Monday, August 15, 2016

Do I Have to Go to Church?

About a year and a half ago, I made the decision to leave the church that God brought me to when I first became a Christian. It is a good church with good people but I felt that my ministry passion just didn’t coincide with theirs anymore and knew it was time to find a new church home. God had led me right to the doorstep and through the front doors of that place more than a decade earlier. While I was positive that God was calling me away from there, he didn’t really give me any clue as to where to go from there and that was a problem. At the same time one of my coworkers announced his plan to retire in six months’ time. Our staff had all been together for 10-12 years which is highly unusual in this day and age, even among churches. I wanted to spend as much time as I could with these dear friends while we were all still together as a staff so I started attending worship services at the church I work for. In my mind it was always a temporary respite from looking for my new church home and circumstances kept me there a year longer than I had planned but here I am again looking for that place where God wants me to invest my Sunday mornings and my ministry passion.

I’m a non-conformist woman of faith who has a difficult time with large gatherings and little use for religion. These days, it seems like churches concentrate their efforts in attracting families. Ministries are developed for children, youth and families because families give the impression of growth and a solid foundation for the future.  As a single person with no immediate family within my religious tradition, I feel like I am unimportant and unwanted before I even walk in the door. I walk alone into a roomful of people who are all sitting with their families. I sit alone. I worship alone. I walk out alone. I’d rather just stay at home and worship on my own because being alone in a crowd is the deepest kind of loneliness there is. But that isn’t what God wants. Hebrews 10:24-25 tells us “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another —and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” God made us to be in relationship with him and with others and that includes as a community of believers who gather together in worship.

So all last week, I was trying to psych myself up to attend a worship gathering on Sunday morning but couldn’t manage even a little enthusiasm or desire. So Saturday night I turned it over to God. After all, he’s the one who convinced me to go the first time. I asked him to give me the enthusiasm and desire I couldn’t create on my own. I'd like to share with you a small part of the internal dialog I had with myself as I prayed about it.

“God wants me to go to worship because I need to go.”

“I need to go because spending time with him in this way with others is a great privilege and honor and besides, God deserves my worship and attention!”

“Maybe God wants to bless me by speaking to me through someone else’s voice today and I need to go there to hear it.”

“What if I go there and I worship God with all my heart alone in a crowd and there is no blessing?”

That's when God brought to mind Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego’s answer to King Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 3:17-18: “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty's hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up."  And it hit me—God is glorious and he is worthy of praise. Going to a worship service isn’t about me, it’s about him. My God will bless me because that’s who he is, not because I worship him. But even if he doesn’t, I will still worship him and I will do it in a community because that’s his desire. With this new mindset in place, I set the alarm and went to bed determined to attend a community worship service in the morning.

Sunday morning came and the alarm went off. I never once thought about staying home but got myself ready and went to worship. And for the record, God did bless me and touched my heart in a most profound way. He brought an unexpected friend to the seat next to me. Someone to sing and pray with. Someone to hear the word of God with and share with in our worship of the Lord together. What a great blessing that was!

None of this is going to make next week and the weeks ahead any easier, but I've got a good foundation to build on and I know that where ever I roam, God will be there to receive my adoration. And someday, I will find myself at home in a new church community and be able to thank him for bringing me through the challenging time I'm going through now to get there.


Green Grandma said...

Thank you for sharing this, Maureen. It's good to hear the perspective of those worshipping alone without families. You are more than welcome to worship with us at Northgate someday. We'll sit with you! We know how difficult it is to leave an old church behind. Blessings to you.

Maureen Profeta said...

Thank you Hana.