I have spent most of my life in and out of church; throughout my childhood it was not a choice. As I grew up into a young adult and began to take responsibility of my own faith, I would attend church maybe 2 or 3 times a year. I would have identified myself as someone I now call a CEO; a person who attends chuch on Christmas and Easter Only!
I went out of obligation more than anything throughout my 20’s basically not having a clue about engaging in relationship with my Heavenly Father. It wasn’t until my wife and I had our first child and he was about 3 that I woke up to some important things.
One, I walked into a building, the church, and expected that my mere presence would overwhelm me with miracles and flashes of lightning; the presence of God would just swoop down upon me and I would know He was there. Of course that never happen and I began to believe that attending church was a waste of time. It wasn’t until I was driving home late one night, that God DID swoop down upon me and jarred me into a reality. I had a wife and small child at home and my spiritual leadership was non-existent. What God revealed to me was that if my little boy would ever get to know Him, it was up to me. As a matter of fact when my son looked up to me, in many ways I was God to him. What was he seeing from me? Shame, guilt and a slew of other embarrassing feelings engulfed me and I realized that I had never taken it upon myself to get to know my Heavenly Father. How could I ever share with my son someone I didn’t even know? I had never sought to have a relationship with Christ making it impossible for Him to make Himself known in my life; I had never opened the door to my heart and let Him in!
The second thing I became aware of was that there was a huge difference between religion and relationship. One can attend church their entire life but never know Christ! Its stated in Matthew 7:23 “And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity.” That described me in a nutshell. My free will and my choices had, up to that time, prevented a relationship from developing between myself and my Maker. That moment in my car when God awoken me from my selfish existence, a desire ignited in me to get to know Him; intimately get to know who He was; what He wanted for me; and in what ways I could serve Him!
By no means am I implying that attending church is a waste of time or pointless; not even close. But what I am saying, as it was with me and with many others, we can become confused in that attending church is it. For many their church and their beliefs ARE their God. But when we seek to know Christ and to learn about His desires for us, having a good church to hold us accountable; a community of believers to be there for one another through the good and bad; and ministries and tools to assist us in our walk are invaluable.
But when all is said and done, we must never forget that a relationship with our Heavenly Father is far more important than any building we could ever walk in. Redirect your focus from religion to relationship! Relationship with God and relationship with our brothers and sisters. That my friends IS church!