Why Go to Church?

Journal 2005

God gifts and equips us to serve others, and ideally, this would be in a church setting. But a church we once attended erected a large roadblock in the path of our prayer ministry. Though they wouldn’t support us because of their fears, triggers, and misunderstanding of inner healing prayer, we continued to show up week after week. We loved the church and prayed for the leadership, but they forbade us to use our gifts in their building.

But I ask myself: What’s the point of going to church if I cannot minister to others? To be fed from the pulpit? Internet resources are boundless, and besides, I’m mature enough to feed myself.

To hear a little music performed? There are CDs for that [or live streaming today].

To worship God in a building? Nature would serve me better.

My felt need is fellowship. That, really, is the essence of why I attend church—to be with like-minded people, to worship together in harmony, to minister to others, to love them, encourage and support them. It’s not enough to warm a pew Sunday after Sunday without interacting with people.

Meanwhile, God led us to others outside the church who were hurting. One call even came from someone in Arkansas, who wanted to connect us to a friend in Germany. God’s work would not stop.

A 2021 Update: Two things. We eventually moved to a church where the leadership supports our ministry and encourages us to use our gifts with the body. Refreshing! We have a spiritual covering at last. But second—Covid. I watched in dismay as churches divided themselves along emotional lines of masking/not masking, closing/staying open during the pandemic. The results included people changing churches, people leaving church permanently, and others becoming more tight-knit as they bonded together in unity to minister to each other. I think this year has helped us reexamine why we go to church.

Why do you attend (or not)?

Jealousy

Journal 2010. My third grade Sunday school lesson for this week was on David and Saul. I began by asking the children to look at each other’s eyes and tell me their color. We had five children with brown eyes, and three who had blue. Next, I told them that I had a special gift for each of the blue-eyed children:  a one-dollar gift certificate to McDonalds. I instructed the brown eyes to clap and applaud for them. And then I paused, observing their response. I asked the brown-eyes how they felt. One said she felt “left out.” Another said, “sad,” and another “unfair.” They all admitted to feeling jealous.

And then it happened. Little blue-eyed Ethan stood up and walked over to brown-eyed Holly (who had made a decision just this week to follow Jesus) and gave her his gift certificate. I praised him and then immediately handed him a replacement.

I then launched into the story of David (handsome shepherd boy, beautiful-eyed, strong, courageous, musically gifted) being anointed king (not because of his outward appearance, but because of his heart for God), his brothers’ jealousy, his slaying of Goliath, and Saul’s subsequent love and admiration for him. And then how the women sang, “Saul has killed his thousands, but David his tens of thousands” and how Saul’s admiration turned to jealousy, to hatred, and then to attempted murder.

We discussed what things made 3rd graders jealous (toys, talents, privileges), and how jealousy can lead to bad things. We talked about how God gives each of us gifts—not for the purpose of self-glory, but to be used for Him and given away.

In conclusion, I instructed the blue-eyes to hand their gifts to the brown-eyes. Not fair? Oh no! Because when we give our gifts away to minister to others, God blesses us in return. And I handed each of the brown eyes a replacement. Now everyone had a gift certificate.

I told the children the gift was theirs to use as they wished. They could spend it on themselves, or they could give it away to bless someone else. It was their choice.

Brown-eyed Chandler said he was going to give his to his brother. Blue-eyed Ethan said, “I wish I could rip mine in half so both my brother and I could use it!” Melina observed that he’d given his away twice, and she tried to hand her coupon to him, but he declined. “It’s okay. You keep it,” he said. And then: “I know! I’ll spend it on ice cream, and I can share it with my brother that way!”

I think the children taught me as much as I tried to teach them that day!

Red Rover, Red Rover

From my 2013 Journal.

For 11 days I sat by Scott’s bedside at St. Thomas Hospital while he recovered from knee surgery. I watched a team of workers ministering to the patients. In one shift, a doctor, a PA, a nurse, a tech, a food deliverer, a cook, a housekeeper, a student nurse, a supervisor, and a case worker all contributed to the healing process. Only the surgeon or only the cook wouldn’t have been sufficient. Pain med management was no more important than the one who emptied the urinal. It was a well-oiled machine where everyone had to do his or her part, what he or she was skilled and trained for.

Somewhere I was taught that in God’s kingdom we should all exercise all the spiritual gifts (teaching, helps, hospitality), even if they aren’t my gifting or calling. I cut my baby teeth on “Bringing in the Sheaves” and the primacy of evangelism, but It has been a very long time since I’ve shared my faith openly with a nonbeliever. I have made a gradual yet complete shift away from evangelism to discipleship, from making converts to helping to heal the body of Christ. It has become my calling, and it’s intentional. But is it okay?

