For many years I thought of myself as being fairly literate when it comes to technology. I’ve realized in more recent years that if I ever was, I am no longer. Part of it may be my impatience at learning new things. I don’t like to read user manuals and I don’t like to spend […]
People often ask me why I go to church. Interestingly, that question can be asked for very different reasons. Some ask because they are merely curious. Others are interested in my spiritual journey. Some are trying to find ways to talk themselves into continuing to attend church. Others ask it in a somewhat incredulous fashion, wondering why anyone would do such a thing, especially in our increasingly skeptical age.
There are many ways to answer the question of why I attend church. I guess an obvious answer is that since I am a vocational minister it is a requirement of my work. But I attended church before I became a minister and would continue to attend if I were no longer in ministry. I could also give a theological answer about how the Scriptures assume we will be a part of a gathering of God’s people if we are his followers, etc., etc. Or, I might base my answer on morality, saying that it helps me to be a better person. For me, though, the answer is based on personal experiences that have shaped my thoughts about church.
I attend church because I was taken to church by my parents. As far back as I can remember my family attended church. There were times in my life when I resisted going to church and wasn’t very happy about having to attend, but I continued, because my parents asked me to. While there were plenty of times I would have preferred staying home and joining my friends in a game of football or so I could sleep in, my parents continued to insist that attending church was important, and they were right. It became apparent to me very early in life that church was important to my parents. Between the two of them, my parents at one time or another held about every leadership position in our church and devoted a lot of time to its ministries, and this made a deep impression on me. My dad, who often worked the night shift, might get only an hour of sleep before going to church, and after the conclusion of worship would take communion to the homebound. When you’re a kid you are very impressed by that level of devotion. I’m still very impressed by that level of devotion. Because church was important to my parents, it became important to me, and I’m grateful they insisted that I attend.
I attend church because of the people in my home church who invested in my life. I could give you a long list of names of people who took an interest in me. A couple of them were ministers, but most were not. Most of them were friends, neighbors, parents – people who lived in our community, attended our church, and most importantly, cared about me, and because they cared they became very influential to me. They were people who provided me with an example of what it meant to live a life of faith. They taught me how to pray, taught me the stories of Scripture, and, most importantly, modeled faith to me. Most of them probably had no idea of the impact they had upon my life. As so many of them are now in eternity, I hope they have learned how much they meant to me.
I attend church because I need a reminder that life does not revolve around me. I have a tendency toward self-absorption, and thus need a reminder that life consists of far more than myself and my needs and wants. Our society seems to be growing in self-absorption, often forgetting there are countless people who have far less in life and live lives full of struggle and difficulty. Attending church reminds me that I must look beyond my own life, recognize there are so many in need, and do my part to make the world a better place.
I attend church because I believe there is a spiritual component to life, that it must be nurtured, and that it is best nurtured by connecting my life with others in a congregation. I can sympathize with the “spiritual but not religious” to the extent that I have often been frustrated with some of the institutional aspects of churches, but I continue to believe that I need to bind my life with the lives of others in order to grow spiritually. I can also appreciate the sentiment that one doesn’t need to attend church in order to worship; worship can take place in many settings. I do not, though, confuse worship with an appreciation of God’s creation, which is all I would manage in a boat or on a golf course. I enjoy those places, but I do not believe I am worshipping when I am there. When I attend church I know I will be challenged in ways I am not challenged anywhere else and will be asked to do things I am not asked to do anywhere else. There is nowhere outside of church, certainly, where I hear that I am to love my enemies.
A skeptic might conclude that I’ve simply been “programmed” to attend church. Maybe so, but I will be forever grateful that attending church has become part of who I am and I know it will always be an important part of my life.
November 15, 2012
This morning we come to the third of the four messages from the book of Jonah. Next week ends our series of messages from this very short, but powerful book. Today I want to talk to you about calling. The book of Jonah covers a lot of themes, and one of them is the calling […]
In the 11:00 service today I will not be preaching, as music will fill that time. Because many of the singers and musicians are not available to this service, I am preaching in this service, so you get a bonus message! When I was in seminary, back in the early 80s, one of my professors […]
Some years ago, early in my ministry, a friend of mine one day asked how things were going. It had been one of those weeks that became very busy with everything but what I had planned to do. I am a compulsive list maker, and at the beginning of each week I make a list […]
For much of the summer I am going to offer “summer reruns.” Over the years of my ministry I have rarely reused messages, but since early in the spring I have considered doing so for the summer months. Some of the messages may be from earlier in my ministry here at FCC while others may […]
Perhaps you heard the story last week of Trenton McKinley, a 13-year-old young man from Alabama who suffered devastating head injuries in an accident. After being flown by helicopter to a hospital, doctors said his chance of survival was slim, as he had seven skull fractures, and at one point he flatlined for 15 minutes. […]
Even though it was common among members of my generation, I never went “in search of myself.” The Baby Boomer generation was the first generation to go in search of themselves on a large scale. I suspect this was true largely because we were the first generation that could afford to do so, as we […]
Like you, I have been richly blessed by having great teachers who were influential in my life. Dr. Harold Songer was one of my favorite seminary professors. I had him for a number of classes and he was one of the most outstanding teachers and lecturers I have ever encountered. I could enter his classroom […]
Finish this sentence – we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are…created equal. And so go the immortal words of the Declaration of Independence. The idea of equality is part of our DNA as Americans. We love the idea of equality. We teach the idea of equality. We cherish the idea of […]
What is it about Jesus? What is it about Jesus that makes him the most compelling figure in all of history? This morning I begin a new series of messages titled What Is It About Jesus? Coming through the Easter season I thought a good deal about how the story of Jesus is so embedded […]