September 16th (next weekend) is national Back to Church Sunday…For me the fact that there actually is a “National Back To Church Sunday” is a mixed love-hate relationship. The campaign exists because summertime is full of trips, excursions, vacations and a million other adventures that can easily draw you away, knowingly or unknowingly, from engaging with your community of faith.
On The Plus Side…
I love it (NBTCS) in the way that we have a re-gathering of people back towards the life of faith and community. The National Back To Church Sunday campaign works kind of like a get out of jail free card for truant church-goers who might be feeling some guilt or shame for being AWOL from the church for a while. I think we all need the occasional get-out-of-jail-free card. Theologically most people know that the church would easily welcome them back and that God is gracious, but often we are hard on ourselves and we create justifiable excuses to disengage.
Another group of people who disconnect from church are those who feel they don’t have anything to offer, or perhaps they are experiencing hard times financially and their inability to participate financially becomes for them a reason to stay away until they are in a better position to give. This absolutely breaks my heart and misses the point of why God established the church in the first place. I just want to see you, not your cash.
A community of faith is supposed to be the place where guilt is forgiven and the person is freed from the weight of Shame. The church is supposed to be a place where you are loved and supported particularly if you have hit some hard times financially or other. Shame on the church if it continue to places loads of guilt on people, and erecting barriers to the life of God’s community.
So maybe you have elicited some of those reasons, or reasons noted in the video, for staying away from church. If you have, it’s time to get some good theology, and immerse yourself back in the atmosphere where God can more powerfully work in and through you. This will begin to address the areas of struggle or doubt and realign you with the grace and abundance of God. You’ll be amazed at how God has designed the church to be a safe place, a forgiving place, a guilt-free place so that you can grow some serious spiritual muscle.
It has been about a 100% truism in my 26 years of ministry that those who for whatever have disconnected from the life of God’s community of people are the ones who are in the most desperate need of what it can truly offer.
So the love side of this equation for me is that I would say to you”Come home…the door is open and the light is on and you’ll find whatever you need in the fridge…no cost, no story, no guilt, no shame, we just simply miss you and long to journey together with you! So come this Sunday and reestablish some powerful God-patterns in your life!
On the minus side…
The hate side of the equation for me is that we even have to have a day called “National Back To Church Sunday.” God is at work in and through His people all the time, yet we forget Him and the spiritual life so easily. I love being with God’s people. I love my community of faith…I love the energy that transpires between a full congregation and the pastors…this makes for a greater dynamic in the worship, preaching, energy and total experience.
I know that church happens every day, but there is something powerful about the gathering of God’s people as one family each week whether that is on Saturday or Sunday. The overwhelming sense of God’s presence revealed as peace, power and empowerment is something that I truly long for everyone to experince…not just once in a while…but whenever we gather together.
While God is with me everywhere I go, there is something mysterious about a community of grace gathering together…so I wish we didn’t have to have a day to try to market going back to church as if it was another American commodity…it makes me sad.
So my mind wanders and prays…
O’ God, that we would become a people who desire you and long for you above all things…
O’ God, may you remove our bad theology of toxic faith that make the church a bunch of dead rules and regulations that so easily create justifications for disengagement…
O’ God would you show up in such a way as we gather that the greatest human experience fades in comparison…
O’ God may we not turn church into something other than your people gathered to center on your centrality
…..love each other unconditionally
………..serve each other and our communities passionately
……………….and hear your voice through Word and Heart
…………………….and make Jesus famous by our actions.
So I wish there didn’t have to be a National Back To Church Sunday, but I’m glad there is one so that grace can again be the ingrediate that lathers us all in God’s love as the prodigals return.
So would you go out there this week, and with grace and authenticity, invite that friend, family member, or co-worker to get back to church with you…It just might be the most spiritual thing you do all week as you choose to reengage…no need to say where you’ve been…just show up, the Body of Christ needs you, and God is waiting for you to move in faith…I promise you, He’ll reach you before you reach Him 🙂