Silence settled among us. Tension filled the air. Occasional words were mumbled to alleviate the uneasiness as individuals spread out across the room.
This describes the typical Thanksgiving when my mom’s side of the family comes to visit. We only see her side of the family once a year, so when we do come together, the entire visit is awkward. As we sit around quietly and uncomfortably, every family member feels like a stranger. The aunts and uncles discuss major highlights of the year to make conversation, the cousins play board games to fill the seemingly endless visit, and everyone hugs awkwardly (or not at all) when it’s time to say goodbye.
But visits with my Dad’s side of the family are different. We can enjoy each other’s company without tension or uneasiness. There is plenty of laughter and conversation. We can be honest and real with each other because our interactions aren’t limited to once or twice a year. We can tease each other without feeling uncomfortable and hug each other without feeling awkward.
Of course, I love both my mom and my dad’s sides of the family, but I’m not as close to my mom’s family members because I don’t see them regularly.
It’s the same way with the family of God. We can’t expect to feel at home in a church that we only attend on major holidays. We can’t expect to form solid relationships with other believers if we don’t regularly fellowship with them. We can’t expect to grow in a place where we aren’t deeply rooted.
For solid relationships to form and flourish, we must have regular contact and conversation with other believers in the church.
Sometimes, an illness or difficult family situation may not permit you to go to church. And that’s okay. God knows your desire to fellowship and grow.
However, sometimes we don’t attend church because we’re busy with school, sports, travel, or work. Maybe you’re always tired when Sunday morning comes around. Maybe your preferred denomination doesn’t have a location near you, or your current church only has a few members to connect with.
All of these are common excuses to neglect fellowship, but none of these compares with God’s reason to fellowship.
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25 ESV)
We’re all struggling with different issues. Because we must constantly deal with these issues, we need to stay grounded in the Lord. We certainly need to prioritize Bible reading and prayer in our personal lives. After all, we were created for connection with God.
But we were also created for connection with others.
Reading the Word and prayer were never meant to be substitutes for fellowship. They are a complete package. It’s important to spend time alone with God, but it’s best to spend time alone with God and spend time with likeminded Christians.
Maybe God wants to use them in your life. Maybe they have encouragement for you. Maybe they have something to say that God wants you to hear.
Or, as my pastor once said, maybe the reason we go to church shouldn’t be to get something out of it. Instead, perhaps we should attend church to put something into it. Perhaps God wants to use you in another believer’s life.
In Rick Warren’s book What on Earth Am I Here For?, he makes this thoughtful statement: “He [God] created the church to meet your five deepest needs: a purpose to live for, people to live with, principles to live by, a profession to live out, and power to live on. There is no other place on earth where you can find all five of these benefits in one place.”
You can find non-Christians everywhere in society, but you will find the most Christians in the church. Of course, not all church-goers are Christians, but one major purpose of the church is for Christians to gather together on a regular basis. The world doesn’t have truth to share with you, but the church does.
The isolated believer will become one of Satan’s top targets because he or she isn’t connected to people who speak and live the truth. As hard as it is to get out of bed on Sunday morning or to put aside other activities to attend the Sunday service, it is harder to combat the lies of the devil when you aren’t consistently engaging with other Christians.
Don’t make your appearances at church like awkward holidays with unacquainted family members. Instead, plant your roots in a church that preaches the truth of the Bible and is home to likeminded believers. We should all attend church regularly to hear the truth and share the truth so we can all live the truth.