Who Misses Out When You Miss Church?

Who misses out the most when you miss church?

It’s not the church. The church isn’t an institution; it’s a movement. The church knows that it is in people’s best interest to live sacrificially – giving their time to attend church, trusting in God by giving tithes and offerings, and serving in their church and in the community. But the church has existed for thousands of years. And while a church can’t function without people or volunteers, the church and its pastors are more pained that people aren’t living out their greatest potential more than being pained that people aren’t filling the seats. The church as a whole doesn’t miss out when you miss a church service.

It’s not your community. When you don’t come to church, that also means you aren’t bringing a neighbor or friend or coworker who needs to hear the truth about who Jesus is and what he has done for them. But there still might be next week or next month to invite them to church. With all of the different media sources out there, there are so many opportunities to hear about Jesus and the church. And, I’m sure there are other people who know them who could invite them to church or share the gospel with them. And… believe it or not, you can share the gospel with someone without necessarily inviting them to church. So the world isn’t missing out more than they already are when you miss church.

What do you miss out on when you miss church? You may miss out on being in community and worshiping with other believers, but most churches now have a completely interactive online campus, where you can worship and hear messages. Not only so, but just because someone doesn’t attend church, it doesn’t mean that a person is in spiritual decline. I can skip going to the gym but that doesn’t mean I’m not working out in my free time. A person might still read their bible and pray and be in community with Christians regardless of their Sunday attendance. So people don’t necessarily miss out themselves when they miss church.

What about your children though? Most children I know don’t have the means to get themselves to church. Most don’t have the discipline to know to read their bibles. They may not have the understanding of knowing the value of worshiping in a community. An adult might miss a Sunday and make up for it by listening to a podcast or watching online, but what is available for their children? There are no kid’s sermons that church’s post online. There’s no “online experience” for children. The biggest loser when families miss church are their kids – plain and simple.

Have you ever thought about what your kids or family miss out on whenever you miss church? Do your kids have a community of friends their age who are a positive example? What kind of priorities are you raising your kids to have? Who are the adults who you allow to speak into their lives – coaches, teachers, friends’ parents? There will be a day when your kids will give less value to your voice as their parent. Parents need to raise their kids around adults who will speak life and wisdom into them, so that when the time comes and these kids start to pull away, there are voices around them that speak the truth. We need to see who it really costs when we miss Sunday services. The next generation is at stake.

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Bless ’em, Lord.

The scene is familiar to anyone who has been on a mission trip.

Wherever you are, it resembles a shanty town. You wouldn’t be surprised to see a Prawn from District 9; “buildings” being more like “pre-evicted establishments” in the United States. There is graffiti on the walls. There are dirt floors, and habitants who fill in the rest of the description quite harmoniously. Motorized transportation seems to be a luxury for less of the populace than more, and the same goes with laptops, and cell phones, and in some places, electricity.

Many people come back from mission trips, and they tell stories of people with whom they got to make a small impact. Some tell stories about the missionaries they worked with, or maybe even a story about a chance they had to present the gospel message with another person (who half the time, does not understand English).

But what I hear most from people, the reaction that far exceeds the others, is a statement of how “blessed” they feel for the provision God gave them.

I don’t think there is a typology in the bible to merit a “prosperity gospel.” But not even an oblivious person would deny that there exists in the world people who seem “blessed” in some fashion or another. And though hard work, birthright, or geographical upbringings are all a factor concerning this, in the world, someone can always find another who is worse off than they are, and also, someone who is better off.

So everyone is blessed in one way or another.

But what is the point of being blessed? If there are not any grounds for a “prosperity gospel,” than being blessed is not a “gold star” given to the faithful from God. God does not give more to people who are more faithful, or have more faith, or whatever those “yuppies” say. But, I think the “gold star” goes to those who bless others (yeah, like that one, “Pay it Forward,” movie).

“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” – James, leader of the church in Jerusalem during the first-century and brother of Jesus Christ

I remember reading as Shane Claiborne described a gift his homeless mission received from a local church. I now describe common scenarios by referring to this one – microwave popcorn to the homeless. A church donated microwave popcorn to homeless people. The church of America is so unaware of the world outside its walls that it gives homeless people – men and women and children who don’t even have electricity, let alone microwaves – microwave popcorn.

I, of course, am generalizing.

Giving to others is not just a suggestion that should be done at one’s convenience, but in the first-century it was seen as a requirement for those who considered themselves to be followers of Christ. James was not saying that it would just be nice if people would give. But he (and others) seemed to put it as a high ritual among believers of the faith. As Jesus said, “Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you” (Matt 5:42).

