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Who do you see when you attend church?

  | MURAT KOCABAS/Middle East Images/AFP via Getty Images

Human beings tend to congregate around family members and friends. There is a comfort level in hanging out with people we know and love. But what about those who don't have any family members or friends living nearby? Are you highly motivated to assist isolated people? 

And what happens when you see an individual, a couple or a family at church who appears to be alone? Do you take the initiative and approach them with a smile and a warm greeting? Or do you rarely if ever even notice such people? Who do you see when you attend church?

A heart that loves Christ is a heart that also loves people, including the marginalized in society. You have probably heard the saying: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” It is so true! You see, love “always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (1 Corinthians 13:7).

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Do you strive to protect, comfort, and encourage those at church in need of loving care? Who are you currently praying for and seeking to build up in their faith? Are you so full of the Holy Spirit that your days of “lone ranger” Christian living are behind you? 

Do you look forward to getting to church every week to see who God is going to bless through your words, prayers, and compassionate expressions of love and concern? Many people are hurting today, and what better place to gently offer Christ’s love than at church?

Perhaps you are suffering from what I will call the “COVID curse.” Sadly, a significant number of church attendees across the nation lost their fervor for fellowship with other believers during COVID. Are you one of them? 

Meanwhile, many followers of Christ today have a growing desire to serve the Lord by serving His bride, the Church. Are you in the flow of what the Holy Spirit is doing in your congregation right now, or have you deceived yourself into believing that you no longer need God’s bride in your life on a weekly basis? 

Imagine telling one of your friends that you want nothing to do with their spouse. How do you think such a comment would go over? And how do you think Jesus feels when some of His followers avoid and ignore His bride after everything He did to save her? Do you intentionally encourage people in your congregation at least weekly, if not daily?

There are of course some toxic congregations where cliques abound and where the spiritual atmosphere is oppressive and stifling. If you have ever attended such a church, you know how discouraging it can be. You might even be finding it difficult to heal from that experience and connect in a positive and meaningful way with a loving church family. 

Regardless of your previous church experiences, you need what every Christian needs: a congregation where God’s grace is overflowing and the truth of Scripture is building up the body of Christ and motivating believers to engage in Spirit-filled encouragement and support. A lone ranger Christian who is separated from Christ’s bride could be compared to a 14-year-old living out on the streets, rather than in the protective environment of a loving home with devoted parents.

Evangelist D.L. Moody (1837-1899) said, “Church attendance is as vital to a disciple as a transfusion of rich, healthy blood to a sick man.” And Martin Luther (1483-1546) said, “To gather with God’s people in united adoration of the Father is as necessary to the Christian life as prayer.” 

So, may I ask you: How is your prayer life today? And how is your fellowship with other believers going? If you have been neglecting either of these two crucial areas of Christian discipleship, it helps to explain your lack of interest in spending time every week with Christ’s bride.

After the Holy Spirit filled the believers at Pentecost, “they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42). Spirit-filled believers hunger and thirst for the Word of God and for fellowship with one another. They also are grateful to regularly celebrate the Lord’s Supper with one another in memory of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for our salvation, and thankful to engage in much prayer. 

The early church practiced all four of those things at least weekly, and some of them daily. Why? Because their hearts were overjoyed with the message of God’s redeeming love in Christ and overflowing with the power of the Holy Spirit. And there was a daily expectation and awareness that God was in their midst anointing their gatherings with His presence, peace and power.

If you have been suffering from the COVID curse, I encourage you to prayerfully seek out a congregation where you will be able to encourage and serve others. God’s Word on the matter is clear: “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25)

By the way, when was the last time you brought a family member or a friend to church? A Christian research organization states that 86% of people who start attending church were invited by a friend. How many of your friends do you think might gladly accept your gracious invitation?

If you have been ignoring and neglecting Christ’s bride, you would be wise to make a course correction. Since the Savior suffered hours of intense agony and relentless pain on the cross in order to redeem sinners like us, what are you and I willing to do for those who desperately need to be forgiven and closely connected to Christ and His bride?

So, this weekend, who will you see when you attend church?

Dan Delzell is the pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Papillion, Nebraska. 

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