Are We Pharisee Church Attenders?
Are We Pharisee Church Attenders?
As a pastor’s son church on Sunday was never a question. It was the air I breathed. I have no memory of asking if we could stay home from church on any given Sunday. The thought never crossed my mind.
Regularly gathering with the body is essential in discipling our children and each other. The Bible calls Christians not to forsake the gathering because our faith and obedience are reinvigorated by the singing, praying, and preaching of the word of God.
But there were those times when we couldn’t go to our home church in north Texas. On rare Sundays we were on vacation or visiting my grandparents. I’m sure you’ve had those weeks too. Now with Covid-19 that seems to be the new norm.
What do you do when you can’t be with your home church?
I have strong memories of what my family did when we couldn’t be with our home church.
Most vividly, I remember my grandparent’s church. I remember my whole extended family taking up rows of pews. Yes, “rows” plural. My mother is one of six and I have 15 first cousins on her side alone. For years my grandparents were part of Calvary Baptist Church in Denison, Texas. I attended that church often enough that my grandfather tried to hook me up with the pastor’s daughter (and I still remember her name). I recall being dropped off in children’s Sunday School and in later years, the youth. I remember seeing and hearing my grandfather sing hymns. My point is this: I have strong memories of what we did when we couldn’t go to our home church.
The opportunity to make memories for the times we can’t be with our church are and ought to be few. But what we do when we can’t be with our church is a unique opportunity for discipleship. What about when we are sick? How important is preaching and hearing scripture when we are out of town? Visiting family? What about during COVID-19?
You and your family ought to create a routine so regular that your children and your church notice the odd Sunday you are absent. That is essential to obedient faith.
24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25
But when you are apart there is a wonderful opportunity for discipleship. The opportunity is to learn that we go to church for for ministry of the word and the fellowship around the gospel — preaching, singing, and prayer. And we do those things for fellowship with God. No, nothing can replace actually being with our local church and the personal fellowship of their presence. But we can bring the ministry of the word in our home. Engaging in the ministry of the word at home while no one is watching is a powerful way to teach everyone in our home (including ourselves) that the ministry of the word is why we gather.
It is very easy for anyone to develop such regular rhythms that what we do simple becomes what we do. Church attendance can start to feel monotonous. Thats ok. But when we take care to worship and hear the word on the occasions we can’t be with our home church we are discipling our children toward affection for God. That is an important lesson I learned going to church with my grandparents. Worshipping God is more than the gathering, its the center of what our family is about even when we can’t be with our church.
The images for me are powerful and vivid. I remember seeing and hearing my grandparents sing. I remember the steps to that church. I remember what we did when we couldn't be with our church.
This brings us to the current situation of COVID-19. Each week is an opportunity to say, “In this house, dedication to the Lord is not relegated by church attendance”. If we are not careful, during COVID-19 we might actually teach our children that we go to church like Pharisees — only when we must because it is what we are supposed to do and because everyone else is watching. If we aren't gathering our children for family devotions at home and for the services are offered by our church during COVID-19 that is exactly what we are doing! We sholdn't do that on vacation either. Get recommendations, google it, and go to a local church wherever you are.
On the occasion when we can't be with our home church, if we do not engage in worship it will teach our children that God is stuck at church. It will show them that our faith is relegated to religion and routines. If that is the case we should repent of that surrender our whole live to him. If that is the case start home worship now.
If God answers our prayers the way we hope and we are able to gather again then this discipleship window will have closed. We should not stay home from gathered church unnecessarily to have “family church” or “church as a family” normally. The church and those who are in Christ are our brothers and sisters and mothers. To have “church at home” later will actually teach those in our household the exact opposite of biblical direction to “not neglect gathering as is the habit of some”.
Make vivid memories of the word of God being honored in home. Dads and Moms, make special effort to sit down for your church service or the ministry being offering. Have your children join you! They won’t even bother anyone in the congregation if they squiggle (maybe a sibling).
Discipleship is always about all of our lives. Daily family devotion, evangelism, service, and loving your neighbor are ways we live and teach others to follow Christ outside of gathering together. But when we can’t gather, we have a unique opportunity to remind ourselves and teach our families that God is not limited to the gathering at the church. We gather our families around the preaching of the word at home too.
For His Glory,