Sunday, June 9, 2013

Two empty seats

As I sat in church today, I was very aware of two empty seats next to me.  Of course there were other empty seats throughout the church...but I was hopeful that the seats next to me would be occupied by someone.  Yet they sat empty the entire service.  Several times throughout the church service I found myself turning to glance toward the back of the room...maybe, just maybe they'd come. 
All of this got me thinking about church.  What's the big deal with it anyway?  Why do I care so much that those 2 chairs not remain empty.  I am such an advocate for Christians being apart of a bigger family of believers for many reasons and wanted to share some things on my heart.

As I child my mom took us every week to church.  I can still remember certain Sunday school teachers, specific songs, memorizing bible verses, the church Christmas play, the annual church pie auction, and as I got older, weekly youth group, summer camps, ski trips, and beach retreats.  In fact I gave my heart to the Lord, at age 13, during a youth summer camp.  I went as a newborn baby, a young elementary child, a pip squeak junior higher, a grungy dressing high school student, a busy college student, a single adult, a married person, and now as a mother who takes her own children to church.

No matter how busy my life was or is, church has always been an absolute priority!  Why?  Because I know it's a small sacrifice that reaps huge rewards.  There has been tremendous blessing in my life, my marriage, and my children's lives as a result.  It's brought greater growth in my walk with the Lord, positive fellowship, & powerful corporate worship.  It's an atmosphere for encouragement, repentance, being refueled, equipped, challenged, accountability and blessing!  

Going to church is not a religious act.  It's not just something I do so I can check it off my to-do list.  It's not about a big building, fancy programs, or putting on the appearance that you're completely put together.  Church is made up of people who don't have it all figured out, who each have their own struggles, who have imperfections, difficult challenges, kids who misbehave, and arguments with their spouses.  It's filled with old and young, rich and poor, single, married, and divorced.  There are those sitting in the chairs who have walked with the Lord for a very long time while others sit there just beginning their journey of faith. 
I've known people to view church as a place full of hypocrites who cast doubt there are those who get caught up in being "religious" which brings with it condemnation, judgment, and an "I'm better than you" attitude.  But this is no different then the Pharisees Jesus encountered during his life here on earth.  It's also no different than attitudes you may encounter in your high school, your work place, or even going to the mall.  Those actions and attitudes are there whether someone claims to be a Christian or not.  It spreads across the entire race of humanity since the beginning when sin entered this world...that need to exalt ourselves, being full of pride, arrogance, and casting judgment...but when God truly grabs ahold of a persons life in a real out!!!
Bottom is about individuals gathering together, no matter their gender, race, social status, job status, or income...why?  Because they are all in need of a savior.  Church is filled with sinners saved by God's grace....those who have come to experience forgiveness and who put their trust and hope in their creator.  Church is about the strengthening of our relationship both with God and with people!!  It's about sacrificing our plans, our time, and our agenda before the Lord.  It's a way of life, a habit, a discipline, a priority.  It's about giving of our time, talents, gifting's, and callings on our life to impact the lives of others.  It's about the different parts of the body of Christ coming together in order to be effective for God's Kingdom.  We are part of something so much bigger than just our local church.   
So what is to be done about those empty seats?  Or those loved ones who continue to not walk in the doors?   Don't give up!  Trust them over to the Lord.  Keep on praying that those empty seats are one day occupied!
And if you are reading this and you currently are not attending church...perhaps you are the one someone else has invited...I encourage you to go check church out for yourself.  You will be so blessed if you do!  Don't choose based on the nicest church, the biggest building, or the most popular...base it on 1) how welcome you feel, 2) how people take the time to notice you and introduce themselves 3) A pastor who speaks the truth of scripture at your level and in very relatable way!! 4) A church body who will invite you in and accept you just as you are! 5) A church that loves kids and it is evident!  6) A church who will support and encourage you in building a strong and healthy marriage.  7) A church who cares about it's community.  8) A church with worship that edifies your soul and moves you closer to the Lord.  9) A church who believes in the importance of fellowshipping and spending time with each other outside of a Sunday service. 10) and most importantly, a church that shares weekly the gospel message of Jesus and gives people the opportunity to repent from sin and accept Him into their hearts!!

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