Last weekend some friends, my kids and I went down to my moms’ place on the south coast. We had fabulous weather, lots of laughs and some cool adventures. Many of the laughs we had were situation jokes: little things that happened or were said over the weekend. One involved a broken toy gun someone found in the backseat of my car and a misuse of the word “drive-by”. You had to be there to know how funny it was.
But that’s how it is with situation jokes: you have to be there to get them. When someone explains them to you after the fact, they just aren’t funny. And when the group of people who went away together are reliving a situation joke, any friends who weren’t there feel a little on the outside.
Over the weekend I was chatting to a good friend who goes to the same church as me about why we gather as a church on Sundays. It was a great discussion that really made me think. Is it enough for me to be a member of a church, socialize regularly with other members of the church, maybe go to a home group, read my bible and pray, but seldom attend the church’s Sunday gathering?
And as I pondered it, I had to think back to the days before I was a pastor’s wife and a member of the church staff. Those were the days when getting out of bed early on Sunday, prioritizing church above other things and going to a weekly church gathering regularly was totally my prerogative. And I realized that the reasons I go now are the same reasons I went then (thank goodness)!
Among the many reasons, here are my top three:
- Situation jokes. Remember how I said situation jokes are only funny to those who are there, and that for those who hear them second-hand they are mildly amusing at best? I think it is the same with church. When I miss church and I hear other people discussing something said during the preach, a powerful prophetic word which was spoken or someone who was healed, I listen with interest, but to be honest, I don’t always catch their excitement. When I am there, when I feel the Holy Spirit during a powerful song, when I catch that life-changing nugget during a preach, when I join my payers to the prayers of my friends, I feel part of something so much bigger than me. I feel part of the body of Christ. I am caught up in the momentum. I am propelled forward in my faith. And during the days that follow, my friends and I often refer to what happened, what was said, what was sung. If I am not at church I miss out on the big picture and I lose out on all God did in that moment.
- Your place or mine? A few years ago, my husband (a full-time pastor) was standing outside our church building with a member of the church. During the conversation, the church member pointed to the building and said, “Do you know there is a tree growing out of your gutter?” After a brief hesitation, my husband answered, “Actually that tree is growing out of your” When we gather often as a church, in the large Sunday context, to serve together, worship together, drink coffee together and clean up together, we start to own the church. And when I own the church, I am less likely to criticize her and more likely to want to be part of what she is doing and where she is going. I am also less likely to get caught up in details like why we sit in rows or why the worship team is on a stage and more likely to focus on the purpose of our gathering: glorifying Jesus. I begin to look for ways of serving people better, of helping facilitate the gatherings better, of honouring and loving people more. Again, I am drawn into something bigger than myself. The church, in the local and global context, becomes mine.
- In it to win it. As a friend said to me yesterday, it is like the LOTTO: you’ve got to be in it to win it. If I want to fall deeper in love with Jesus, join with others who love him in declaring his praises. If I want to prophesy, be where prophesy is regularly taking place. If I want to be healed, be where people are praying for wholeness. If I want to be used in healing, be where I will have opportunity to pray. If I want to build friendships with Christian people, hang out at church and get to know some. If I want to push through my comfort zone and take hold of something bigger, be where the corporate anointing is and take hold of it. So often I have heard a prophetic word or a song on a Sunday and thought about a specific person who I wish was there to hear it. At other times I have heard of something which happened in a church gathering I hadn’t attended and really wished I had been there.
Call it FOMO, but I hate missing out. Especially when it comes to God. And I know that when God’s people gather to worship him, stuff happens. And so it is my earnest prayer that for as long as I live I will be like my kids and wake up every Sunday shouting, “Yay! Church!”