I no longer feel guilty skipping church on Sunday, here’s why...
MOM: We’re gonna be late...
Sound of door slamming shut. Feet quickly pounding down a staircase
Where’s your brother?
ME: He said he had to use the bathroom (I had to consciously hold back my smile…I knew my brother was going to get an earful for his inopportune time to answer nature’s call)
*My mom grumbles something in Spanish as she heads to the bathroom door*
Finish up or we’re leaving you here without you.
BROTHER: Good, I don’t want to go to church anyways! (Now he's just stirring the pot)
Well we’re not leaving you here so you have 1 minute to get your shoes on and be in the car!
Fast-forward 25 minutes
The three of us are fast-walking into the main sanctuary. Loud, Pentecostal praise music is pouring out of the doors. (If there’s a welcome party in Heaven, I hope the Pentecostals are in charge of it)
We find our seats and I immediately look at my watch so that I can start the math problem of when will church be over in my head. We got here 5 minutes late, so that means about 10 more minutes of worship, 30 minutes of sermon (unless the Spirit shows up…), 2 more songs at about 3 minutes each, then we’re home free!
I’m sure some of you had similar experiences growing up. Depending on the culture you grew up in, going to church was never up for negotiation. It was assumed that every Sunday you were to be found at the same place, around the same time, come hell or high water.
When I was finally old enough to drive and have some autonomy in my life, I rebelled. My church attendance went from once a week, to once a month, to a handful of times a year.
When God interrupted my life again in college, I found comfort by going to church in a way I had never experienced. For a brief time, church became a safe haven of sorts. It was the gathering place of God’s people. It was refreshing and vital and necessary. Sunday became something I no longer dreaded but craved.
That season (which lasted a few years, but which seems so short in the scheme of things) came to an end. The thing about church is that it’s like a rolling pin and we are the dough. At first, the pin is exactly what we need. It shapes us, massages us, pushes us. We become something more because of the encounter. But do you know what happens when you keep rolling out a piece of dough? It becomes flatter, thinner, and eventually begins to break apart.
The same thing that was essential to my growth became complicit in my destruction.
So I left again. I told myself the break was only for a few weeks. Before long, those weeks turned into months, and those months into years. And I found myself back where I started – craving Christian community once again.
I’ve returned to the church. But this time, cautiously. And with the benefit of life experience and self-awareness on my side.
Community has to meet more often than on Sunday.
Growing up, Sunday church was something to check off a list. If you were seen in the pew, then you got the check. If you were “missed”, then someone was sure to guilt you into returning next week. Community meant nothing more than being somewhere with people who expected you to be there. It was not ultimately about encouragement or helping one another. It was about guilt and shame and social pressure. I never had many “church friends” growing up, because they weren’t the type of people I wanted to become. So I spent as little time with them as possible.
Fast forward to today. I’ve grown up a bit, and I’ve realized that no matter where you are, there will be people you click with and people you do not. Just because they are a part of your church does not mean you have to destroy your life to accommodate theirs. Find your people. That’s what I’m doing. And I don’t mean finding them so that you can sit next to them on Sundays. I mean find them so that on Tuesday when you want to go see a $5 movie, you have people to go with. When you’re moving a couch and all of your family is busy, you have back up. And when you honestly don’t know what to do with yourself, and this whole God thing doesn’t make sense, and all you need is someone to bake you brownies and remind you that life is beautiful, they’ll answer your call.
Real community might only see each other once a year. But they know they have each other’s best in mind every day of the week.
Worship shouldn’t be confined to Sundays.
My wife is a dancer. She wouldn’t tell you that. But if you get the right song playing, she won’t be able to help herself. The notes crawl right down into her soul and make her move from the inside out.
My wife is also a worshipper. I worship, but not like she does. It’s beautiful, ferocious, honest, humbling to watch. Some of her most intimate worship sessions have happened behind closed doors, during the work week.
I tend to worship through thinking. Find me a window with a good view of nature, I can stare out contemplating God for hours. This is also worship.
And so is cleaning and painting and exercising and dreaming and crying and hoping and breathing.
When worship breaks beyond the walls and sing-along songs of Sunday, it’s free to flood our life. Sunday should be a piece, an appetizer, a dessert, of our weekly worship. Never our entire diet.
Giving must occur outside of Sundays.
Show me your bank statement and I’ll show you your priorities.
Money is not that complicated. We spend it according to the overflow of our hearts. If we love food, it’ll go towards food. If we love music, it’ll go towards music. And if we love being generous, our money will prove that.
Love and money are both meant to go out. To be spent. The reason loving money is so dangerous is because it inverts the cycle. Like a body of water that never pour out, it grows stale. And stale water can be deadly.
If the tithe is the end all, be all of our giving. We’re missing out. We’re missing out not because God has secret blessings for those of us who give above and beyond. We’re missing out because we just proved that we don’t really love much. We love the church (or the idea of the church) and ourselves and that’s it.
If we loved education or feeding the hungry or providing Bibles to the whole world – than our money would prove it.
Maybe the reason we have so many Sunday-only Christians is because we’ve emphasized Sundays as the end-all, be-all of our faith. Maybe, if we made Sundays less important we would have to find ways to make our faith real the rest of the week – because the Sunday checkbox no longer counts. If my Sunday attendance doesn’t prove that I love God…what will?
So miss church every now and again. Sleep in on a Sunday morning. Go see an early movie. And remember that the whole point of Jesus’ gift was to spur us to be the church. To do life with one another that models the kingdom of God. An attractive, disruptive, upside-down, boundless gospel that can't be confined to a single day of the week.
Sundays are important, even necessary. But they are such a small piece of the ultimate picture.