April 24, 2018 | 0 Comments
Against all odds, summer is nearly upon us.
While the prospect of nearly three months free of infringing exams is almost too good to be true for students, for the - well let’s say, more advanced among us - the yearly prospect of trying to cobble together a bathing suit fit for public consumption is enough to drive the most stalwart soul to sheer panic.
The summer season can be a difficult time for churches. As students return home, cottages open, and vacations begin, it can sometimes start to feel as if church itself has been put on hold. The problem here is not planning a few weeks in Banff with the family every year. The problem is the worrying symptoms that summer brings out; attitudes which functionally view the church as optional, inconvenient, or even unhelpful.
Convinced of the danger of this trend, and convicted by my own failure in the matter, here are five reasons why I believe we should all make church a priority not only for this summer, but throughout the year.
1. Healthy routines are a large part of how God sanctifies us. Heb 5:14.
In the above passage, notice how discernment is something only honed by constant use. Ergo, if you spend all your time avoiding those situations which require you to exercise discernment, it (and you) will remain a dull tool in a forgotten drawer.
Sometimes we think that the work of sanctification is something that just magically happens apart from our participation. But that isn’t the case. To be sure, God must work salvation in us, but, in response, we must also work out the implications of that salvation with both fear and trembling. A salvation which doesn’t strive for greater holiness is also one, we are told, that will not see God (Heb 12:14.)
Likeness to Christ is only something we can hope for as we give ourselves, with the Spirit’s help, to healthy habits and routines - daily Scripture meditation, honest prayer, and participation in meaningful church fellowship. If your view of fellowship is haphazard, it shouldn't come as a surprise when it’s difficult to feel enthusiastic about Sunday mornings.
2. Being part of a local church is a means of joy. Acts 2:42-47.
Maybe you struggle to look forward to time together as a church. Perhaps it seems impossible to get the kids fed and out the door in time, or maybe you’re finding it difficult to see the personal relevance of a certain sermon series. If you find yourself in this place, take some time to think about the following words from Eric Bancroft:
“. . .sharing in community is not simply the path to obedience. This is the route to joy. Paul says to rejoice in Christ—the object of our joy. However, that fount supplies a river runs through the New Testament community. There is the joy of having others to imitate and emulate in the Christian life (Phil. 3:17). There is joy because of others’ expressing concern for you (4:10). There is joy in knowing that God has given others to console us in our affliction, not in sympathy but in empathy (2 Cor. 1:4). There is joy in knowing how your love for the Lord and obedience to His Word encourage others to do the same (1 Thess. 1:8–9). There is joy in knowing that you are a part of “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession” (1 Peter 2:9).”
3. Sin doesn’t take a vacation from being deceitful. Hebrews 3:133.
If you’re at all honest, you know that isolation is an incubation chamber for sin. Here I’m not even talking about explicit, disgusting sin - I’m talking lovelessness, materialism, self-preservation, and investing too much time and resources on things of little consequence. These are the kinds of “respectable sins” which, unaddressed, go on to wreak quiet destruction and extinguish our love for Christ.
While we often assume a finely tuned self-awareness, we often don’t see ourselves as accurately as others can. This is a large reason we prioritize meaningful membership at our church - not in a gossipy, meddling way, but to affirm the expectation that to be in Christ’s church is to know and be known by others, and that this knowledge is vital to true fellowship.
4. We need to regularly be under the sound of God’s word. 2 Timothy 4:3,4
Paul states that not regularly sitting under sound (or healthy) doctrine doesn’t mean we will exist in a kind of placid, doctrinal vacuum - it means we will inevitably veer towards the sharp rocks of false doctrine.
If healthy food is not intentionally set before children, they will naturally gravitate to what they prefer the taste of. In the same way, our appetite for meeting with our brothers and sisters is something that only grows through intentional cultivation. If we aren’t intentionally, week by week, ensuring our own hearts are recalibrated towards truth, we ourselves may soon find the sharp rocks in front of us.
5. The value we place on being with God’s people speaks volumes to a watching world. Acts 5:13
In Acts 5, we are told that the fledgling Christian church was “held in high regard by all the people.” Though this is not always the case (and soon ceased to be in the following chapters) the crowd recognized that this particular gathering was more than simply people with similar interests coming together. There was a divine component to this fellowship.
We live in a time of disintegrating community. Lions clubs, shriners clubs, and many organizations have traditionally fostered this sense of community and social awareness are all dwindling. Believe it or not, turning down an event on Sunday because you see the need for hearing God’s word with your church family is a huge testimony to others - and a great opportunity to explain why it’s so important!
In conclusion, I believe E.M Bounds gives us a sober and helpful warning:
“The easy smile and complacency of successful and prosperous Christians can but impress few. But the determined faithfulness, the long-suffering fellowship, and the stalwart compassion of yokefellows in hardship is certain to convey the hope of grace to many.”
Is this the quality of fellowship we long to exemplify? This summer, by God's grace, I hope it will be.
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