Missing In Action

This post is going to reflect my heart – and unfortunately, in large part – my fleshly heart. My heart aches tonight. After what I believe was a great Sunday School lesson that dealt with idols in our lives, a spirit-led message this morning that was an incredible encouragement to me (the preacher!) about the Authority and Power we have to fulfill Christ’s commands and to walk in His ways… And after speaking from Titus 1:4-9 in this evening’s service with a joyful heart…

My heart aches because there were huge holes in our congregation. Some because of personal situations, some because they were “busy”, some – well, who knows how it goes. My heart aches, not for me personally – though I will freely admit that I do often (usually illogically take it personally), but because of the missed opportunities – opportunities for those missing to assemble together to worship the Lord – to whom we owe so much and can never repay. Opportunities to fellowship with brothers and sisters in Christ – both to receive encouragement, and also to lift up others who look forward to that fellowship. They missed an opportunity for personal spiritual growth. They missed the blessing of lifting up their voice in corporate worship.

Our lives are filled with choices – choices that will either reflect your relationship with Christ, or will betray your broken relationship with everything else. While the choice to “attend church” is, ultimately, personal – there is a reason the writer of Hebrews recorded the words:

“not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another,
and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
I suppose I am an anomaly when it comes to church. Some might chalk it up to being “the pastor” – after all “I have to go to church”…  though it doesn’t work that way.  I don’t just look forward to “going to church”, I get great joy BEING the church – walking with my brothers and sisters in the faith.  I crave the fellowship.  I desire the sharpening.  I want to help others, as I myself am lifted up by others.  I feel empty if I miss the assembly with my local church.  But it hasn’t always been that way.  When I first trusted Christ, I wanted to be “at church” every time the doors were opened.  But as time went on, and the “new” wore off, my zeal for church attendance began to wane.  
But – it all sunk in – I had the wrong attitude about church.  It wasn’t about “going to church”, it is about BEING the church – our relationship to each other as we look to God.  Over time, the joy grew in simply being with fellow Christians.  The words of Christ when He said “love the brethren” began to really come alive.  Romans 12:9-13 suddenly gained new life and traction in my heart:
Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
I honestly can say – I love every one of my brothers and sisters in Christ – with a particular love for those who among the flock God has entrusted into my care. Indeed – I don’t just enjoy being in the company of my church family. I don’t just look forward to singing with them… I need them.  I need the experience of being with my other family.  I believe that we all benefit from the time together. 
And to be honest – while the person who is absent misses opportunities – those “left behind” also suffer.  For some, it is simply missing someone they care about. For others, it is a genuine discouragement.  And possibly most troubling of all, voluntary absence can become a stumbling block to those already struggling with their relationship with the Lord.
Looking back to those early days of my faith – when the “new” began to wear off – it was the faithfulness of those who, despite challenges and personal troubles, still placed the assembling together as a priority in their lives – that helped to mold my heart and helped me value the opportunities to come together.
Far too often, we don’t look at “church membership” through the right lens.  Church doesn’t exist for the purpose of satisfying our fleshly desires.  Church exists to glorify God – to fulfill Christ’s command to make disciples.  The local church exists to edify, exhort, teach, lead, hold each other accountable, and to live life – together.  In fact, this is the core principal behind the motto/byline of Clinton Missionary Baptist Church:
Grace – Faith – LIFE!

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