On Not Going to Church

It has been awhile since I posted an entry that wasn’t a book review so I figure I am due. As many of you know. I am working at an animal feed/hardware store in Blaine, WA. It is not a full-time job. I work around 30 hours per week, but in this economy getting a job means making yourself available. Completely available. I mentioned to my employer in the interviewing process that I am involved at my church so Sunday evenings are not a great time for me. He asked if I would be okay working on Sundays on a rotation basis. I agreed.

Tomorrow will mark the third Sunday in a row that I haven’t been able to attend church and I had to tell people I couldn’t help out with worship or with the kids on Sunday. Three Sundays are no big deal right? I mean other people have to miss church for work all the time. The thing is I don’t think I have ever missed church three Sundays in a row in my entire life (at least my adult life and I can’t remember three in a row as a kid).  I am not trying to toot my horn here. There were many times I’ve gone to church, hated every minute of it and wondered what the point was. Not recently, but it’s happened. I can even remember the joys of staying at home and not having to navigate the crazy making antics of the senior pastor, but the church system I am in is much healthier.

The thing is, I need church and I like to go to church. Not because I am a seminary grad who wants to parse the sermons for their orthodoxy, biblical faithfulness and homiletic style. Not because I am a worship leader and singer and loves the worship time. Not because I love liturgy, the sacraments and that there is something about corporate worship that feeds a deep ache in me. Everything I just wrote is true, but more than that I need people in my life.

My wife and I chose the church we attend because it is a community church which focuses on its neighborhood.  Unfortunately it isn’t our neighborhood and none of our church friends live near us (there were other reasons we chose this church, denomination, my wife works there, connections we made).  We are about 20 minutes away from everyone, which isn’t a big deal but it means that we have to be intentional about connecting with them.

The past couple of weeks that hasn’t happened for me. My church small group has taken a much-needed break, but even if we had met, I wouldn’t have been able to go. I would have been working the night my friends and family  gathered over a shared meal and fellowship.  My wife sometimes goes to a mom’s group with the kids and though us dads occasionally crash the party, it feels weird if I am the only guy there.

But one of the things I need in my life is fellowship. I need to gather with Christians regularly and be reminded that the grace of God goes before me in all my dealings. I need to be reminded that life is more than mundane routines–the waking and sleeping, commuting and working, carrying for my family, preparing lunches. I need to be reminded that I am part of a body and that we prayerfully care for one another and extend God’s grace to each other. I need people who will laugh at my pettiness, call me to account and help me live a holy life. I need to be able to share with the them the longings of my heart. I need all this and more, and currently I am not getting it because I can’t go to church.

Yes my church friends care for me and this is not some passive-aggressive-attempt to elicit a concerned call from my pastor or friends. It is simply me taking stock of what I feel is missing in not being able to fellowship with my church.  I know that people pray for me and love me and miss me and I don’t need anyone to prove it to me. I just hate not going to church.

Tomorrow I have an afternoon shift and can find a church service in the morning to attend without being too worried that I have to rush out to start  my shift on time. I will gather with Gods people, hear God’s word proclaimed and feel the warmth of being included in the body of Christ. But it will not really be with those who know me and love me best.  Still, for now, it is enough.

4 thoughts on “On Not Going to Church

  1. Thank you for your thoughts James. In recent years, I’ve been wondering what church ought to be about, not because I don’t like church but just as a thought exercise because I know that going to church has worth, and you have given me some reminders of it.

    I hope that in the future, your situation will change in a way which allows you to reconnect with your church and small group or find you good fellowship somehow.

  2. We’re in a little different place, but with a similar problem. (actually working at church with the youth in such a way that we can’t fellowship with adults). It’s tough. Good thoughts on what you really miss!

    • yeah,I know that place, I’ve been there too. This is sort of Sarah’s experience working at a children’s minister over summers. She coordinates volunteers but summers go wonky which means she’s pretty much been teaching almost every week for the past couple of months. Sort of like going to church, but not going to church.

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