Archive for May, 2017

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Memorial Day is just around the corner—what a tragedy!  It’s a tragedy because for many in American churches Memorial Day signals the official day when summer vacation from church begins.  I know of several churches where once Memorial Day has passed all “regular” mid-week ministries and activities go on a “break” until late August or early September (presumably after Labor Day or when school starts back again).  And I am using the term “ministry” for these mid-week ministries rather loosely, since I can’t be certain that any real training for cultural engagement with the gospel is occurring, or that anyone is maturing in their theological development, or that worship happens, or that people are coming to faith in Christ at these events.  But this “break” from church doesn’t only affect the mid-week ministries, it also affects regulars summer church attendance.  I know of several families that routinely go camping or to their lake-house every weekend during the summer months.  And when summer ends and they come back to church I never hear them talk about the exciting things that happened at their adopted churches where they spent their weekends.  Nor do I ever hear them share about how they saw several family members make decisions for Christ, or how they grew in their faith, or the mission trips they went upon in adopted vacation area.  Instead, all I hear about are suntans and how much better they are at water-skiing.

I have to say I find it very strange that people would think it perfectly acceptable to return to their “home church” in early September and begin to  worshiping one who said “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matthew 16.25).  I’m not sure the apostle Paul would understand such behavior either.  Some of you may remember Paul, he’s the guy who wrote “Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier” (2 Timothy 2.3-4).  Nor do I remember the apostle Peter teaching anywhere about summer vacation from church.  But I do remember he writing “Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God” (1 Peter 4.1-1).  The apostle John wrote something very similar, which was “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2.15-17).  And what about the apostle James’s thoughts on summer vacation from church?  I can’t think of any, but he did write “You adulterous people don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us?” That is very interesting, God himself “jealously desires” our spirits that he put within us.  He vehemently wants us to participate in serving him as we separate ourselves from the world and join with other like-minded believers in corporate worship.  But hey, during the months of June, July, and August some people think they get a “hall pass” from that whole church thing.  Interestingly enough, I even know of others who use this same mentality of “I need a break from the church thing” during football season as well.  During the fall you can’t find them in church simply because they have made tailgating into an art form.  So, if the team’s in town their not at church, and for those that have RVs, well then wherever the team goes, so do they.

The author of Hebrews said it best when he wrote “let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near” (Hebrews 10.22-25).   It seems the overwhelming exhortation of the biblical writers is that authentic Christians look forward to worshiping together rather than finding reasons to avoid it.  The scriptures indicate that true Christians would think it unimaginable to take a couple months out of the year to get away from the very endeavor that Jesus is most passionate about—which is building his church (Matt 16.18).  How odd it is that people think it acceptable to take a break for weeks at a time and leave their Lord behind to work alone.  Jesus himself said to his own disciples “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me” (Matt 16.24).  If you really want to know how serious you are about what you believe about the Lordship of Jesus Christ, then you only need to ask “who is looking at whose back”?  If you are looking at the back of Jesus, then you are a true follower, but if Jesus is looking at your back, then you are the one walking in the wrong direction.  Nevertheless, regardless of where you are heading this summer here is one sobering thought: lost people will still die and slip into a Christ-less eternity during June, July, and August.  So how could any right-minded follower of the Jesus think it’s no big deal to take the summer off from serving the Lord and reaching the lost with the gospel of Jesus Christ?

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