Wednesday, 14 October 2015

'All we want is a service on a Sunday!'

One of the saddest things I encounter are the words above given voice by one or more members of a church's congregation. The suspicion made flesh causes the heart to miss a beat and the energy  to become dissipated and drained away through the hole the words have punched.

The reality is that, for some, all they require from their church is a Sunday morning service and that, having ticked the boxes, is the sum total of it all. And why not? After all there's loads on the TV and who would want to be in a church building when you can watch the many tempting offerings before us?

When I first became a Christian I couldn't keep out of the church building; I longed for the company of other Christians as discussions of the challenging bits the Bible and our praying together. As I grew up I found myself married and slowly and surely along came our children. We'd go to church as a family in the morning and then, leaving Wendy to look after the kids, would go back in the evening to get more of the same. Sometimes we'd switch and Wendy would go to the evening service and I'd stay at home - but the reality was that the Sunday evening slot was something special. The same was true of the various groups we belonged to during the day for Wendy and in the evening for me.

Now I'm not saying this to display my Pharisee-like observance of doing church but making the point that from the earliest days church was an opportunity to meet with other believers and sing God's praise, to hear His word and to continue my love affair with Him and those who shared my passion. My parents used to complain that I was never home for when I wasn't in church I was playing sport or woking shifts as an engineer.

'Times have changed,' people tell me when this topic arises, 'We have family and other things which crowd in and demand our attention,' and yet it was ever so and yet evening services were still being well supported!

The Christian faith is about so much more than 'just going to church'; it is about being so taken up with the love of God that you cannot wait to be with other believers and get excited about God in their company (you do get excited about God don't you?) and sing songs which put your feelings into words and excite you still further and hear words from the Big Black Book which excite you and challenge you and  . . .   Sorry, you seemed to have nodded off then!

There are many who tell me (by words or attendance patterns) that church is something that happens when there are no other distractions or demands: Church is, it seems, something we have to do rather than something we want to do!

So here is a challenge for you (and me - even though I know people tell me it's different for me because, 'I have to be in church,').

Step back for a moment and ask yourself what your church attendance looks like: Regular and frequent or hit and miss? Sitting in a pew or sat in front of the TV?

Now ask yourself when you last opened your Bible and read it; or took the sheets with the readings home and read that? Can you even find your Bible (last time I asked someone that it was under the coffee table stopping it rocking - honest!)?

When did you last spend time talking to God? What was your last prayer over (sorry, praying the person in front would get out of the way doesn't count!)?

Church attendance is a habit many of us has lost and as we allow our faith life to slow we begin a process which sees it eventually come to a halt. Just like some places and their evening services perhaps?

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