, build community, give and receive accountability and fellowship with other believers.
We cannot get all that we need from watching television, listening to a podcast or reading a book in the privacy of our own home. All of those things are good but need to be our dessert – not the main course.
Matthew 18:20 tells us, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am among them.” Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” This comes from gathering together in Christian community on a regular and committed basis. Church is about refining each other and having the opportunity to learn, grow, worship, pray, serve, support and encourage one other.
God is calling you to church. Don’t let excuses stand in your way. Find a Bible-teaching church that is a fit for you and for your family and commit to attending weekly. Meet the pastor, plug into the ministries and small groups that are available, strive to become part of the community. Precious Father – Please heal those who have suffered past wounds in a church setting or from other believers. May they feel your love, grace and direction. Thank you for a country that gives us the freedom to gather together as believers to study your Word and worship together. May we protect that right and never take it for granted. Amen.