And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching. – Hebrews 10: 24, 25
The video made me smile. It also brought tears to my eyes.
A group of Ukrainian Christians were gathered to worship. They weren’t in a church. For all I know, their church may have been bombed into oblivion. These people were gathered in a subway station, bundled in coats, hats, scarves, and gloves, trying to stave off the cold.
And they were singing. Their faces revealed recent trauma, but their voices praised the Lord anyway. Though the subway was grey and damp looking, there was something exquisitely beautiful about the scene.
As the songs reverberated through the underground, it struck me how their devotion contrasted with the attitude of so many “Christians” today.
How many believers on a Sunday morning opt to “skip it this week,” for whatever reason? Maybe we’re tired from being out too late Saturday night. Maybe there’s another activity we feel obligated to do, “just this once,” that precludes church.
Maybe a spouse doesn’t go to church, and frankly, we’re tired of going alone. Maybe we’re thinking we work hard Monday through Friday. Saturdays we coach the kids’ soccer team and do all the yard work, grocery shopping, and laundry for the week. We deserve a morning just to sleep in and relax before the whole rat race starts up again.
Maybe we don’t want to admit that church just isn’t that much of a priority.
When I was in high school some of my peers identified as “C and E Christians,” meaning they only went to church on Christmas and Easter. They seemed to find it funny.
I know people these days that I would call “W and F Christians,” meaning they don’t even go to church on Christmas and Easter. (Why waste an hour on a holiday sitting through a church service?) These people come to church only for weddings and funerals.
One of my friends, a refugee from Iran, asked me if I knew a certain woman. She was thinking I probably did, since that woman was a Christian. I laughed and told her there were a LOT of Christians in America.
She replied, “But most of them don’t act like they really believe it.”
Is that it? Do most Westerners not really believe what they say they believe?
Five days ago, we celebrated the fact that the Creator of the universe loved us so much He sacrificed His Son to pay for our sins – and then rose from the dead! The Resurrection was the miracle that “sealed the deal,” so to speak. Because Jesus loves, we can live forever with Him! For the believer, death is not the end!
Do we not believe that, or do we not care? Will we only care when we or a loved one is facing death and it’s obvious that this is the ultimate destiny for each of us? Are we that good at avoiding truths that might inconvenience us or distract us from …
… what? Which of our earthly activities is more important than knowing where we will spend eternity?
I’ve certainly had mornings when I didn’t feel like going to church, but for the sake of the kids, my conscience – whatever reason – I forced myself to go. (I’d like to say because of my undying devotion to God, but that probably wasn’t always the case.)
However, on those days when I made myself go to church, I ended up glad I had. When my heart (not my feelings, but my will) was open to what God had for me that day, it came – a song that was particularly uplifting, an encounter with someone, or a report of an answered prayer we could all cheer about.
Sometimes I’d be searching desperately for an answer, and the Scripture that day nailed it!
Other times I encountered conviction, a wake-up call, or a rebuke. Someone was there that I needed to forgive. Or apologize to. Or pray with. Then the weight I hadn’t even recognized was lifted.
Still other times I’ve been in a unique position to minister to someone struggling with something I’ve experienced myself. I had come in asking God (consciously or not), What do You have for me this morning? and the answer was, Nothing. I want to use you today. And somehow, knowing God had used me felt better than being personally blessed.
Sometimes as I was leaving, I was thinking, – Wow, I almost missed that!
For most of the world’s Christians, gathering for worship is not taken for granted. Persecuted believers who escape to the West are incredulous at the casual attitude so many of us have toward what they have longed to do and have risked everything for.
Last night I heard comedian John Crist reading off some Google reviews – yes, GOOGLE reviews – of churches. The reasons for one-star reviews included things like the way the worship leader was dressed or the style of preaching. Crist imagined out loud these believers meeting some first century Christians in heaven:
“We were gathered in a house, worshiping, and the Roman soldiers broke in, arrested us all, and dragged us off to prison! Tell us more about those pews that weren’t properly cushioned…?”
Somehow, gathering as the Body of Christ is more precious to those for whom the risks are greater. Next time you’re indecisive about going to church, ask yourself, how would you feel if you were suddenly forbidden to go? If the penalty for going was being fired from your job, imprisoned, or executed?
Maybe we need some persecution to bring us to our senses.
Or maybe we should ask ourselves, Do I really believe? – Am I really saved? If you’re not sure what “being saved” even means, check out my posts on the road to true happiness. They explain what the Gospel (“Good News”) is.
Prayer: Father, please clear the clutter from our minds so we may see Your glory. Fill us with wonder at Your love, that You gave Your Son to die for us. May we respond with joy, giving You first place in our lives, Sunday and always. In Jesus’ name, amen.