How do you answer the question: Do I have to go to church today?


The Blizzard.

Christianity isn’t always easy is it? My duvet is 3 inch thick goose down. On winter mornings, when it’s really chilly, I find myself battling the snooze button on my bedside clock. A while back I heard a sermon illustration which played on my weakness for comfort, it went like this:

“My father stood in front of the window of our log cabin looking outside at the blizzard swirling around. It was a freezing, windy, winter day. I knew it was Sunday and knew that this morning we’d need to walk the five kilometres from our house to the church where we worship. Hoping against hope that the weather outside might deter him, I asked, “Father, have you made the decision whether or not we’ll be going to church today?”

My father looked at me with those wise old eyes and said, “Son, that decision was made 28 years ago.”

The point of the illustration is that the father took verses like Hebrews 10:25 to heart:

25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging {one another;} and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”

Well, life happens while I Google. A few days ago I was lying on the sofa in the lounge, Googling away while Liezl got the kids ready to go out on some or other errand.

Kaitlyn, the five year old, asked, “Mom, are we going to church now?”

Liezl responded, “No love, church isn’t today, today is Friday, church is on Sunday. We’ll go then.”

Kailtyn rolled her eyes.

The Beauty.

Liezl must have seen the opportunity for a life lesson because she turned to Kaitlyn and said, “let me tell you a story, One day a little girl stood at the window of her house looking outside at a really big gecko. It was a beautiful, sunny, spring day. The little girl knew it was Sunday and knew that this morning she’d need to walk very far to the church where her family worshiped. She turned to her daddy and asked, “Daddy, have you made the decision whether or not we’ll be going to church today?”

Her dad looked at her with wise old eyes and said, “That decision was made 28 years ago.”

Liezl explained to her that we go to church whether we want to or not. Kaitlyn loves stories and really appreciated that one. She disappeared to her room to collect a few odds and ends before her and her mom were to leave.

The Gecko (a photo by Yves Rubin)

I was a bit confused and so asked Liezl in the most diplomatic way I could, “um, love, I don’t get it, why the whole thing with the beautiful day and the gecko? I heard that sermon and it was completely different to that.”

Liezl looked at me like I was mad and said, “Wasn’t the whole reason they didn’t want to go to church in the first place because the big lizard was out?”

Blizzard… lizzard… gecko! We laughed for about 30 minutes after that.

Truth is that there are so many things which distract us from that which we ought aren’t there? Maybe for me it’s the comfort of a warm bed but for another it’s the excitement of a sunny day.

What would keep you in bed? What gets lost in translation… ever made a similar error? Does Christian living sometimes require sacrifice?

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12 thoughts on “How do you answer the question: Do I have to go to church today?

  1. I find that the text Hebrew 10:25, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more,[…]”, is most often used to guilt trip people into going to church. Physically attending church itself does not have the capacity to save an individual, nor does it by default exhort one another.

    It should be noted that this text does not mention the word church at all. Going to church shouldn’t come out of a sense of duty, e.g. “Well its X-day and that means we must go”. Each person must have a relationship with God and a relationship with believers where when they get together they exhort one another, this is what I say this text may be alluding to.

    To answer your question of, what would keep me in bed (or going someplace else that is not church)? (Family) Bible study. Someone in need. To avoid the stresses involved in being guilt tripped into going. Door knocking Jehovah Witnesses.

    • I guess I hear where you’re coming from: relationship with Christ is where everything begins isn’t it?

      And yet Scripture as a whole seems to place a whole lot more emphasis on “church” than you might think. Most of the epistles where addressed to churches rather than individuals and their content is aimed at people meeting and practicing as a functional collective. Jesus Himself spends the first few chapters of Revelation addressing churches directly, pretty pointless if it’s all about the individual.

      I’d say much of how we’re called to operate as Christians should happen within the vehicle of a local church body.

      Is that religion? Maybe, but it’s also just Biblical.

      What do you think?

      • I think it is important to define ‘church’. I was initially responding to the idea that your story about the blizzard focused on going to the literal building, as Heb 10:25 is interpreted in such a way. “We as Christians meet at building X so do not forsake our assembling so go there…”

        What I was hoping to point out is this need not be the case. Church as you specified in your reply should refer to the body of Christ. Which is to say if the weather is horrible or you had a stressful weekday and need to recuperate, there should be nothing wrong in assembling in other ways, or skipping it (i.e. going to the building for a structured service) all together.

        Jesus, most likely, is not coming back to individual church buildings but for his people.

