The example and wisdom of Jesus Christ is esteemed even by those who do not believe he is the Son of God. The Koran teaches that Jesus was a messenger of Allah. The mainstream Muslim belief is that Jesus didn’t suffer death but was instead raised alive to heaven. Mahatma Gandhi, who is a teacher for Hindu said, ‘I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.’
Perhaps more men and women would cherish Jesus if those who claim to be Christians were more like Him. Jesus loved and forgave the woman caught in the act of adultery then sent her on her way with the caution not to repeat her past sin.
He gave food away to the hungry and ministered to their medical needs. He thrived in a strong family and was committed to His community/small group. Throughout His life with all its ups and downs “On the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom.”
Emulating His actions is a good beginning. Israelites would carry the backpack of a hated Roman soldier two miles instead of the legally required one.
Christians took in the sick and dying during the Black Death which killed 50 million people in the 14th century, or 60 per cent of Europe’s entire population. They risked their lives to love others either into death or renewed health. They made the needs of others their focus rather than themselves. A young woman told me recently the church was significant to her as place to come “When you need someone to show they care”.
Church attendance can change your life.
Researchers at John Hopkins cite a close and meaningful family life as the best deterrent to drug and alcohol abuse. The most vulnerable youth had the chilliest home settings.
Does church attendance affect how much people value their families? According to a Gallup survey, 96 percent of those who attend religious services at least weekly say that family life is “very important” to them while only 75 percent of those who never attend church placed the same priority on families.
Church attendance makes a difference in school performance for kids in low-class neighborhoods, according to the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health.
A major study of church attendance and mortality indicates that people who attend church every week live an average of seven years longer than people who never attend worship services. “This kind of data underscores the power of religion, not only for their psychological well-being, but also their physical well-being,” said Kenneth Pargament, a sociologist at Bowling Green State University.
All of us long for community and connection with others; and it is good for us! Sometimes people in church do not reflect Jesus. In fact, sometimes they act like His nemesis.
If you have wounds from past encounters with church leaders or members, I’m praying for you—that God would bring healing and grace to you as you seek to follow him and love his church. I have witnessed it time and again, not weekly but often several times a year.
Nevertheless, the blessings of Christian community outweigh the occasional wounding. Trust in God’s wisdom when He said to “not give up meeting together”.
The success of a church is not measured by the number of people who attend, the amount of money given, or the grandeur of the buildings constructed. Jesus measures by the amount of spiritual fruit produced, which is an external indication of interior spiritual health.
Jesus watches to see if we love both His Father and our neighbors. He called them the greatest two commandments. This is hard to consistently do alone. We need others. I do not have all the gifts needed for spiritual construction. Together we do. When one person is down, another will be up extending a helping hand.
“Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them”, Jesus said. Worshipping together is powerful. It will change your life if you embrace it mind, body, and spirit for the sake of others.
A wise pastor understood the importance of worshipping together as an entire fellowship. One day, he went to see a member long absent. Wordlessly he entered the cabin. Observing the lost sheep sitting across from the fire watching, the shepherd walked to the fire and moved a glowing coal from the middle of the fire to the edge. After a time the flame from the coal disappeared and the red glow began turning black. The pastor moved the coal back into the heart of the fire and left. The following Sunday the lost sheep was seen in the middle of the church with an understanding smile on his face.
The season of Lent (40 days prior to Easter) is a time to reorient and renew life. The example of Christ on the day of worship is a good one to follow. “The Local Church Is More Awkward Than Your Facebook Wall. Embrace it anyway.”–Richard Clark.