I skipped church yesterday morning.
By that I mean I went to the church, drove there with my family, stepped into the building, shook hands with some friends, made a cup of coffee, and even carried my stuff into the sanctuary.
On my way back from the restroom, though, I stopped to talk to Steve, a close friend who has been dealing with some faith issues. As he talked, I bounced back and forth between wanting to go back into the sanctuary and wanting to continue our conversation. And I could tell from his expression he felt the same. But I’ve been dealing with my own struggles, and as he questioned my feelings, the urge to leave him melted away.
Just a few minutes into our conversation, another friend, Chris, came back inside after a concerning phone call. Steve and I could tell from his expression that it wasn’t good. We stopped our conversation to console Chris. While talking to Chris, our youth pastor stepped out of the sanctuary and saw us talking. Before long, we were all standing together and Chris was praying… for me. For guidance, for strength, for wisdom.
God blessed me with some awesome friends. At first, I felt guilty that Chris’s prayer was about me. But as I heard his genuine heartfelt prayer, that feeling didn’t last. I was lost in this perfect example of godly friendship. I saw true, biblical manhood as Steve and Ronnie both stopped what they were doing, grouped up with us, and bowed their heads.
This is what Jesus wants. Men who share in the struggle and work together to strengthen each other. [Tweet that]
I missed the church service, but after we finished praying I stepped into the sanctuary right before altar call. Another friend of mine came down and asked for prayer because he and his wife foster a little boy. In fact, they went to the same foster parent training as my wife and I. The little boy’s mother’s rights were terminated, but it didn’t look like the court was going to terminate the father’s rights. I didn’t know how to feel, but I saw a friend in need who again shared in a struggle similar to my own.
When the pastor called for the deacons and the elders, I am neither of those but I stepped down front, hugged my friend, and we both cried. Having been through reuniting one of my foster children with her father, I understood how tough it could be to let go of someone you had welcomed into your home as a part of your family. Trust me, it doesn’t take long to get attached.
All of this calls attention to what Paul talks about in Philippians 2. “Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.” And, in Thessalonians 5 when he says, “So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.”
I didn’t miss church. I missed most of the service. But I saw the body of Christ working together to help encourage their brothers and sisters in need. I saw Jesus’s church doing the work He called us to do, strengthening His followers to go out and continue to serve others.
Let me know what you think. Is this kind of thing typical? Was I wrong in missing the service? Maybe we should start a conversation about what really matters in “church.”
I leave you with a long, but affirming passage from Ephesians 4:
“Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father, who is over all and in all and living through all.
However, he has given each one of us a special gift through the generosity of Christ. That is why the Scriptures say,
“When he ascended to the heights,
he led a crowd of captives
and gave gifts to his people.”
Notice that it says “he ascended.” This clearly means that Christ also descended to our lowly world.And the same one who descended is the one who ascended higher than all the heavens, so that he might fill the entire universe with himself.
Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.
Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.”