As I write this post, months before publication, I’m sitting in my office at church. I arrived around 7:30 a.m. on a Sunday morning as usual to prepare for the service. I looked the building over to make sure all looks well and read through my sermon for a practice run. In a little while one of the media guys will quietly come in to set up the computers, the worship team will start to dribble in for practice, my assistant will show up, and then like that, it will be time for church.
It is one of those days when I am asking myself, not as a pastor but a Christian, “Does one more Sunday matter?” By that I mean this: I’ve been a Christian for the majority of my life. I’ve attended church my entire life. Because of how I value church and believe God deserves my worship, I usually take the family to church even when I go on vacation. But once in awhile I wonder if it would really hurt me to miss one week?
Now because I’m the pastor, I can’t really just “not show up for a day.” It would be awkward to say the least. It doesn’t mean that I don’t ever have those feelings though. “It was a long week, I really need rest. I can go to church next week. I know God, salvation, and sin. Is this really going to impact my life this week?” The feeling of, “Well someone else can ______ at church, and I won’t be missed.”
I think a lot of people have these feelings (often). I assume this for two reasons. First, people tell me they feel this way sometimes. Second, there are people who come often, but seem to miss every couple weeks. Here are some thoughts on why this Sunday matters.
First, you don’t know what is being taught this Sunday. Now you might say, “I know that the pastor is teaching through this section of the Bible. I know this week he is talking bout x and I don’t struggle with x.” This may be the case, but let’s realize that everything is not that simple in life. Also, there is a good chance that something in the message will be brought up that will affect you in a practical manner or in how you think. You may have been reminded of the grace, mercy, peace, love or forgiveness of Jesus which you needed to hear this past week.
Second, church is foremost about God and not you. While there often are practical ideas taught in the sermon, what would you miss about understanding God better this week? With how He has been faithful to you, does He not deserve your faithfulness this week? He only asks for a small amount of time each week. Most of your time He has given you to use for yourself and your direct benefit, although to His glory. Can we not set time aside this week to show our gratitude for our salvation and work in our lives?
Third, we come to minister to others, not just to receive. Ephesians 5:19 says we come to church to sing to each other. This seems like a weird concept. Don’t we come to sing to God to praise His name and thank Him? We do, but we also come to sing so others can hear about how our great God. There are weeks when people are coming through the door who have horrible things going on in their lives and are unable to communicate that God is great because they are struggling with the truth of that. It is the job of the church to encourage others through song with the greatness of God. People can be encouraged by your voice, not because of the talent of it, but of the truth you are singing about.
Along with singing to others, is ministering to others. By this I mean that if you have been attending church for any length of time there are probably people you specifically have a relationship with. Often we wrongly think that it’s the pastor’s job to minister to others. You can read about that in the past blog “Every Christian a Pastor or Priest.” First, the pastor is human too, so he can only get to so many people or follow what’s happening in so many people’s lives. There might have been someone at church that day that needed a word of encouragement from Scripture, or just needed to feel like someone cared about them. You might just be that one person who could have fulfilled that roll that day.
You wouldn’t believe how many people don’t see their value at church. They say, well, I’m not helping in the nursery today, singing with the worship team, or speaking, so am I really ministering to someone else? From a pastoral perspective, you have no idea who you have ministered to. There are times where people who think “they are just attending” end up ministering to someone, and don’t even know they are doing it. Sometimes they are able to encourage others directly, but often encouragement can just be through meer friendship, a handshake, a hug, and asking about someone’s week. Even the least seasoned Christian can bring that to the table on Sunday morning.
Lastly, let me speak to something called the scale of values. The scale of values is a philosophical term which pretty much means, you do that which you value. There are times when Jesus got away to rest, although He often was worshipping on these retreats. That being said, often when we miss church we are placing other things above worshipping God. We have picked sports, sleep, food, a party the night before, or other things before God.
Every once in a while our “ox is in the ditch”, which is a simple Old Testament saying which means there was something that was an emergency that had to be done during the time of worship. However, these times should be rare, and actual emergencies. Often, when we miss it has to do with a lack of planning or some laziness on our part.
I hope you will take this not as a lecture but an encouragement. Not a lecture as in the many reasons you have missed church, but an encouragement of the many reasons you now have to make sure you don’t miss church this Sunday. May we take this time to give God His due praise and encourage one another in the forgiveness that He offers.