So, what about church? What do you think about it? Seriously….
Is it a place you go on Sunday just to say you went?
Is it a place you go so you can have your weekly social hour?
Perhaps you go when it’s convenient – you know, the kids are up anyway, we have nothing better to do…
Or maybe you go “because we have always gone.”
A better question yet – WHY NOT CHURCH?
Have you been hurt or offended by a person/leader at church?
Maybe you didn’t like the music or the preacher went to long?
Maybe your friends don’t go, so why go?
Perhaps there is a sporting event that is taking place and you feel the need to go there?
It’s the only day you have as a family….let’s relax at home?
As a minister’s wife and before that as a deacon’s daughter….I have at least thought ALL of the above and at some point perhaps they have all been true. However, the older I get and the more I grow closer to Jesus…the more I realize that church is family. I am NOT talking about a building that you attend on Sunday morning….I am talking about the body, the people, that comprise what is the CHURCH.
Recently, I heard it said that the reason attendance is down is because people aren’t committed to their churches…I agree but I think there is more to it.
Let me ask you this…Why family?
Think about it…does your family EVER offend you? Do you get tired of listening to the same old thing? Has there ever been a time where you wanted to stay home from a family event and didn’t simply because it was FAMILY? For the most part, we are committed to family. We will fight HARD for a relationship just because they are our FAMILY.
I know this from my own experience as well as from others. I have a close friend who has gone through some REALLY tough extended family issues…to the point of sister-in-laws criticizing, siblings judging, etc…It would have been easy for her to say “Forget it…their loss.” Yet, I watched a truly amazing thing…she FOUGHT for a relationship, she worked to love in spite of disagreement, she reached out instead of pulling away. Why? BECAUSE THEY ARE FAMILY
Back to the church….What IF we saw a church as FAMILY? What if instead of comparing notes on what church is doing what programs and which church has the most to offer – we instead looked and said “Where can I contribute to this FAMILY?” Once in a church, what if instead of throwing our hands up and saying “I’m outta here” and walking away – we FOUGHT for relationships, we worked at it, we loved, we reached out…suddenly the stakes just got higher.
I am NOT talking about simple attendance on Sunday morning…although that is important. Anyone can get up and tolerate an hour or two at a church. What I am talking about is investing in a FAMILY. Putting their needs ahead of our own…reaching out to them no matter the cost, fighting for the relationship.
This issue has me up at this crazy hour of 4:30 in the morning…well actually since like 2:00. Anyway, as I lie in bed TRYING to go back to sleep I still wrestled with this whole – church attendance/commitment thing. As is typically the case, I knew that if I couldn’t sleep God must have something to show me. I got up and after taking our puppy out I began really seeking what God was wanting me to hear….
Acts 2: 42 “And they devoted themselves to the apostles teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to the prayers.”
Acts 2:46 “EVERY day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple complex and broke bread from house to house. They ate their food with a joyful and humble attitude.”
As I read these verses, and then the commentary in my Bible – a few key points caught my attention.
First there were FOUR things that they DEVOTED (COMMITMENT) themselves to:
1.) Teaching of the Apostles – ie. Sunday morning church, Bible Studies, Small Groups.
2.) Fellowship – ie parties, socials, special events
3.) Breaking of Bread – they ATE together, they spent time around the dinner table, like EVERY family should.
4.) Prayer – They were COMMITTED to times of prayer.
Beyond these four things there was an amount of time and places that they met:
1.) EVERY DAY….church was a FIRST priority, before anything else. They didn’t “fit it in” they instead made it FIRST. It was a DAILY thing to be together as a church family…not a once or twice a week thing.
2.) FROM HOUSE TO HOUSE – Did you see that? They were in each others homes, daily. Like a FAMILY should be. They were JOYFUL with each other.
I have to say – some of these hit me HARD. As I was lying awake and thinking of our church family, I was quick to get frustrated and angry and start saying “Well they should…” and then I read these points…
Am I eating with my church family? Am I praying? Am I devoted to teaching – not just going since I am a minister’s wife? Am I a part of fellowships with a JOYFUL attitude? Am I inviting people to break bread in MY home? Am I putting my church family FIRST EVERY DAY?
Shaking head in shame…no, not like the church in Acts and not like the Bible commands. Oh sure, I am frustrated with attendance, I get more than a little discouraged to hear of a family going to another church for whatever reason, I am looking for the right “program” to attract families….but am I DOING IT GOD’S way?
Being on staff, Joel and I have an inside close up look at how churches are struggling both in growth and financially. We are more than aware of the stark budget cuts and having to trim ministry things here and there and to be honest it DOES get discouraging…but then I come to Acts chapter 2 and I realize it’s not about the amount of money our church has – PLEASE DON’T MISUNDERSTAND _ YOU NEED TO TITHE (that’s a whole different topic) but money doesn’t make the church grow. Yes, money helps expand the ways a church can do missions and reach out but that isn’t the key to a growing church.
At the end of Acts 2 it says “They ate their food with a joyful and humble attitude, praising God and having favor with all the people. And EVERY day the Lord added to them those who were being saved.” vs 46b -47.
I have this hunch, okay more than a hunch, belief – that IF we were to do what the church in Acts did – our churches would be overflowing. Instead, we have allowed work, sports, relaxation, entertainment, etc to become first and put the FAMILY last…both biologically speaking and the church family.
Here’s the challenge to myself and to you:
1.) Find a church family that you can be COMMITTED to – in the good, the bad, the ugly. Will you disagree? Yep! Will you get angry and frustrated? Yep! Will you be blessed beyond measure? ABSOLUTELY! Be committed – don’t give up on your church family when things are down or hard. STAY IN AND FIGHT…be like my friend and WORK toward a relationship and unity.
2.) Open your HOME on a regular basis. This is a tough one for me…I have four kids and my home is often not clean (okay pretty much NEVER clean). I have a REALLY small house – it’s crowded with 6 of us! I don’t like to cook…the excuses go on and on…but I can’t ignore Acts 2 when it says THEY MET IN HOMES….I want my home to be a place we can break bread together and be a part of each others daily lives.
3.) EVERY day connect with someone within your church family. A phone call. A cup of coffee. A text message. A facebook post. A lunch date. Somehow, someway, connect EVERY DAY!
4.) Make your church your FIRST commitment – not an “if it fits in”. When your church is having an event make sure that you and your family are there! Make Sunday a CHURCH with NO exceptions type commitment…that means YES you tell the coach your daughter can’t play in the softball tournament if it is on Sunday. That means that YES you are there on Wednesday nights even if you are missing an athletic event or some other thing. When you look at the calendar for the month – the church events are the FIRST things written in – not the last!
As the social/event/calendar coordinator of the Arrington Family – this is my challenge as well. Yes, we are on staff so in a sense we or at minimum Joel – is usually at all church events but I want more. I want a FAMILY relationship, a committed attitude. I want to be reaching out through my home, to be praying with and eating with church family. I want to CONNECT EVERY DAY!