Monday, September 03, 2012

One reason why people don't come to church

I stood in front of my chair yesterday morning at the 11 o'clock service singing the song, and I felt a sting in my heart.

It was a familiar pain. A good pain. And it caused me to think...."What exactly is this ache I feel on Sundays, when I open my heart up to Him in His presence?"

Do you know what I'm talking about?

I haven't always felt this sting in church. I used to fall into a category of church-goers whom I think are more or less immune. You know the category; those who are attending to have an experience, to "feel good," to spectate, enjoy a little holy concert, get a little inspired for the week, and then go out to lunch afterwards. Do I ever understand that person! I was that person for years. And I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing, as long as it's just a step in one's maturity (and not a destination). Those years were simply a portion of my journey.

I mean, I do enjoy the music, the donuts, the chit chat, and the inspiration. But that's no longer why I'm there. That stuff is sort of the icing on the cake, you could say. I look forward to going to church these days to meet with God. To fellowship with Him, personally. Of course, I can do that anywhere. But it's so easy under His roof. There are no distractions. Brothers and sisters are serving me there, leading me into worship, teaching me something new about Him, and there are quiet times when I can hear His voice.

When I walk in those doors, I lay my heart on the table, expecting Him to show up.

He does. And oh, it stings.

Friends, tell me you hear me on this. I want more than anything to be loved on and changed by Jesus, and that means I have to expose myself. I bring my whole heart. The problem is my heart is never perfect. I might feel a little proud of how the week's gone, in terms of my parenting or whatever. But the second I open up Sunday morning to my Creator, my One True Love, I can't help but feel the grime of my humanity. In His presence, I immediately know I've missed the mark.

Did you know that the word "sin" is an archery term that means just that? When an archer shot an arrow that didn't hit the bulls eye, the judge would yell "sin!" The arrow missed its mark.

God's mark is perfection. No matter how good my week goes, on Sunday I know I've missed His mark. There's always this moment when I open up, inside. He meets me, I feel the sting of my sin, I grieve it for a moment, and then I let His grace wash over me. It's a quick process, but necessary. By the way, He's not ever bringing to mind my sin in specifics right then. I just have a sudden awareness of being so human, so broken, compared to Him.

Now let's imagine that I didn't have a strong familiarity with the truth that under Jesus, my sin is forgiven and I can stand before my Creator blameless. I look perfect wearing Jesus' righteousness. Let's just say that was me. I can tell you I would NEVER want to step foot in church. Why would I want to face my failure in missing the mark again and again? No amount of good music or inspiration can counteract that kind of inner shame.

Imagine your friends and family who don't know Jesus. I don't care how they've talked their way around the concept of sin and missing God's mark. Unless they are coming in the doors of a church with a heart of stone, they feel ashamed to be there. For a second, I FEEL ASHAMED TO BE THERE. But I know I'm forgiven and it's all good. Of all the excuses, I'm starting to believe this unresolved shame is the main reason our friends and family stay away.

So the lesson, for me, as I thought of all this yesterday, is simply confirmation of Jesus' greatest command. LOVE. It's the only way a person drowning in their shame might choose to come to church, if they have a mustard seed of faith that God is Love. And it's my job to tell them so. I almost typed "And it might be my job to tell them so." No. There's no "might be." It is my job. (Matt 28:18-20)   

Truth be told, that's what gets me to church, freely, habitually laying everything on the table week after week, sting after sting. I love our worship team. I deeply appreciate our children's ministry. And the teaching from the pulpit is straight from God's word.

But I want to be there, I push through the sting, because I know He loves me. That's it.

 {Linking up with my girl Laura a little late b/c I thought
tomorrow was Monday, but guess what, today is.}

bits of splendor



  1. Oh my. Thank you for being so transparent. Even as a fellow believer, one who attends church regularly, I need to be reminded of all that you said. "I want more than anything to be changed by Jesus and that means I have to expose myself." Amen, sister. Thank you for reminding me that God wants us to be vulnerable with Him, and we have nothing to worry about, because He will never leave us. Such good thoughts to think about!!

  2. yes!!!
    oh sister, you are speaking my language!
    I have felt that sting in my heart and it just brings
    me to tears sometimes. usually it's during worship time.. i'm just
    so humbled and yet so grateful for His presence and forgiveness.
    and boy, I think you completely hit upon it (about the not going to church)..
    i've often wondered "why? why doesn't ___ go to church? doesn't he realize how wonderful it is?" and after reading your post, you've given me a some perspective on it. so thank you.. your open and honest thoughts and posts are such a blessing to me! xoxo

  3. This was so beautiful. Just now seeing this post. Thank you so much for sharing your heart. Thank you for giving me the encouragement to push through my shame, my imperfections, so that I can see his perfection and glory.