Ryan, my eleven-year-old, got off a classic line the other day. He was one with his bed, lying there watching his television. His mother had just finished her nightly chore of preparing his supper. 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 response, 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. It’s all laid out there for you. It’s been carefully chosen and prepared to quench your spiritual hunger. But it won’t magically make its way to where you are and jump in your mouth. You have to put forth some effort.
Oh, I know all about the television ministries that some churches have. You can sit right there on your couch and be fed. But there’s really nothing like the “meal” you get by attending your local congregation. You know those people in a way you can never know that television congregation. That t.v. pastor won’t be the one to visit you when you are admitted to the hospital. He won’t be the one to baptize your child or grandchild. He won’t be the one to preach the funeral of your family member. That’s local church stuff.
Some years back, 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, tumbled a couple of times, and began to cry. When the other eight heard the crying, they slowed down to see what had happened. Upon seeing the boy, they all turned around and went back. One girl with Down’s Syndrome bent down, kissed the boy, and said, “This will make it better.” Then, with arms linked tightly together, all nine 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 a television broadcast.
I 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 each other. My point is simply that when church is right (and it’s right more times than we admit) 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. 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 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, I ask you, how is your church attendance? Are you someone who can be counted on to be there? Or are you the type that only shows up when every last star comes into alignment? It’s been said that church-attendees are like cars: They start missing before they quit. You haven’t been sputtering, have you? If you have, consider this little post God’s means of getting you back in tune and running smoothly. Go get your “meal.” It won’t come to you.