One Sunday, towards the end of August last year, I had just dropped off my friend at her house after church and was on the way home. I was on the Highway about halfway between her house and mine when my car started slowing down. I stepped on the accelerator, but nothing happened. Fortunately, there weren’t very many cars on the road, so I was able to pull off to side before it completely stopped. I called a friend to drive me home and had the car towed to a repair shop. The next day, after they ran the diagnostic, I was informed that my car needed a new engine. Money was tight, and a new engine was not in my budget. It would just have to wait. Meanwhile, I would start taking the bus to work and only go to the places I absolutely had to. Unfortunately, church didn’t make the cut since there was no bus route to get there.
This is how I first stopped going to church. I considered trying to find a church nearby but, like the time before when I had been faced with this decision, it was too hard, so I just didn’t bother. I started spending my Sundays either chilling at home, or going to the movies. I didn’t talk to my friends very often because I was afraid of being judged. But even though I knew that not going to church every Sunday was frowned upon, I had this feeling that God was okay with it.
Different people have different reasons for going to church. And I had heard many of them. Some of which, in my opinion, were misguided. I decided to dig deep and try and find out what my own reasons were. If I found that they were compelling enough, I would go out and find a church ASAP. As I ran through every possible reason I could think of, I found that there were three that I felt were quite compelling;
“Observe the Sabbath Day, to keep it Holy”. This is one of The Ten Commandments. Surely, you can’t argue with The Commandments. Then God asked me to look deeper. And I’m not talking about the age-old debate on whether the Sabbath is Saturday or Sunday. No, He took me back to the very beginning. The reason God made The Sabbath Holy, is because it was the day He rested after completing His work. It really has nothing to do with going to church. The Command to Observe the Sabbath is a command for us to rest.
“Do Not Despise the gathering of brethren”. (Hebrews 10:25). In this scripture, the writer of Hebrews is encouraging us to meet together often so that we can encourage and edify one another as believers. I love this scripture and it is such an important thing to have a community of believers. But, Christ reminded me of another scripture that talks about brethren gathering; Matthew 18:20 For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them. Basically, a gathering of brethren does not have to be at “a church”.
The last “reason” was the question of Tithe. In Christian circles, it’s common to hear the phrase, “You tithe where you eat.” In light of this; If I wasn’t going to a specific church, then where would I tithe? Again, Christ brought me back to the scripture. The first place in scripture where we see the concept of Tithe is when Abel brought the first fruits of his flock and made a sacrifice to God. If we look at the Israelites, their sacrifices were made directly to God. Since sacrifices don’t really work in the real world any more, and our wealth is now measured in money, how then do we tithe to God directly? Well,
Matthew 25:35-36,40 for I was hungry, and you gave Me food; I was thirsty, and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’
With this in mind, I felt God’s peace and reassurance that He was okay with me not being in a rush to “pick” a church. I just needed to keep trusting and patiently wait for His instruction on when to move and where to go.
One of my favorite worship songs is “Good, Good Father” written by Pat Barrett and Tony Brown. My favorite part of that song, is the first verse. I think the words provide the perfect ending for today’s post:
I’ve heard a thousand stories of what they think you’re like
But I’ve heard the tender whispers of love in the dead of night
And you tell me that you’re pleased
And that I’m never alone