We missed church again today

This morning marks the second Sunday in a row that we have had to cancel services at the church. It’s the right decision but that doesn’t always mean it is easy. We meet every week and it is healthy to take breaks, but this feels different. It wasn’t planned. It wasn’t really in my control. Last week when we cancelled the services I couldn’t quite figure out what I miss when we have to cancel. I’ve thought about it and here are a few things:zchurch

  • I miss walking into the church first thing on Sunday morning, with many folks greeting us at the door. From the time I was a child, I remember Mr. Gary that would hand out the bulletins and I would make my way to Mr. Ken, who had the donuts. The names have changed and now I’m bringing the little ones, but it still feels good to come into a place where you are welcomed.
  • I miss saying hello to other folks as they make their arrival. How are things going? Did you have a good week? Can you believe the Cats pulled it out last night?
  • I miss worship. I miss singing songs of praise. I miss watching my little girl twirl and cause a scene at the front. I miss joining with others singing a variety of songs that have impacted our lives in different ways throughout our lives.
  • I miss our weekly time of prayer. On most Sundays at First Baptist we have a time to voice prayer concerns, to share updates from our lives. We go before the Lord and we pray together and know that when we speak we are speaking to people who are rooting with us.
  • I miss opening up the Bible together. I am thankful for the privilege to preach, but I am most thankful that the Lord speaks through my mess and the Spirit works on the hearts of those gathered, mine included.
  • I miss leaving with the song “God Be With You Til We Meet Again.” This is a new tradition at the church, but one that I love because we go out in song, aware that our lives each week must be fully reliant on God.

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While I miss those things and many more, I take comfort in knowing that while we do not gather as a corporate body for worship this morning, each person in their own way will continue to praise and worship throughout the week. We will still check in on each other. We will pray. We will serve.
The Shakers on Sunday would not go to church, but they would go to the Meetinghouse. The distinction in saying that was an awareness that they are the church and the Meetinghouse was simply a place to worship.

2am

I’ve seen a picture on Facebook that reminds us that a church is not the only place to praise God and that you can also praise God in cars at 2am, coffee shops, and gyms. This is true and this important.

 

BUT…missing our Sunday services the last two weeks has reminded me of something that I hope we never forget. We need to gather together. We are commanded to gather together. We need to spend time with other believers. Yes the church will go, but it is in the gathering that we prepare ourselves for what is to come. It is in all of the things that I have mentioned that I miss and in all of the things that the Spirit does that I never even realize that my faith is strengthened. We need to meet together. Church must be a priority.

When I meet with God’s people, I am reminded that we are called to something bigger than ourselves, that we can’t do it on our own, and that we are able to relish in the grace of a God who loves us more than we can comprehend. I am reminded of my responsibility to the kingdom.

Today will be a day with family and I will thank God for the blessing that they are. We will gather as a church next week (Lord willing). I can’t wait.

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Fully Loaded Church

Right about the time that we found out we were going to have twins…after the shock period…it became apparent that Jenni and I were going to be minivan people. It’s the kind of thing that you hear happens to other people, but you never think it will have to happen to you.

Growing up, my family never really had what most would consider a nice car. The cream of the crop was a 1987 Chevy Astro…a beautiful machine that was driven off the lot at least a year before I was born.  By the time I was sixteen years old, the ceiling fabric was all but gone, the cassette player had long disintegrated, something happened in the motor that caused the whole vehicle to shake. No a/c? No problem.chevyastro2.jpg
One of the blessings that came out of that van was that I’ve never really known what it means to have a brand new vehicle and for the most part I don’t really care. As long as a car is reliable, that’s fine for me.

Fast forward to 2018 and the time comes to look for a minivan. The criteria we had for the most part was this: it needed to be reliable and it needed to be affordable. Jenni wanted cruise control. Aside from that, finance mattered as much as just about anything else.

After a few months of looking, I got the call from a dealer that they had just received a really nice 2013 Honda Odyssey that was going to be near our price range and very low mileage. We stopped what we were doing and drove to Florence to check it out.

Our salesman was a nice person. He was recommended as being trustworthy and honest. He was also good at his job and his goal was to sell us on this van. Well…in addition to being low mileage…this van was loaded. We’re talking leather heated seats, an entertainment system, sunroof, bluetooth, a cooling box (basically a fridge that I don’t know what to do with), and a few other cool perks.

I did not care. Is it affordable and is it reliable?

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My wife is now a minivan driving mama. 

We bought the van with the heated seats, backup camera, and all of the other gadgets but I was convinced the best part was that we got a good deal. I didn’t need and wasn’t sure that I’d even use those details.

Over time, something has happened. My 2011 Chevy Cruze isn’t what you would call “loaded.” It drives just fine. It has no car payment. It does everything that I need it to do. It’s a good car.

Sometimes, when I am backing up I have to do something weird…I have to pay more attention to my mirrors. I have actually TURN and look behind me to make sure I’m not hitting anything.

My seats? Not warm… just the temp that has been determined by the weather.heatedseats


On the van, I can change the volume on the radio with a switch on the steering wheel. When we bought the van I couldn’t imagine why anyone would be bothered by having to actually reach to the regular dash. Now in the Cruze I swear someone has moved that radio dial a few feet away and when I want to change the volume I sometimes just flip the cruise control switch on the steering wheel.

Both cars are great. Both cars get the job done. But something has changed.

I think that if we aren’t careful, we fall into the trap of what it might mean to have “fully-loaded” church. Because of the privilege we have to worship freely and because so many of us have never really experienced need, we have been able to add things to our churches that we don’t really need. They are nice. They make life enjoyable. They still are not necessary.
volume controlWhat slowly starts to happen is that in the process we find that we are the ones being changed. Sure, we think we can worship anywhere, but once you have experienced worship in a certain way, it is hard to go back to what we had before.

 

This can be venue, music style, bible translations, order of service, worship times, format, etc. etc. The problem we face is that out of our abundance we have become harder to please. We feel called to share the good news, but it has to be on our terms in our own ways and it has to be done comfortably.

We all have preferences. It’s okay to have preference. I believe that God has created us to be able to worship uniquely with different passions and I believe that God is working through churches of every size, shape, background, and is doing so for God’s glory.

What things have you included in how you “do church” that could be considered a luxury? Are you holding onto it for your own comfort? Anything that we are unwilling to give up for the greater good of the Gospel is an idol.

I’m going to enjoy my heated seats and backup camera. I’m also working to be more content in my paid-off, does what I need car.

In worship? I’m going to be more intentional about not letting the preferential things get in the way of the most important thing. If we can commit to doing that together, I believe the best things are still to come.

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