The housekeeper should never attempt surgery, and it would be a waste of his training if the surgeon gave up his job to do janitorial work. Acts 6 records the scenario where the apostles maintain their calling and giftedness—prayer and ministry of the Word. But the ones responsible for distribution of the widows’ food are no less godly or gifted. In fact, they’re specially chosen and commissioned by laying on of hands. It wasn’t the gift or the type of work that qualified them, but their character. We tend to put huge accolades on the public speaker, but every team member behind the scenes has a spotlight on him too.

What’s my point? I would never be able to stand in front of 50,000 people like Angus Buchan and proclaim the Gospel unless God called and equipped me for it. I have become more and more convinced that life is about celebrating our various roles in the kingdom . . . though I guess I’d like the fun sometime of reeling in the fish, not just putting worms on the hook.

The issue I’m wrestling with is the bold declaration in public that Jesus is the Christ. What inside me makes me shrink? I could speak to a believing crowd because we’re on the same side of the fence . . . teammates.

And there’s my visual. At first, I saw a tug-o-war, digging in my heels in total opposition to the other side. Instead, God showed me “Red Rover.” Evangelism is an invitation to join our side. My spirit relaxes with that.

So . . . I can tell someone on the opposing team, “Drop what you’re doing. Let go of the hand next to you. Come test our side. Experience the strength of the God side. Come join forces with us.” Our team breaks apart where there’s sin and idolatry and strongholds, and the enemy captures one of our members. But our team will prevail. Our God is stronger than your gods!

Seek God, not an experience.

From my 2016 Journal.

After struggling with this issue for years, I lay to rest the notion/teaching that I’m missing something because I don’t have certain spiritual gifts such as speaking in tongues, raising people from the dead, healing sickness and disease by a touch, or handling snakes without getting poisoned.

Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by impure spirits [to Peter], and all of them were healed (Acts 5: 12-16, NIV).

After Jesus’ ascension, Peter, the man who denied Jesus three times, begins to perform miracles of healing and casting out demons. Peter didn’t ask for this gift. It was conferred upon him—according to God’s design and purpose. I don’t have the gift of healing, but I have seen clients delivered of evil cosmic beings because, and only because, the person willed it to be so and because Christ’s death defeated demonic forces. I have no power in myself to do diddly-squat! It’s by God’s very will and choice that I draw breath and move and have my being.

I’ve been standing around with my palms up, asking and ready to receive whatever God has for me. Instead, He says, “Just get to work! Quit standing around waiting. When and if I hand you something, open your hand or reach for it in obedience.” If I refuse a gift, then I’m being rude or disobedient. It’s not so polite to extend my hand to demand that someone give me a gift!

The next verse says, Then the high priest and all his associates who were members of the party of the Sadducees were filled with jealousy.

“And don’t be jealous,” God says, “if I give one gift to someone else that you think you want or deserve. I know exactly what gift(s) you need—best for you and best for Me. Now get to work and enjoy what I’ve given you!”

Seek God, not an experience.

Gifts with Strings

Gifts 2

From my 2016 Journal. If I give a gift with strings attached, then I’m still holding the gift—I have not really given it away. But if I give a gift and I let go of the ends of the string, then the gift is in the other person’s hands and I have no more control over it. He/she may do with it whatever he/she wishes. Now that’s a true gift!

My mother modeled this principle well. She loved to make things with her hands—crocheting, knitting, needlepoint, petit point, and tatting. I remember one year she knitted a sweater and presented it to me. Honestly? It looked ghastly awful on me. The neckline was way too large, and it hung on me like a sack. But as she handed it to me she said these life-giving words:  I enjoyed making it; I’ve had my fun; you’re welcome to do with it as you wish. It’s yours.

I gave it away with no guilt or regret, and it blessed the person who actually wanted it.

Gift

God’s Gifting

See, I have called by name Bezalel . . . “I have filled him with the Spirit of God in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all kinds of craftsmanship, to make artistic designs for work in gold, in silver, and in bronze, and in the cutting of for settings, and in the carving of wood, that he may work in all kinds of craftsmanship. Ex. 31:2-5 (NASB)

I think when my big sister was birthed into this world, she sucked out all the creative genes from my mother’s womb and left me with nothing but stick figures for drawing ability. It seems rather unfair to me! Why should she get all the talent?

God called Bezalel by name, filled him with His spirit, and gave him amazing artistic knowledge. And only a few were chosen out of all the tribes of Israel to do this specific work for the wilderness tabernacle. The rest were chosen for other tasks. God is the one who gives the artist his/her ability. It is God who chooses who gets what. We are not to be jealous of each other’s gifts and talents. Neither are we to call God unfair in His treatment of man. I belong to God. He may gift me and use me as He wishes.

In truth, I’m immensely proud of my big sister’s accomplishments. I am delighted to be associated with a master craftswoman. Want to see some of her work? Go to Gourdsbygrace.com

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