Are we so encapsulated in our upbringing within a Capitalistic America that we have taken its large-scale structure of economics and justified it to ourselves as individuals, even more so as Christians? When we feel the urge to give, are we just giving our hand-me-downs while simultaneously living out of our means? We need to start giving to others as though they are our family. We need to love and invest in those around us, because we, as mankind, are one.

We need to stop feeling so blessed and start being a blessing to others.

Self. Stars. Significance.

A – O LORD, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!

B – You have set your glory
above the heavens.
C – From the lips of children and infants
you have ordained praise
because of your enemies,
to silence the foe and the avenger.

D – When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
E – what is man that you are mindful of him,
the son of man that you care for him?
E’ – You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.

D’ – You made him ruler over the works of your hands;
you put everything under his feet:
C’ – all flocks and herds,
and the beasts of the field,
B’ – the birds of the air,
and the fish of the sea,
all that swim the paths of the seas.

A’ – O LORD, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!

It’s always fun whenever I am reading a passage and I find a chiasm. I get a little giddy like a school girl and start metaphorically jumping for joy! I borrowed the outline of the chiasm from a website online. I guess the chiasm here was a little obvious, seeing as the Psalm is bracketed with the phrase on the majesty of God – But I’m going to take the credit this time, k?

It’s been a year since I’ve been in the Bahamas. Last July, a group of us from school went for three weeks to minister and run a kid’s camp. It was exhausting! All day we were planning games, adventures, swimming, and playing. I just remember getting to the end of the day and being ready to relax. A few of us, after the kids went to their tents, would go up onto the roof of the shack we called a kitchen, and we would stare at the stars.

The stars there were phenomenal – not that they were different stars than what everyone else sees. But being on a deserted island with no electricity and being around islands that also have no electricity meant that at night there was pure, untainted darkness. On average we would see roughly ten shooting stars a night! We could see the Milky Way stretching across the sky! God seemed so BIG in comparison to it all! And I remember feeling so small.

Sometimes when we look at how big the world is, we can feel insignificant and think, “God, who am I that you are mindful of me?” We see God’s majesty, and then we feel like we make no difference in the rifts of eternity. This Psalm about God’s majesty hinges on the idea of God being mindful of man. It is a testimony of how truly great God is! God, being all that He is, loved and made people as small and seemingly insignificant as us, but yet He has made us just a little lower than that of the Cherubs and Angels! It almost seems like an oxymoron wrapped in an enigma.

So I guess if I have a point to make it’s that sometimes we are significant in our insignificance. So for my oxymoron statement to make sense, I will say we are “insignificantly significant.”

Being an intern, I get the idea that sometimes what I do isn’t making a lasting impact. Some days it seems like all I do is move the most mundane of materials. Sometimes I feel like I am going to leave here and it will be as though I never even came. But I remember that only God knows the end before the beginning, and that He knows the intricate workings that lie under every situation.

Do you feel insignificant sometimes? Do you feel like sometimes you are working without recognition? We need to remember our place in relationship to God’s. We need to remember whose majesty rules sovereign over every situation. We know that when we are weak we truly are strong – Paul said that. But do we know that even when we feel insignificant – when we feel like everything we are doing is meaningless – that that is when we might be doing what is most significant for the Kingdom?

Ministers. Missionaries. Momentarily.

Mark 5:18-20 – “As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. Jesus did not let him, but said, ‘Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.’ So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolishow much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.”

I remember sitting in Dr. Haltom’s Synoptic Gospels class learning about this passage. One of the things that really gripped my attention about this passage was the difference in the story between the Synoptics. Matthew documents there being two demon-possessed men, whereas Mark and Luke only document one. “Why is there an inconsistency?” is what I thought.

Upon deeper investigation I realized why Mark and Luke only mentioned one man, instead of both. Mark wanted to focus on the man who came to Jesus after the demon was cast out. This man is significant because Jesus sent him back to be the first missionary to any Gentile people. In my mind, it would seem more logical for Jesus to take this man with him to disciple him. But Jesus sought it better to send him out – to his own people in his own land.

Summer is always difficult because all of us go back to our homes, our internships, or wherever. Sometimes it’s easy to get discouraged because we are ready to get back to school, or go out and do ministry – to make a difference. This passage really challenged me because Jesus saw it more fit for the man to go back and preach to his own people rather than follow him. It doesn’t make sense to me.

Jesus is putting us where we are now so we can be missionaries in our own right. When we think about just wanting to graduate or get back to school, we need to remember that Jesus has us where we are for a reason – to follow the Great Commission. If you’re home and bogged down, don’t lose heart. If you feel like you aren’t making a difference, than just do what you can. Let us be missionaries wherever we are, whoever we are with, and in everything we do.