I’ve read that for a marriage to succeed, it helps if both parties share a similar background. One thing that Mike and I share for sure: both sets of parents dragged us to church regularly.
In my case, that meant every Sunday, for Sunday School and church, and then back at 6 for youth group and on to 7 for the evening service. Then we were back on Wednesday for weekly Prayer Meeting. In addition, as my dad and mom both served on elected committees, our family’s social life often revolved around the church and its members.
I’m not sure but it seems that when I was growing up in the 50s, most people went to church. Certainly all of my friends did. My Catholic friends got to dress up like brides when they were 7 for a special service. Some of my friends went to churches that only had morning services so they got to see The Wizard of Oz and The Ten Commandments and the Beatles debut on television. But church and most biblical allusions were a common thread among my contemporaries.
Then, the 60s happened. Someone declared that God was Dead. Social unrest and spoiled children with too much time on their hands began to shun all manner of parental values and church attendance was the first to go. I did not get away with that until I left for college and then I did.
I attended a Christian liberal arts college where we were required to attend daily chapel. Chapel was a mixed bag…sometimes it was church-like; sometimes it involved a presentation from the Arts Department or ROTC (also required), and always some music major played the big pipe organ and another sang. I’m sure we paid attention; most of my friends learned to knit, also, during chapel. Many a student participated with a TIME magazine was spread across his lap. The music was spectacular and the messages were often interesting so it seemed logical to me, not widely lauded for my logic prowess, that I was getting plenty of church during the week and so chose to skip the weekend ritual.
Now, as a long-time Christian, I know that when I choose to stray from what I know is right, I putty up the guilt gaps with reasons that make sense at the time. As I was not alone in abandoning regular church attendance, I found reasons among my peers and in the media. “I can worship God alone.” “I’ve heard it all before.” “I’m saved so a salvation message is not for me.” “I’m not a drug addict or alcoholic so the addiction message is not for me.” “God loves me and forgives me.”
I could go on and by the time I’d be done, you’d want to smack me. I want to smack me. Oh, the arrogance and false wisdom of the young.
Yes, church attendance can become habitual but there are plenty of reasons the writer of Hebrews told us not to forsake the gathering together. Can you worship God alone? Well, sure. Take a walk in the woods on a misty morning and praise His name. But He wants us to join with others in corporal worship and also to meet needs and care for one another, as a family, as HIS family.
As for the “I’ve heard it all before.” We currently attend a church where it is common after the message for someone to say, “It was like THE SPEAKER was following me around last week.” It’s also common for someone to think, “The message was good but not really for me this week,” while another to hear God’s voice clear and strong within the same message.
But here’s the big thing about regular church attendance. God wants us to meet together. You never know when He will sit you by someone who needs you to be there. You never know when He’s going to speak through the message and give you an answer, or comfort, or admonition, or conviction that will help you, as His child.
Over my many years in a traditional and big Baptist church, I had committed many hymn lyrics to memory. I could blast out the alto without looking at the music. My best friend Margaret and I used to enjoy a special competition when we sang “Like a River Glorious.” If you ever sat in front of us, you were aware of this. As my sister Janis pointed out, "There’s a lot of good theology in those hymns."
Yes, there is. How many times in the last months has God brought a lyric or scripture or truth to mind to chase away fear and give comfort? More times than I can count. And how many times has He led a sister or brother to call, stop by, or in other ways meet our needs? Again, I have lost count.
And when the world does not make sense, when what logic you have is sent spinning into space, what can you cling to? To the eternal truths of the Father.
Thanks, Mom and Dad for dragging me to church. Thanks, all Christian friends and family who have prayed me to this place.