There are so many “new starts” or “resolutions” you can make this year. Maybe yours is to lose weight, spend less money on coffee or eating out. Maybe you’ve decided to go to church more often or even on a regular and consistent basis. Of all the resolutions or decisions you intend to make for the purpose of self-improvement, I think attending and participating in church on a regular and consistent basis should rank near the top, or even at the top. If regular attendance and consistent involvement with your chosen church is a resolution you’re considering, then you must understand what you should walk away with each and every Sunday and how to make sure you do. Otherwise you’ll walk in to church with no plan of receiving a blessing and no chance at life transformation.
There are three things you can walk away from a church service or worship experience. It’s a guarantee that you’ll walk away with at least one of them, but you can only walk away with a maximum of two. You’ll see what I mean shortly. The first thing you have the opportunity to walk away with is knowledge and wisdom. Hopefully our pastor will be delivering a well thought and prayed over message from the Bible. Regardless of how stimulating or boring the style of speaking is, you can get something out of the message. Ask God what He’s trying to say to you. Move beyond the distractions around you and within you and focus on the message itself. If the speaking style is a distraction to you, don’t leave the church, choose to move past it and listen to what God is saying through the pastor. Remember, it’s not about what’s satisfactory to you, it’s about what’s truth. You move past distraction all week long, you can do it at church too. No excuses. Listen and learn and you’ll walk away with knowledge and wisdom that can only be given through God Himself.
The second thing you can walk away with is application. Hopefully your pastor not only relays information for knowledge and wisdom and principles for living, but invites you to enter into the arena of the “how to’s” in living out those biblical principles. Listen closely and ask God to lead you in “how” to apply what you’re learning to your daily life. Without application, you’ve gained nothing but knowledge. Wisdom is only beneficial if it’s applied to your daily life. Decide to live differently today and ask God “how” you can. Application coupled with knowledge and wisdom equals spiritual growth, joy, comfort, a sense of freedom and the strengthening of your faith in Christ. Who doesn’t want that? What doesn’t need that? Listen for knowledge, wisdom and the instructions for application so you can transform and grow within the church body.
Lastly, you could forego the first two productive and transformative things and you could walk away with…get ready for it…is…nothing. That’s right, nothing at all. You can walk into a church, your church, sing the worship songs, raise your hands, serve donuts and coffee and sit through a well prayed-over message and walk out the doors and get into your vehicle empty handed and empty hearted. Nothing. “How in the world does someone do that?” you may ask. People do it all the time. I hear it from family, friends and acquaintances. They go to church and walk away with literally nothing. I’m convinced that most of the time (but not always) it’s not the church’s fault, it’s the person’s fault. The person goes to church with expectations of what they want, what they need and what they expect in order for them to have a favorable experience. I’m not sure that’s how Jesus designed the church. When we have this attitude and motivation what we’re really saying is that Jesus and His leadership servants are our waiters and waitresses (Jesus owns the restaurant). They had better serve us the entree we want, the entree we ordered…or else I won’t come back!
Is going to church really about what we get out of it? What is the reason we go to church? Why should we go to church? With what attitude should we go to church? I find three core reasons we are to go to church (besides “because the Bible tells us to”-Hebrews 10:25).
1. To worship God.
2. To learn about God.
3. To encourage others.
4. To serve the church.
How many of these reasons deals with your preferences; what music you like/don’t like, what speaking style you like/don’t like, pews/chairs, the dress of the pastor, the volume of the music, whether or not they have a youth sports program, big church or small church, an American flag in the sanctuary or not, coffee allowed in the sanctuary or not? How many? None. How many distractions do you have at your church? How many distractions are in the world? How do you get past them? It takes much effort to get past distractions in the world. Use the same effort and strength to get past the distractions you find in church. There will always be distractions because there will always be unique and imperfect people like you and me. Go to church with your focus on worshiping God, learning about God, encouraging everyone you can while you’re there and serving the church with your gifts.
Doing these four things were never meant to be done individually, but collectively. If there’s something missing in your church life or elsewhere in your life, try doing these four things on a regular and consistent basis and watch your faith grow and your life change. Start this new year out right and go to church with these four intentions in mind-all or nothing my friend!
“Father thank You for giving us Your church. We are imperfect and mess up a lot, but You are perfect. Help me to focus on You and You alone in the music and in the message. Help me to look past the distractions and meditate upon the lyrics and the Scriptures. Have Your Holy Spirit quicken my heart to Your truths and give me the mindfulness and strength to apply them each day. Help me grow to be more like You. I want to draw closer to You, Lord. And when I begin to think about the distractions, turn my heart toward my neighbor. Remind me to encourage the person next to me, the person You lead me to. Give me the words to say and the hugs to give. And God, give me the courage to step out and ask the church to use my gifts. Lead me to where You want me to serve, wherever it is. Lead me Lord. Thank You for loving me and giving me the church I’m in. Amen.”