Sunday, November 10, 2013

When You Don't Want to Go to Church (Part 2)

We all have a few of "those" people in our church that don't have a very good attendance record. There is always a reason. Sickness, travel, work, birthday parties, baseball games, repair guy coming, car trouble, oversleeping, etc. Something always "comes up."

I was a skeptic. If you really want to go to church, you find a way. Sundays are blocked off on the calendar. You set three alarms so you wake up. You take some cough medicine to ward off that tickle in your throat. You sign up for three different committees so you have to be there. 

It worked for me. I don't want to brag or sound too legalistic. I know not everyone has an easy time setting aside a few hours on a Sunday, although I think it gets easier if you just put it on the calendar and make it a habit. But I think that this is an area where there will always be obstacles, and here are a few examples of how my devotion to regular church attendance has been threatened:
  • In college, it was hard to get up on time (surprise, surprise), and I sometimes missed the bus.
  • I would stay up too late on Saturdays (even with good intentions to get homework out of the way) and fall asleep during the sermons.
  • When I starting attending my church in Russia, I would feel like I was going to throw up from nervousness whenever arriving at church or Bible study.
  • Then there were "digestive issues." Those started around the time I joined the worship team. I had this whole route planned out to make a pit stop on the way to church. It doesn't happen now, thankfully. But it was always specifically on Sunday mornings, not on other days of the week.
  • I would get worn out by the end of the week and come down with something on Friday evening, which would be full-blown by Sunday morning.

Blah, blah, blah. I know these sound like typical excuses, but when I look back it's like there were these little mountains to climb over just to get to my church family. And it was worth fighting for.

Then we had a baby and everyone told us we would be occasional visitors just like the other families with children. We were going to prove them wrong. It's like when I became a missionary and was determined not to do the American thing and hit up McDonald's. Traveling across town with a small baby was an epic trek, but we did it. However, with a baby's immune system, you don't just tough out the cold symptoms. You stay at home. So David and I did start to go less regularly due to those factors. 

Then Sundays mornings started being just...stressful. Nothing to wear (couldn't zip up my pants or button my shirt), not enough sleep, David's needs, David's messes (smearing yogurt in my hair right before we had to leave). There were transportation delays like the tram taking a different route, and I hated walking in late. I remembered being on the worship team up front and how distracting latecomers were.

I started resenting the commute for the first time in a long time. What was the point of going all that way only to miss worship and go feed David right after the sermon? I could just listen to the sermon recording at home or find one online. In previous years I had thought the was all worth it just to see my friends for a few hours once a week, and to sing with them and soak up some spiritual nourishment. Not anymore.

The final obstacle was just not wanting to go. Tears on Saturday night or Sunday morning or both.

"Sunday is the worst day." I started to believe that and I even said it out loud a few times, even though I knew I shouldn't speak negativity, but I needed Andrei to help me get refocused.

This is always going to be a battle. There will always be obstacles. Now it is a toddler, later it will be his schoolwork. 

But faith is continuing on when you can't see the fruit yet. When you are investing in relationships but don't have the warm fuzzies yet (and for me they take a pretty long time to show up). Going through the motions doesn't always have to be bad. 

So I have to take back my judgment of people. While I haven't seen any good arguments for not NEEDING church, I can see that there are a lot of reasons one might not FEEL LIKE going. I see that half-hearted intentions play a role, as well as genuine obstacles. And of course there are plenty of good ways to spend a Sunday, but I don't know that they will be more rewarding in the long run. I remain firm in my belief that it's important for believing Christians to be a part of a specific local body, and to be gathering together with brothers and sisters as regularly as possible.

But those aren't all my thoughts on this topic...

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