Ever since Isaac was born, going to church has turned into a challenge of epic proportions. I feel like one of those contestants on the show Double Dare. Remember that show? I may not have to crawl through pits of slime or scale enormous walls while pies are being launched at my face, but the obstacles are just as great!
Let’s start with the fact that mornings in general are just plain hard. Lately, some time around 4:00 or 5:00 am, I’ve started blacking out. Around that hour, the fatigue from waking up and feeding throughout the night catches up with me, and I am no longer conscious of anything. I don’t hear Isaac cry, I don’t hear Ike pick him up and take him into another room. Nothing. Instead, I wake up around 7:00 or 8:00, and wonder what happened.
Adding church to that mix gets tricky.
Then there’s getting out the door. Even though we’ve only added one person to our family, we now have a gazillion little odds and ends that we need to take with us whenever we leave the house–diaper bag, extra change of clothes, bottled milk so I can feed him during the service, extra pacifiers in case one falls on the floor, Mickey Mouse stuffed animal because Isaac is obsessed with him, and the list goes on.
On top of it all, we now live about 30 minutes from our church, which adds an extra hour of driving to the morning. It might not be that big of a deal if Isaac slept well in the car, but he doesn’t. In fact, he doesn’t sleep well during the service either, so the rest of our day is often rocky as a result.
With all of this craziness, I have seriously considered not going to church until Isaac is old enough to go to the nursery. Or at the very least, I’ve considered alternating Sundays with Ike so that one of us can go worship in peace while the other stays at home with Isaac. Because, let’s be honest, neither one of us is very focused during the service. Between feeding and burping Isaac, rocking him when he’s sleepy, or taking him out of the service when he needs to be changed, I don’t get a whole lot of worshiping done. Why bother?
That was my thought process this past weekend as I looked ahead to the gauntlet before us. I found myself actually dreading the prospect of going. I really did not want to go to church.
Even so, we went. And I’m glad we did.
Let me tell you why.
Christian teachers and leaders often warn against the consumerism that characterizes much of church attendance today. We are so prone to choose a church based on music preference or the friendliness of the greeters. Today, it’s all about what I get out of the service.
This mentality is indeed a problem. Because of this widespread thinking I have tried to resist it in myself. When my church fails to satisfy my music preferences or standards for preaching, I remind myself of my church’s strengths and the reasons God led me to my church.
Despite my best efforts I am not perfect in this area, and having a baby has accentuated my consumerist tendencies even more. Now, I can’t help but think of church as a major inconvenience. It is hard to go to church. It’s a commitment. And as much as I put into getting there, I don’t get a whole lot in return.
The last couple months have therefore pressed me to consider why I go to church in the first place. Is the ultimate purpose to hear a great sermon? To get a spiritual pick-me-up? To sing my favorite songs? I think that, on some level, I had to answer yes to all of those questions. Because once they were taken away, I briefly thought about skipping.
While hearing the truth preached from the pulpit and singing beautiful songs to the Lord are both wonderful aspects of our sabbath worship, this new season of my life has also reminded me that the Sunday morning service is more than those things.
It is gathering with the Body of Christ to honor the Day of the Lord.
It is welcoming my son into his church family.
It is filling my sons eyes and ears with the sights and sounds of Christian worship.
It is that moment when I bounce my son to the rhythm of the music and sing to him, “Oh, how he loves YOU so!”
It is honoring Scripture’s exhortation to “not give up meeting together” (Hebrews 10:25).
It is exercising my freedom to worship corporately, when so many of my Christian brothers and sisters cannot.
Before Isaac came along, my worship was definitely me-centered. Now, his presence is wresting my focus off of myself and placing it on God, and others. I am reminded that Sunday morning worship is not about putting on my nice neat outfit, having a “meaningful experience,” and then going back home. Worship doesn’t always have to be tidy, or quiet, or organized. Sunday morning is about the entire Body of Christ coming together to honor and praise our Savior. In the sanctuary of God, all are welcome and even expected. From the tiny babies to the barely-keeping-it-together moms; from the prim and proper to the poor and dirty; from the church regulars to the first-timers; from the committed faithful to the broken and seeking–together, we cast a vision of our future heavenly worship, when all are gathered in praise to Him.
We are a community defined by more than our Sunday morning service, to be sure. “Church” is not just a meeting, but a people united by faith in Christ, living out that faith together, every day. However, on Sunday morning (or Saturday night, or whenever you worship with your community) God invites you to come as you are and join your church family in worship. When it comes to the role of the local church in the life of the Christian believer, the important thing is not so much the experience. The important thing is that you come.