BY CATHY SCHAEFER, GRACE ATTENDER & BLOGGER
I get it. The temptation is real, and I have succumbed to it maybe a few more times than I’d like to admit. It’s so easy and convenient, and you can enjoy it from the comfort of your own home. Even better, it doesn’t matter what you look like--you can do it in your pajamas, sweats, or those disgustingly dirty yard work clothes. Add to that the fact that you can enjoy your favorite beverage and a snack while you do it, and it’s almost too appealing to resist. Yes, I’m referring to LiveStreaming the weekend worship service.
The reality is most of us have jam-packed busy weekday schedules that often leave us feeling frazzled and drained. Then the weekend arrives, which is supposed to be relaxing, but more often than not, it too is filled to the brim with errands, household chores, family activities, sporting events, recreational pursuits, entertainment opportunities, social commitments, etc. So getting the family organized and assembled to attend worship can be a daunting challenge. The struggle is real, people, and I feel your pain!
I think we all agree there are some legitimate reasons to miss weekend worship. Illness is a good example: If you, or one of your children, are sick, it’s probably best that you stay home to recover (and prevent the spread of your germs, thank you). Some have disabilities that prevent them from attending church. (If you are in this category, please let us know how we can support and serve you.) Bad weather may be a factor. I recall an ice storm last winter that turned our driveway and neighborhood streets into an accident waiting to happen, so we opted to LiveStream that day. And, sometimes we are simply away--maybe on a business trip, visiting loved ones, or taking a much needed vacation. And on those occasions, it is wonderful to be able to stay connected to your home church via the internet. I also know that we have a large online community of attenders that don’t live nearby…or even in the country. It's exciting to have multiple states and nationalities represented in our ""larger circle!"" We celebrate that broader outreach, but also want to help you connect in a deeper way.
But let’s be honest, there are other times when we just don’t FEEL like making the effort. I must confess that there were a few weekends this past summer when I simply didn’t make attending worship a priority and allowed myself to get busy and distracted by other things. It may be a little too easy to justify skipping worship when I can LiveStream it. After all, it’s a big church. Will I really be missed? And I can still sing along with the praise music and listen to the message online. Isn’t that almost just as good as being there?
You know what though, it’s not just as good as being there. The best thing is still being there. Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting LiveStream is bad; in fact, when we have legitimate reasons to miss worship, it’s a great option. But I think it’s an inferior substitute for going to church in person. I, for one, intend to recommit to attending weekend worship as often as possible, and here’s why:
I honor God with my presence at worship.
I believe God is pleased when I make it a priority to attend worship, and that He appreciates the effort I make to SHOW UP. I think He is honored anytime we do something challenging, difficult, humbling, messy, or even just inconvenient, for His sake and in order to gloryify His Name.
As a Christ follower, I look to the example Jesus set for us and strive to model His holy and perfect behavior. We know that the Son had a habit of spending time alone with the Father in prayer. But there are also several accounts in the New Testament of Him visiting the Temple. We find this description in Luke 4:16: He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. During His time on earth, Jesus regularly went to the Temple for services. If the very Son of God made attendance at worship a priority, how can I do any less?
I honor my faith community with my presence at worship.
It was God’s idea that we set aside one day a week as holy in order to gather with others for worship. God intended for worship on the Sabbath to be a corporate experience that we share with other believers. As per God’s instructions to Moses, Leviticus 23:3 states, There are six days when you may work, but the seventh day is a day of Sabbath rest, a day of sacred assembly. There are also multiple references in the Psalms to praising, thanking, singing and rejoicing before God in the great assembly. One example is this verse from Psalm 35:18: I will give you thanks in the great assembly; among the throngs I will praise you.
Living according to God’s ways is not an easy task, and we need the prayers, support and inspiration of other believers to build our faith. Paul taught the early Christians they were unified in Christ, that they were, in fact, the very body of Christ. This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other. If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad. All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it (1 Corinthians 12:25-27). As Christians, we too are part of the body of Christ and belong to a community of believers. We belong to each other, and one of the most important things we do for each other is SHOW UP. I am not just at church and in worship for my own benefit. I am there to love, strengthen, encourage, support, connect with and pray for other believers, and to hopefully receive those blessings from them in return. We lift each other up. And we never know what “divine appointment” we might miss if we are not there in person to offer a smile, a hug, a prayer, or an encouraging word to a fellow believer.
I honor my pastors and spiritual leaders with my presence at worship.
Grace Church is blessed with amazingly talented pastors, worship leaders and musicians. They’re so gifted that they make what they do each weekend look almost easy. But I’m not sure most of us have a clue how much thought, prayer, research, time and effort go into planning, preparing, rehearsing and then executing worship services for hundreds of people week after week. They serve us out of their great love for the Lord and their great love for the people of God. One small but significant way to demonstrate our love and respect for all their efforts is to simply SHOW UP at worship.
Paul offers this advice to the believers in 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13: Dear brothers and sisters, honor those who are your leaders in the Lord’s work. They work hard among you and give you spiritual guidance. Show them respect and wholehearted love because of their work. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that our leaders aren’t affected by our apathy, criticism or negativity. Let’s show them some appreciation for all they do, and strive to offer them the same love they so generously share with us.
My presence at worship brings me closer to God.
I know God is everywhere, and my times of solitary prayer and devotion are very important to me. But I sense His presence in a different and unique way at church. And I really begin to feel disconnected and isolated in my faith if I go for too long without worshiping in “God’s house.” I can easily get spiritually depleted from the stress and demands of living in an increasingly secular society. Going to church and worshiping with my faith community gives me a much-needed spiritual boost that empowers me for the challenges of the week ahead. It does my heart good to be among other Christians as we draw close to God through His Word, prayer and praise.
When I SHOW UP at church, it is easier for me to enter fully into the collective energy and power of the Spirit that manifests itself there. I am much more likely to actively participate in worship, rather than merely observe worship. I enjoy singing God’s praises, and although I frequently sing along when I LiveStream, I rarely stand, clap or raise my hands up. The experience is more meaningful when my body, mind and soul are all engaged, and I’m giving God my undivided attention. In James 4:8 we are told, Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. Attending church is one way that I can testify of my loyalty for God to the world. I love to see the front parking lot at church full of cars because I think it sends a positive message to others as they drive by.
I remember after I was married and living away from home, I used to ask my grandmother what gift I could get her for her birthday or Christmas, and her reply was always the same: “Sweetie, I don’t need a thing. Just come visit me the next time you’re home. Your presence is the best present you could ever give me.” I still bought her gifts, but as often as I could, I also made time to visit her. It wasn’t always easy or convenient, but seeing the smile on her face and the joy it brought her was, as they say, priceless. I believe when make our presence a present to God, and we SHOW UP at worship, it brings a smile to His face and fills Him with joy.
With that said, I hope to see you next week!