        There are many examples in the Bible of people meeting in houses on on the way side and having real fellowship. I believe that once we standardize and organize church into a structure it has the potential to lose some of its dynamic jesus filled nature.

        I mean in churches today you could go, and not be seen. You could go and the Bible is hardly examined. You could go and and have no interaction with anyone other than filling a seat. This is not the church that I believe is detailed in the Bible.

        When going to the building becomes a chore where you have to decide whether or not to stay in bed you have to re-examine what is really going on and if there is really fellow ship going on in this building.

        Generally in the secular world when people want to fellowship and get together staying in bed is a non issue they get up and go. How can they have the fellowship aspect of their life so pat down and perfect where we have to struggle as Christians.

        I think as Christians it is okay to wake up on X religious day and say, you know what I am not going to go to the service but rather I am going to take charge of my spirituality and do X. Where X could be going to a soup kitchen, having a bible study with friends, resting, and etc…

  2. Nice article. I tend to agree with Penultima.
    As in define church. The church is not a building but a body of believers.

    Now define assembly. Is that more than one Christian together at anytime, anywhere.

    Myself and my beautiful wife and children are all Christians. Now if stay at home for some family worship time and exhort each other that squares with Hebrews. Yes?
    Or like where I work, we are all believers and we talk about the things of Christ alot.
    Does that square with Hebrews?

    More people go to church just to do church and not do anything the other 6 days of the week.

    More often than not I learn more on my own and when teaching the family. Youth group has become more of a social time than anything else and I spend more time
    correcting what he “learns”. It has been the same with all youth groups around here.

    Be Blessed!
    Mark

    • Hi reformbama,

      I hear what you’re saying, in fact I agree in part with both you and penultima, church isn’t a building, it’s people, and their relationship with God, through Jesus, is far more important than an organ or incense or flowery speech on a Sunday…

      BUT…

      Church is more than a gathering of a family unit on Sunday morning around boiled eggs and toast, and some of it includes formal structures which in our culture we call “church”.

      Structures like church leadership: Paul for instance exhorted Titus in chapter 1 to, “…set in order what remains and appoint elders…”.

      Structures like formal organized meetings: Just like the early church these gatherings of believers happen on a Sunday, so Paul, when arranging the collection of monies for the church in Galatia, tells the believers in Corinth in 1 Corinthians 16 to do it, “…On the first day of every week…”.

      But the bottom line is many of the activities that we’re called to engage in as followers of Christ, the “one another’s”, cannot be performed in small family units they’re designed and intended to operate within a called, vibrant, Christ-centred group of Christians, living out their faith with fear and trembling to God’s glory.

      Thanks to both of you for engaging.

      • ***Whoa whoa whoa, out of context Bible usage alert.***

        1 Corinthians 16:2 – Upon the first day of the week… let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come.

        This is NOT saying the following things:

        1. Paul came by on Sundays.
        2. Church is on Sundays.

        Why does 1 Cor 16:2 suggest that Paul did not come on the first day but ‘before’ the first day, earlier in the previous week? Because he did not want collections when he came. If there were collections when he came it would come against his orders (in this verse). Therefore he would have to have come previous to the collection made on the first day. (The word ‘upon’ generally means, as soon as something occurs.)

        What day is the first day of the week, contextually, for Paul? This may sound like a stupid question but, in the Bible, it should be noted that the phrase, “the first day of the week” does not equate to Sunday. They used a different calendar and a different time system.

        You think I am crazy, but look at the Jewish practice of their Sabbath, why does it start on our Friday, when the Sabbath was the seventh day of the week? This is because days, in the Bible (Genesis 1:5), start in the evening (of our previous day).

        So, when it says remember the seventh day, Jewish people, (and by context, everyone in the bible, would) interpret that to mean, from (our) Friday sundown to Saturday sundown and not our Saturday 12am to 11:59:59pm.

        And as, in the northern hemisphere, sundown in the winter time could be as earlier as 4pm and in the summer time it could be as late as (our) 9pm. Hypothetically days began between 4pm-9pm depending on the time of year.

        Now what does 1 Cor 16:2 actually mean?

        1 Corinthians 16:2 is saying, on the first day of the week, which actually begins on our Saturdays at sundown 4pm-9pm, collect offerings, so that when Paul arrived, earlier (possibly on the 6th or 7th day) there would be no collection of offerings to disrupt his instruction/preacher/whatever.

        The verse is implying that Paul was already there on the last day of the previous week and did not want collections taken then, when they actually met, but rather when there meeting was over, i.e. their religious meetings wrapped up on the first day of the week.

