My oldest son Ryan, who was eleven years old at the time, got off a classic line one day. He was lying on his bed watching television, and his mother had just finished her nightly chore of preparing his supper. But when she told him that supper was ready, he didn’t respond. Finally, after a few minutes, she ratcheted up the tone to a vintage motherly level and said, “Ryan, get in there and get your food!” In startled response to that, he said with genuine surprise, “Oh, I thought it was going to come to me.”
As a pastor, I can’t help but relate that line to church attendance. Christian, the spiritual food doesn’t come to you; you have to actually go to church and get it. Sure, it’s all laid out there for you, and it has been carefully chosen and prepared to quench your spiritual hunger. That doesn’t mean, though, that it will magically make its way to where you are and jump into your mouth. No, you have to put forth some effort.
Of course, I know all about the television ministries, You Tube ministries, and Facebook Live ministries most churches now have. Those ministries allow you to sit right there wherever you are and be fed. But the fact is, there is just nothing like experiencing the complete “meal” you get by attending your local congregation. Furthermore, those ministries were never meant to take the place of you literally attending your local church. Unfortunately, during the months when most churches offered online services only during the Covid-19 pandemic, far too many Christians got far too comfortable staying at home for church rather than going to church. And churches are still dealing with the hangover effect from that even after they’ve been open again for quite a while. That’s a shame.
Some years ago, at the Seattle Special Olympics, nine special athletes lined up at the starting line for the 100-yard dash. When the starting pistol sounded, eight of them took off down the track. One boy, however, stumbled out of the blocks, rolled a couple of times, and began to cry. That’s when something truly wonderful happened. When the other eight heard the boy crying, they slowed down to see what had happened and, upon seeing him lying there on the track, all turned around and went back to help him. One girl with Down’s Syndrome bent down, kissed him, and said, “This will make it better.” Then, with their arms linked tightly together, all nine athletes walked down the track and crossed the finish line together. That’s a beautiful picture of what church can be like. Brothers and sisters in Christ can help each other in life’s race by encouraging and supporting one another. Try getting that from television, You Tube, or Facebook.
Now, I do realize that I’m painting a very idyllic view of churches. I’m a pastor, remember? It’s not like I haven’t seen my share of church members behaving badly toward one other. Nevertheless, when church is right, there’s no place like it on earth. It’s a place for learning. It’s a place for growing. It’s a place for fellowshipping. It’s a place for sharing. It’s a place for giving. It’s a place for worshiping. In light of all this, why wouldn’t you want to be there?
And, believe me, I’ve heard just about all the excuses for not going to church. Again, I’m a pastor, remember? But so very many of those excuses just don’t hold any weight with the Lord. In his book, The Miracles of Our Lord, Charles Ryrie offers a good word about such excuses. He does it in the context of his comments concerning Christ’s attendance of synagogue. He writes:
If our Lord had wanted to use reasons, such as those often heard today, for not attending public worship He could have found many. Certainly He got very little out of the message, for after all He was the fulfillment of every Scripture read or explained in the service. Surely He knew more about God and spiritual things than anyone present, including the leaders in the synagogue. Too, He knew that the organization He was supporting would soon be replaced by the church. But still He went regularly. Christian liberty, properly understood, does not free one from regular responsibilities, including attending worship services (see Heb. 10:25).
So, Christian, I ask you, “How is your church attendance these days?” It’s been said that church-attendees are like cars in that they start missing before they quit. Well, you haven’t been sputtering, have you? If you have, then consider this post God’s wakeup call for you to get back in tune. Alluding again to my opening illustration, you need to realize that the food won’t come to you, and you need to go get in on that fulfilling meal that is awaiting you down at your local church.