By Curtis Shelburne: Religion columnist
Going to church.
Let’s be honest. It’s easy for us to think of it as more of a duty than a privilege. We forget that the God who gave his own Son out of his deep love for us richly deserves committed lives and worship. And lives without worship with the Body don’t remain very committed for very long.
We don’t think enough about how vital it is to the strength of our church family that we be a visible, worshiping, faithful part of it that can be counted on. We don’t realize how very encouraging just our presence at worship is to others.
In American Christianity, pathetically weak Christianity compared to that of the oft-suffering church around the globe, we tend to be lackadaisical about church attendance. All it takes to throw our train off the tracks is a “gnat’s eyelash on the rail,” and we stay home. In our comfortable stupor, we’ve allowed the consumer approach to life to become our approach to faith — or, at least, to “religion” which often has little to do with real faith.
I know. We should always be glad when Christ is genuinely worshiped. I know. Good churches (and bad ones) come in all sizes. But the particular temptation of the modern “mega-church” model is to further feed the self-centered blindness that worships size, glorifies glitz, and creates kingdoms with more in common with the Magic Kingdom than with God’s. Just as our society has sacrificed “Mom & Pop” stores with hearts to Wal-Mart super stores with lots of stuff and no hearts, plastic “mega-size” machine-made piety-marts offering cut-rate Christianity — no commitment required but all our consumer needs “met” — effectively trample and trivialize churches where Christianity has a face and a name and our commitment matters. It’s a poor trade. But if we make it, well, go to worship or not. No one will much notice or truly care. Worshipers are a dime a dozen at Piety-Mart. Real commitment to the church, or to the Lord of the church who gives us our reason to worship, is optional.
It’s probably good to know that God is not counting the services we attend and we’re not earning salvation or even “brownie points” by attending.
But it’s also good to be honest. If we miss more than we go, that will affect the quality of our faith, and our absence is hurtful and deeply discouraging. And we shouldn’t kid ourselves: our kids and grandkids receive clearly the message we don’t mean to send: worship with the Body of Christ isn’t very important. Take it or leave it.
Would attitudes toward worship be different if we lived in a place where meeting to worship could actually cost us imprisonment, torture, or death? Or if we found ourselves in a health situation where our ability to go to worship was really cut back? Would being at worship become something precious to us?
May our attitude be that of the Psalmist: My soul yearns for the courts of the Lord! My heart cries out for the living God!
He’s worthy of our worship!