Church: The Best Place on Earth
Sunday morning as a child was something to be dreaded. It meant waking up relatively early on a weekend, putting on nice clothes and then being dragged off to church for the most boring part of my weekend. First, we’d endure a liturgical service full of recitation of various responses, prayers, and creeds, then sit through the droning of the pastor and don’t forget singing the handful of dusty old hymns that outdated my grandparents. Once church was over, we had Sunday school which was a little better because sometimes candy was involved. Finally, there was the torturous waiting around while our parents finished talking to friends.
If you’d asked my younger self what I thought of church, I’d probably say it was, “good.” However, I didn’t really appreciate it. It was a ritual I went through on Sundays that was, more often than not, a tedious and draining affair.
Looking at the US’s statistics over the last 100 years, it would seem that we’ve developed into a post-church society. In the polls, we still claim our cultural Christian background, but fewer than 20 percent of Americans regularly attend church.
Why is that? Why would anyone who is a Christian fail to see the church as an integral part of their faith? Well, this is one area that I think I have some insight into.
I would argue that the one problem in why we don’t go to church (Sunday, life group, men’s and women’s groups, just fill in the blank) is because we are doing it wrong. Yes, that’s right – there is a wrong way to do church but I would follow that up by saying that it’s mainly to do with our heart and less to do with everyone else.
I never had any interest in watching NASCAR, but it seems to get its fair share of criticism. People say it is boring, easy, and it’s just people driving in a circle. I probably would have shared this sentiment until I got to try out a NASCAR simulator. I discovered that the sport is way more involved than what I first saw on the surface. The cars are engineered down to the most minute details. It’s a sport where if you drive just the slightest bit too cautiously and you will lose by a wide margin and if you drive just the slightest bit too aggressively, you can die or be seriously injured. It requires the entirety of the driver’s focus, a ton of knowledge, and a whole lot of skill to do it well.
I wouldn’t say that I now watch and enjoy NASCAR, but I would say that I gained a lot of respect for it and can appreciate its merits as a sport. What changed my mind was getting to be involved and actively participating.
The same might be said of football. A good portion of those that watch the Super Bowl each year are folks who are mainly interested in the commercials and social aspect of going to a party to eat food and hang out with friends – they don’t care much who wins or loses. The same comparison might be made to CEO Christians (Christmas and Easter Only Christians). It’s the big event of the year, so you might as well go.
We fail to “do” church right when we make it about us. We make it about us when we fail to understand what our faith is all about. When we fail to understand our faith, we fail to display an awe-full attitude that attracts others to church and saving faith in Christ. An awe-less person at church is concerned with how they will benefit from it.
How do we remedy this? How do we bring back to the awe, the wonder, the joy of attending church? Well, first we have to understand what it is about. You’ve probably heard the phrase, “the church isn’t a building, it’s the people.” I agree wholeheartedly but would argue that we’re more than just people. We are a race – a chosen people. 1 Peter 2:9 says, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”
The Church is the invisible union of all true Christ followers everywhere who exist and assemble for the sake of proclaiming God’s glory to all nations. If you don’t like coming to Sunday service, you’re going to hate Heaven because that’s what it is – being surrounded by Christians worshipping God. Sunday service is awesome because it is the image of Heaven. A people who once weren’t a people joined together by the experience of having been set free from slavery and death and redeemed to an eternal inheritance of everlasting life joining together to worship in thankfulness God, the almighty, creator of everything.
Not only is church about proclaiming God’s excellencies (worship and evangelism) but it is about discipling, baptizing, and equipping. It is God’s intent for us to gather into local assemblies of believers as we see throughout Acts and the epistles for the sake of building one another up. 1 Peter 4:10-11 tells us that we freely receive spiritual gifts so that we can use them for the building up of one another.
Can you believe that? If you are a redeemed follower of Christ, you have a spiritual gift to use at your local gathering of believers for the sake of encouraging and edifying God’s people. Church is not a place for the idle. It is a place where we exercise what has been given us to God’s glory. If God gave you a gift for building up His church and you aren’t using it, you’re disobeying Him and selling yourself short of the full and rich life He intends for you.
When I came to LBC, I attended for about a year without really knowing anybody. I came in late and I left as soon as the last song concluded. After a year, I made the decision that this is the church that I would make my home and took the plunge to try to meet some people and get involved. Getting “plugged-in” has been the best decision of my life. Through attending life group, I was challenged in my faith and confronted in my sin and given Godly counsel. Getting involved in Impact, I was given the opportunity to see how my testimony could encourage and edify our high schoolers – which has been super fulfilling as I’ve seen them go off to college and pursue ministry opportunities themselves. I got to participate in short-term missions which broke my heart for the lost, the orphan, and the widow and really rocked my beliefs in what is important in this life. I got introduced to ministries like Perspectives that changed my whole outlook on God’s global mission. One of my proudest moments was getting to stand on stage and declare that I am a member of this church for the first time.
It was through being involved at LBC, that I came to see the power of the local church. Not only is it a place to worship God in song and praise, but it’s a place to worship God through serving and loving one another. Through LBC, I had a lot of my false beliefs corrected, and I was challenged to really dig into God’s Word. It’s always God who calls us, adopts us, equips us, and sends us out to do the work prepared for us but we have the blessing of being the means through which God chooses to bring the lost to Himself.
What is your role in the church? If you aren’t sure yet, I would challenge you to pray through what that might be, talk to friends at church, get involved, find a place to serve, and see what gifts God has uniquely equipped you with to serve. We’re so blessed that our local gathering has so many ministries to enrich and prepare you for a full life of honoring God. If you don’t feel prepared to do any ministry but want to be, chances are we have someone here who can help instruct you and equip you.
We’re all parts of the same body. We’re not wolves in a wolf pack where you can go off on your own and be independent. We are body parts – your ear can’t go rogue and go be an ear on its own somewhere else. If it did, your ear would die, and you’d be short an ear. You would probably notice the difference in not having an ear. Likewise, if you have an ear but it decides to not work, it will probably be to your detriment. Therefore, let us live our lives as the visible body of Christ in this world working in perfect unity. Seek out opportunities to be discipled, instructed, and equipped so that you can take that knowledge, wisdom, and experience to build up others.
God has a purpose for you at LBC. Find out what it is by getting involved. The first step is getting in touch. Please contact Pastor Andy at PastorAndy@laurelglen.org for help finding a place to get you started. My prayer is that, as a church, we would be characterized by a hunger to serve one another in love to the praise of God’s glory.
-Nathan, Pastoral Intern