A few weeks ago we chatted about how to get the most of sermons each week when you attend church and as I compiled my list of tips, I inevitably came up with several that weren’t specific to the sermon but to church in general. When the question came up about going to church or if listening online is OK, I knew I had to write this post. Is it necessary to go to church when we can find world-class sermons online or even “attend” our home church from the comfort of our PJs?
I’ll share my own opinion in hopes to challenge us all. My mission is to always challenge you, encourage you and push you forward in your pursuit of holiness. I could coddle you and say all the things that feel comfortable to hear but who are we kidding? We are ladies in a pursuit of holiness, not a grave-tending life! (Rom 8:15 MSG)
So here’s my answer:
Yes, you need the church. And the church needs you too. You might have short seasons where attending is difficult or impossible (I’m talking bedrest or several weeks after a baby arrives) but really, I think most time the question arises of if it’s OK to get church in different ways (or the like) it’s rarely one of those cases.
Church isn’t always easy to attend but when I had this conversation with a friend months ago, she reminded me of how many sacrifices we are willing to make for our kids to play on different leagues, travel, take loud kids to brunch and so much more. We don’t apply that same sacrifice to church and assume that if it’s not easy to do, then it must not be worth it. If anything, it is worth the most sacrifice. I don’t say all this to guilt anyone but to encourage you that if it’s not easy, you aren’t doing it all wrong. We’ll talk about how to ease some things but just know that those that do go to church likely face the same hurdles but may have a different mindset about church.
"WHEN WE DON'T MEET TOGETHER AS A BODY, WE ARE MISSING OUT."
I’m not the judge and jury so I won’t get too black and white here but let’s assume for a minute God just recommended church. There must be something great that we will miss if we don’t take that advice.
Depending on your history with church, attending church may be easier said than done. I’m sharing 7 tips to help you make the most out of your church experience.
1. Don't Expect It to be Perfect.
The church is made up of flawed humans who receive the same grace we all get. It’s silly that we expect perfection from it, but I’ll be the first to say that I have totally done this. If we go in with the mindset that a church needs to be perfect (this is always subconscious) then no church will be good enough and we will settle for podcasts in bed and possibly miss out on life-changing connection all because the music wasn’t our style.
2. Don't Just Look to be Served but Serve.
Joining a small group is really really good but it’s for us. Serving is different. When you serve, you have more of an investment in your church and you enjoy it again. We found this experience to be true in our life. I had left for college and came back and my tight-knit group from church was gone. It felt like a good time to move on. Then we got plugged in and felt a new sense of commitment that shifted our focus from what “they” were doing wrong to what “we” could do to help. We got to know people we never would have met from arriving on Sunday and jetting out once the sermon was over.
3. Don't Overextend Yourself.
You don’t need to take on more roles than you can handle. It’s like being OK with awkward silence during small group. It’s hard and feels uncomfortable but if you can make some space, someone else fills it up. If we fill all the roles, we might be taking away an opportunity from someone else to serve. The key here is simply tuning into what area God is calling you to serve in. Also, doing too much can cause resentment and burnout. Not good for us or the people we are trying to serve.
4. Arrive Early.
Y’all. We are awful at this one but have been working on it. When we are late and plop down approximately 15 seconds before the sermon starts, my heart just isn’t ready. I’m not focused. Tyler and I have talked about starting to get to church even earlier so we can drink some coffee (tea for me!) and chat with people. I like the idea of church not feeling so darn rushed. The Sundays we arrive early are more of an event. We can arrive unrushed, chat and slowly ease our way into church more. On Sundays we are late, it’s too tempting to fight and blame on the way there and find our seat out of breath and hardly open to what our pastor has to say.
5. Dress with Reverence.
I’m giving lots of tips that I am still working on so if you go to church with me, just know I’m still a work in progress. This silly thought came to me but had me thinking. If we’re going to visit William and Kate (you know, royalty) would you wear sweats? Would you dress up? Would you feel like showing up in sweats would somehow be disrespectful and not convey the message you are trying to send? I see God a lot as my papa and less so as this majestic king but entering His house is starting to remind me that I want to show my reverence in things as simple as my wardrobe. Can we bring back the dressy Sunday outfits, not because we want to show them off to our peers but because we want to pay the utmost respect the ultimate of royalty? That’s cheeseball but I have seen a shift in my mind when I throw on whatever smells or looks clean from my bathroom floor 5 minutes before we are supposed to leave and taking more time and care in what I’m wearing.
6. Don't Complain
This goes with #1 but I think it deserved its own point. We are so quick to pick apart a church or really any business or entity. Business owners talk so much about how they only get emails if something is broken or not good. We rarely talk about all the good happening. Can we change this stereotype? Can we start bragging about our pastor on Facebook sharing the great quote he said? Can we share in a group of friends what we are learning from our Bible study or how sweet the teachers are to our kids? Can you imagine a church body that supported the leadership instead of wore it down? I feel like that would be revolutionary for our churches.
7. Figure Out Your Sunday Pain Points
Are mornings chaotic for a specific reason like figuring out breakfast or clothes? Get practical and lay out your clothes or plan breakfast ahead of time. Is it the last 10 minutes where the breakdown happens? Shoes. No one can find shoes, then you’re late and stressed. This is me almost every week. I pull out the one pair of shoes that fits Vana right now and it’s white converse. So I change her out of the dress and into some pants. The solution? Just buy a pair of shoes that fits and matches all her dresses.
Another small example, I wear heels many weeks and we have been parking in a gravel parking lot. When Tyler has deacon duty and I’m schlepping the girls, Vana’s bag, my bag across the gravel, it added the smallest bit of frustration. Y’all. There is a paved parking lot on the other side that means I can walk in without falling all over myself. We did this last week and I got to walk into church not like a clumsy newborn Bambi and instead arrived peaceful and ready to worship.
I’m not a scholar but as I read the Bible and what it says about the church, I know for certain it’s not some antiquated idea that only fit pre-screen eras. Honestly, I wonder how much more our hearts need that in person interaction even more today.