I had a talk yesterday morning with a young man in his mid-to-late twenties. He had visible tattoos on his neck and arms and some piercing. He was sitting at the Waffle House (WH) counter eating breakfast when I walked in and I sat down beside him. We had talked for about 10 minutes when a WH regular walked in and saw me. He apologized to me for not coming yet to our Monday night church gathering, but he would get there soon. I turned back to the young man and our conversation turned to church. The young man said he did not go to church. I asked why not? He said because the people their were fake and hypocrites. I asked him why he thought that.
He said he could remember going to church with his family and friends when he was young. (A 26 year old saying “when he was young” made me smile). He said we all would get in the car just like we were going anywhere else. Yet when the people he was with pulled into a church and stepped out of the car, they rearranged their facial muscles and make and wear their church face. When the service is over, they get back into their car, then rearrange their facial muscles again and remove their church face. And they pull out of the parking lot complaining that church went 10 minutes longer than it was supposed to, that they are glad "church" is over, and they watch the "church" disappear and were pretty happy about it and that part of their day was over. He said he had a friend that was the pastor’s son. He remembered riding home from church with them, and most of the time these were the same thoughts and actions of the pastor and his family as well.
Ouch. This hit home. I can remember back to some of the conversations that were said when I was growing up going to church and coming home from church. Being told before we “have to” go to church, and afterwards “We get” to go out and eat. Which we as children would echo, “Do we “have to” go to church? And do we “get to” go out and eat afterwards. The first is done in duty, the second is done in joy. Comments on the way to church to behave and “act right” in church.(rearranged their facial muscles and make and wear their church face) Comments of “that service was long” on the way home. These comments I regret I have made as well. Comments I regret I have made as a pastor driving home. We have segmented “church” into a time slot in a week. And one we “have to” participate in.
The church is mobile, it is a movement. It is not a time slot, a place or building you go to or participate in. We are the living sanctuaries of the Holy Spirit, the living breathing church. We are the chosen bride of Christ, full of life and beauty.
I could know say we need to watch how we act and what we say about church because those around us are watching and listening. What we need to do though is watch our heart toward church. Are we going to church out of a heart of duty or joy? Are we a bride that reluctantly enters the groom’s embrace having forgotten her first love? (Rev. 2:4)
Read Rev 22:16-17, 4:9-11; Heb. 12:28-29; Phil 4:6-7; Col 2:6-8, 3:15-17
Take a moment to pray, then read the young man’s answer to why he does not go to church. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal any attitudes of your heart that hits home with the story. Ask for a renewing of your first love for Christ.