“3 REASONS YOU SHOULD SEE GOING TO CHURCH AS A PRIVILEGE, NOT A CHORE”

Here is another reason why I love reading Trevin Wax:

https://blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/trevinwax/2016/04/27/3-reasons-going-to-church-is-a-privilege-not-a-chore/

“A sparse sanctuary can discourage a pastor.

Surveys show that, in the past twenty years, the definition of a “faithfully attending church member” has fallen from three times a week to three times a month, resulting in sparser attendance in many evangelical churches, even if membership has climbed or plateaued.

Loving God, Loving His People

Church attendance came up in discussion with my small group recently, in a study on Joshua’s statement about his family choosing to “serve the Lord.” We asked the question: How do you cultivate in your family a love for God and a desire to gather with His people?

Some of the group members said you must do more than simply talk about the importance of gathering with God’s people; you’ve got to demonstrate that importance by the commitment and consistency you maintain as a family. Others mentioned how “forcing” your family to go to church, if it is done solely as a duty or as an obligation, can backfire and lead to resentment from your kids.

Writing at Christianity Today, Michelle Van Loon warns against using church attendance as a scorecard of faithfulness:

“When I hear a pastor talking about how true commitment and godly character requires being at church every week, I imagine him tapping his foot impatiently while holding a scorecard in one hand and a red Sharpie in the other.”

But while Michelle is right to say that “perfect attendance is not a reliable metric of one’s fidelity to Jesus,” gathering with God’s people is one of the primary ways we are reminded of Jesus’ fidelity to us.

That’s why we need to turn this conversation around. If you think of attending a worship service as merely a duty or an obligation that you are bound to fulfill, then you are speaking of worship as if it were a chore. Regular church attendance may feel like that at times, just as a daily “work out” sometimes does. But we’re off base if we regularly conceive of our weekly efforts to “meet together” and to “stir one another to love and good works” as merely an obligation.

Having To, Getting To

One of the dads in my small group said that he corrects his kids if they ever ask about having to go to church on a weekend. “We never have to,” he says, “we get to go.” I like that. He’s policing the language of the house because he knows that the way he talks about church will send a signal to the rest of the family about how to view Sundays – as chore or as privilege.

Here are three ways we should see gathering with God’s people as privilege:

1. Culturally

In some places, church attendance is regulated by the government. Unless you are registered, you cannot legally meet. Or you must meet in small numbers. Or you can meet, but are constantly afraid of what might happen. The news of church bombings across the world, often during worship services, is a frightening reminder of the high cost of meeting with other believers.

We have the privilege of living in a society where we are free to get to go to church. It is hard to imagine persecuted believers whose baptismal services are secret, dangerous affairs ever saying they have to go to church. Listen to the global church, and be renewed in your gratitude for the privilege of freely worshipping with believers.

2. Theologically

In some religions, adherents must fulfill elaborate rituals and sacrifices before gaining access to a holy space or the ability to appease the gods. Christianity, however, teaches that we have direct access to God because of the final, perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ on our behalf. The gateway to God has been opened by Jesus, the Door.

Whenever we conceive of our praying and singing and listening to God’s Word as merely a duty or obligation, we forget that we are responding to a precious invitation. We have the privilege of speaking to and hearing from the King of the Universe. Do we have to meet with God Himself? Or do we get to address “our Father”?

3. Corporately

One of the reasons I love meeting with other believers is because I feel like I have a front-row seat at what God is doing in the lives of people around me. Over time, I see how God’s Word slowly transforms us into His image. I see how God brings people from different backgrounds and interests, different ethnicities and generations, and unifies them by the gospel without obliterating their differences, thus shining a spotlight on the goodness and grace of God from gloriously different angles.

We are not lonely pilgrims on individual journeys to glory; we are a community of faith, marching forward as exiles in this world, beloved by God and beloved by each other. It is a privilege to be part of each other’s lives, to cheer one another on in the faith, to chasten and chide with holy reverence when needed, and to love one another as Christ has loved us.

Conclusion

We do not go to church because of guilt. We are the church because of grace.

As Jonathan Leeman writes, we “gather to hear the Lord’s words, to affirm [our] accountability to it, and to extend its ministry in one another’s lives.” What an honor! Do we have to extend the ministry of God’s Word in the lives of others? Or do we get to see and show Jesus in the lives of our fellow church members?

Church attendance is not a chore. It’s a gift. Therefore, it should elicit gratitude, not griping.”

“Dear Church, Meet With Me,” – Jesus.