        .
        On your idea that these “formalized organized meetings” a lot of the meetings were described as breaking bread, which is akin to having dinner with people and not necessarily (organized) communion services. This idea is inferred from the text rather than implied in the text.

        Anyways, I, in my responses, was not necessarily advocating keeping up with the tradition of church nor was I suggesting that we go back to basics, but rather we do what works. Some people need structure so church can work for them, but just as we should be weaned from the breast and given the meat of the word of God. Perhaps we should be constantly looking or better forms of fellowship (which may or may not include the church building all the time)

      • Grammatical correction on my reponse,

        “This idea is inferred from the text rather than implied in the text.”

        should be

        “This idea, that Paul’s meetings were organized as ‘church’ meeting, is inferred from the text rather than implied in the text.”

        • Sorry penultima,

          I only accept grammatical corrections from people who bend over like a blade of grass and agree with me after my first response.

          As for the rest, give me a chance to think some stuff through, I’ll get back to you soon enough.

  3. Good reply.

    I have to go to a family reunion right now but I will leave you with this.

    I do not wait for permission from my church to “Go and make disciples” or to help a family out in need.

    I do not mean to come off as anti-church building or gathering. I will go into more detail later about how churches are doing church here in the USA.
    Most pastors here don’t come close to living up to the Gibbs example.
    What is a Sunday in church like where you live? I hope it is different.

    And missing a day or two at church is not forsaking meeting with one another.

    I be back later. You made a great thoguhtful point.

    • There’s nothing better than sanctified conversation for the soul is there?

      I was raised the “son of preacher man”. As a child my parents taught me Scripture and spoke of Christ but it never sank past “headology”. I attended church up until when I could make my own choice to stop going, and when I could stop going, I did. At the time I saw it as a building, boring ritual and pointless practice. I had a very low view of religion and no need of a relationship with God.

      As an adult my girlfriend nagged me about spirituality. She would drag me kicking and screaming on Sundays to different services, but each time I found an excuse to walk out and never go back. I viewed Christians as mostly simple, sometimes fanatical and often frauds.

      The fifth church she compelled me to visit was a small non denominational community close to where we lived. The first Sunday was ok. They were a happy bunch of people. The second Sunday a man preached a sermon out of Acts. It wasn’t a gospel presentation specifically, but something happened inside of me. As the teacher spoke about God’s planning and sovereignty in the development of the early church I was struck by fear. God was involved in this world, really involved and I was a sinner with no excuse. What was I to do? I came to Christ on that day and was changed, a new creation you could say.

      I’ve been attending that church for about 11 years now. I guess you could call me one of those simple, fanatical Christians. Church isn’t a building, it’s the people. We get together almost every day of the week in one form or another. Often it’s fellowship, sometimes worship, sometimes study. I need them and they need me. I’m sure some observers would yawn and think, what a bore, but to me it’s the fuel that fires my faith.

      Christians need church like “a desert needs rain”, a coal needs flame or a “town needs a name”. As I read through Scripture I can’t see how one can with integrity divorce a local body of practicing believers from the Christian walk.

      Enjoy the reunion.

      • “Christian’s need JESUS like ‘a desert needs rain’,” should be the quote. You can not get to know Jesus by going to church, (perhaps, if you are lucky you can know ‘of’ him), but you get to know Jesus by having a personal relationship with him.

        And one way of re-enforcing a personal relationship with him is having a fellowship that edifies your understanding of him and allows you to produce fruits that reflect both the fruits Jesus produced as well as Jesus himself.

        Church, today, is, generally, not like this. 90% of the attendees sit in the pews. They stand when they are told to stand. They bow/kneel when they are told to do so. They sing songs that are decided for them. They read (or in some times only listen) to scriptures chosen for them. They must remain silent during the services. They listen to sermons on the same verses/topics year in and year out. And most likely, they must send their children away to another room to be trained by someone other than their parents.

        Then they go home and say, “WOW, how wonderful was that!” Not realizing that they are only maintaining the tradition of their fathers and had no form of actual participation in the service other than getting dressed and driving to a building.

        • Hi penultima,

          Of course I agree, “Christian’s need JESUS like ‘a desert needs rain’.”

          But still, the spiritual growth of a believer in Christ not belonging to a local body of believers is foreign to the New Testament.

          That said, I also see the mess. It bugs me as well. I wrote about it here, “What a mess” (thanks for engaging and rip it to pieces… reformbama go and check it out as well, it relates to your last comment).

          In Christ,

          Mark

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