With the crescendo of neighbourhood lawn-mowers, the smell of lighter fluid in the air, and a rising dread at the prospect of finding a new bathing suit, one thing is sure — summer is nearly upon us.
The last few years, however, I’ve noticed a trend. It almost seems that as students return home, cottages open, and lakes warm up, Christians begin to adopt a vacational mindset towards the church. The problem here is not planning a few weeks away with the family but the symptoms that emerge when church fellowship is viewed as optional, inconvenient, or even unhelpful.
Convinced of the danger of this trend and convicted by my own failure in the matter, here are five reasons why I believe we should all make church a priority not only for the summertime but throughout the year.
God Sanctifies Us Through Healthy Routines.
But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. (Heb 5:14)
The author of Hebrews understands discernment as a power trained by constant practice. So if we avoid those circumstances which work to hone our discernment, we quickly become dulled and unable to distinguish good from evil.
Sometimes we believe that the work of sanctification just magically happens apart from our participation. But that isn’t the case. To be sure, God must work salvation in us. Our response, however, should not include passivity.
Instead, we should work out the implications of that salvation with both fear and trembling. A salvation which isn’t regularly striving for greater holiness is also one that will not see God (Heb 12:14).
Likeness to Christ is only something we can hope for as we give ourselves, with the Spirit’s help, to healthy habits and routines like: daily Scripture meditation, honest prayer, and participation in meaningful church fellowship. If our understanding of the church’s role in our sanctification is unclear, it shouldn’t come as a surprise when it’s difficult to feel enthusiastic about summer Sunday mornings.
Local Churches Bring Us Joy
Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts. (Acts 2:42)
Maybe you struggle to look forward to time together as a church. Perhaps it seems impossible to get the kids fed and out the door in time, or maybe you’re finding it difficult to see the personal relevance of a certain sermon series. If you find yourself in this place, take some time to read think about the following words from Eric Bancroft:
“. . .sharing in community is not simply the path to obedience. This is the route to joy. Paul says to rejoice in Christ—the object of our joy. However, that fount supplies a river runs through the New Testament community. There is the joy of having others to imitate and emulate in the Christian life (Phil. 3:17). There is joy because of others’ expressing concern for you (4:10). There is joy in knowing that God has given others to console us in our affliction, not in sympathy but in empathy (2 Cor. 1:4). There is joy in knowing how your love for the Lord and obedience to His Word encourage others to do the same (1 Thess. 1:8–9). There is joy in knowing that you are a part of “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession” (1 Peter 2:9).”
Even On Vacation, Sin Remains Deceitful
But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. (Hebrews 3:13)
If we’re at all honest with ourselves, we know that isolation can function as an incubation chamber for sin. I’m not even talking here about explicit, public sin, but sins of lovelessness, materialism, self-preservation, and investing too much time and resources on things of little consequence.
These are the kinds of “respectable sins” which, unaddressed, go on to wreak quiet destruction in our midst and extinguish our love for Christ.
While we often assume a finely tuned self-awareness, we often don’t see ourselves as accurately as others can. This is a large reason why we prioritize meaningful membership at our church — not in a gossipy, meddling way, but to reinforce the expectation that to be in Christ’s church is to know and be known by others, and that this knowledge is vital to true fellowship.
Christians Need to Hear God’s Word Regularly
For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. (2 Timothy 4:3–4)
Paul states that not avoiding (or not prioritizing) sound doctrine doesn’t mean we will exist in a kind of placid, doctrinal vacuum, but that we will inevitably veer towards the sharp rocks of false doctrine.
Every parent knows that if we don’t intentionally set healthy food before our children, they will naturally gravitate to what they prefer the taste of. In the same way, our appetite for meeting with our brothers and sisters is something that only grows through frequent cultivation. If we aren’t, week by week, ensuring our own hearts are recalibrated towards truth, we ourselves may soon find the sharp rocks in front of us.
Going to Church Shows the World What We Value
None of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high esteem. (Acts 5:13)
Though it wasn’t always the case that the fledgling church was held in high esteem, the crowd recognized that this particular gathering was more than simply people with similar interests coming together. There was a divine component to this fellowship.
We live in a time of disintegrating community. Lions clubs, Shrine clubs, and other organizations which have traditionally sought to nurture a sense of community awareness are all dwindling.
Believe it or not, turning down an event on Sunday because you see the need for hearing God’s word with your church family is a huge testimony to others – and a great opportunity to explain why it’s so important to you!
To sum up, I believe E.M Bounds gives us a sober and helpful warning:
“The easy smile and complacency of successful and prosperous Christians can but impress few. But the determined faithfulness, the long-suffering fellowship, and the stalwart compassion of yokefellows in hardship is certain to convey the hope of grace to many.”
Is this the quality of fellowship we long to exemplify? This summer, by God’s grace, I hope it will be.