This Easter 2018 morning, as some drove to Carillon Beach and back, church parking lots were observed filled to overflowing…including a long line of cars parked along Back Beach Road at one church. Law enforcement officers worked to manage traffic in and out of church parking lots. One church with average attendance in the 30-75 range reported over 300!
A pastor observed this morning that those present at a sunrise service are, in all likelihood, believers to have come out that early in the morning chill….However, as he noted, too, not all believers are followers. And even Judas, who was both a believer and a follower, still betrayed Christ.
For years I was a believer, but not a follower. I began to refer to myself as having been more of a “churchian” than a Christian during those years.
How wonderful it would be to see church parking lots so full EVERY SUNDAY! Alas, many who wish to give credence to their believer status or salve their conscience will attend on Christmas and/or Easter or after some dreadful crisis, personal or national.
People are often heard using the excuse for not attending church that there are hypocritical Christians in the church. There are hypocritical people everywhere….the church is no different. Those who attend churches are no different from the culture around us in most ways….. in the percentage of divorced people, spouse abusers, substance abusers, pornography viewers, stressed people in emotional emergencies, and so many other life issues among its attendees. The prayer and hope is that by being in church, they will hear an encouraging message of hope and healing. Perhaps one will hear a convicting message that leads to repentance. Or perhaps one might hear a message of overwhelming love that moves a heart toward God.
Whether one attends church every Sunday or once or twice a year, that is still the prayer and the hope……that marginally engaged believers, Christians mostly in name only, whose daily lives reflect little impact from their professed faith, will be moved by God’s use of his chosen instrument in the world– the church.
“Church” is not a place. It is people who regularly meet in many places- dedicated sanctuaries, school gyms and classrooms, hotel ballrooms, storefronts, homes, under pole barns, in parks, etc . It is the act of “regularly meeting together” that gives definition to the body of Christ, the church, not the place or time of their meeting. Christ is the focus of such meetings. His life is exalted. His sacrifice is remembered. His resurrection is lived–out. His Gospel is proclaimed. His return is anticipated and awaited.
“Let us hold strong to the confession of our hope, never wavering, since the One who promised it to us is faithful. Let us consider how to inspire each other to greater love and to righteous deeds, not forgetting to gather as a community, as some have forgotten, but encouraging each other, especially as the day of His return approaches.” Hebrews 10:23-25
We believe in the remnant of true followers of Jesus Christ in whom the Holy Spirit resides. It is that remnant of true believers, followers who love and serve the risen Christ, whose prayers and witness will nurture and continue to build the kingdom of God on earth. They celebrate their commission as they meet together…..then they go and witness to the truth of the One Who Is Risen.