Kevin DeYoung is a pastor and author of whom I appreciate on various levels. Here is one of his most recent posts to his own church family. I too plead the same sentiment. He calls it, “The Scandal of the Semi-Churched.After I read this it seemed as if I could hear our Shepherd say, “Dear Church, Meet with me.”

“This is one of those posts I’ve wanted to write for awhile, but I wasn’t sure how to say what I think needs to be said. The danger of legalism and false guilt is very real. But so is the danger of disobedience and self-deception.

I want to talk about church members who attend their home church with great irregularity. These aren’t unchurched folks, or de-churched, or under-churched. They are semi-churched. They show up some of the time, but not every week. They are on again/off again, in and out, here on Sunday and gone for two. That’s the scandal of the semi-churched. In fact, Thom Rainer argues that the number one reason for the decline in church attendance is that church members don’t go to church as often as they used to.

We’ve had Christmas and Easter Christians for probably as long as we’ve had Christmas and Easter. Some people will always be intermittent with their church attendance. I’m not talking about nominal Christians who wander into church once or twice a year. I’m talking about people who went through the trouble of joining a church, like their church, have no particular beef with the church, and still only darken its doors once or twice a month. If there are churches with membership rolls much larger than their average Sunday attendance, they have either under-shepherds derelict in their duties, members faithless in theirs, or both.

I know we are the church and don’t go to church (blah, blah, blah), but being persnickety about our language doesn’t change the exhortation of Hebrews 10:25. We should not neglect to meet together, as some are in the habit of doing. Gathering every Lord’s Day with our church family is one of the pillars of mature Christianity.

So ask yourself a few questions.

1. Have you established church going as an inviolable habit in your family?You know how you wake up in the morning and think “maybe I’ll go on a run today” or “maybe I’ll make french toast this morning”? That’s not what church attendance should be like. It shouldn’t be an “if the mood feels right” proposition. I will always be thankful that my parents treated church attendance (morning and evening) as an immovable pattern. It wasn’t up for discussion. It wasn’t based on extenuating circumstances. It was never a maybe. We went to church. That’s what we did. That made the decision every Sunday a simple one, because their was no real decision. Except for desperate illness, we were going to show up. Giving your family the same kind of habit is a gift they won’t appreciate now, but will usually thank you for later.

2. Do you plan ahead on Saturday so you can make church a priority on Sunday? We are all busy people, so it can be hard to get to church, especially with a house full of kids. We will never make the most of our Sundays unless we prepare for them on Saturday. That likely means finishing homework, getting to bed on time, and foregoing some football. If church is an afterthought, you won’t think of it until after it’s too late.

3. Do you order your travel plans so as to minimize being gone from your church on Sunday? I don’t want to be legalistic with this question. I’ve traveled on Sunday before (though I try to avoid it). I take vacation and study leave and miss 8 or 9 Sundays at URC per year. I understand we live in a mobile culture. I understand people want to visit their kids and grandkids on the weekend (and boy am I thankful when ours come and visit). Gone are the days when people would be in town 50-52 weeks a year. Travel is too easy. Our families are too dispersed. But listen, this doesn’t mean we can’t make a real effort to be around on Sunday. You might want to take Friday off to go visit the kids so you can be back on Saturday night. You might want to think twice about investing in a second home that will draw you away from your church a dozen weekends every year. You might want to re-evaluate your assumption that Friday evening through Sunday evening are yours to do whatever you want wherever you want. It’s almost impossible to grow in love for your church and minister effectively in your church if you are regularly not there.

4. Are you willing to make sacrifices to gather with God’s people for worship every Sunday? “But you don’t expect me to cancel my plans for Saturday night, do you? I can’t possibly rearrange my work schedule. This job requires me to work every Sunday–I’d have to get a new job if I wanted to be regular at church. Sundays are my day to rewind. I won’t get all the yard work done if I go to church every week. My kids won’t be able to play soccer if we don’t go to Sunday games. If my homework is going to be done by Sunday, I won’t be able to chill out Friday night and all day Saturday. Surely God wouldn’t want me to sacrifice too much just so I can show up at church!” Not exactly the way of the cross, is it?

5. Have you considered that you may not be a Christian? Who knows how many people God saves “as through fire” (1 Cor. 3:15). Does going to church every week make you a Christian? Absolutely not. Does missing church 35 Sundays a year make you a non-Christian? It does beg the question. God’s people love to be with God’s people. They love to sing praises. They love to feast at the Table. They love to be fed from the Scriptures. Infrequent church attendance–I mean not going anywhere at all–is a sign of immaturity at best and unbelief at worst. For whenever God calls people out of darkness he calls them into the church. If the Sunday worship service is the community of the redeemed, what does your weekly pattern suggest to God about where you truly belong?