I Don't Need the Church to Be Saved
(Insert your favorite annoying alarm sound here.)
WHAM. Silence. Take that.
hate that sound. But I guess that’s exactly the point. I never understood why people program their alarm to play their favorite song—that would just make me want to stay in bed. But on this day, despite the belligerent buzz of my digital clock, that’s all I wanted to do.
Eventually, I managed to drag myself to the bathroom, but only to satisfy the scratching in the back of my throat. The scary thing about going into the bathroom is that you have to look yourself in the eye. On this Sabbath morning, I avoided it as long as possible.
It had been a tough week. Amid the annoyance of senioritis was an overwhelming uncertainty of what would happen after the cards were opened, cake was eaten, and degree was received that had driven me to a place of fearful, emotionless solitude.
I was ashamed at my lack of faith. But all I wanted was to jump onto my top bunk and back into the depths of worriless hibernation. The last thing I wanted to do was lace up a tie, sing hymns, and shake hands with an everything-is-awesome grin adorning my face and betraying my true feelings.
As I stood in front of the mirror, I could almost hear the little cartoon characters perched on each shoulder.
“Just go back to bed, Jimmy, it’s not a big deal. God understands that you’re tired,” snarled the little red fellow holding the prickly pitchfork.
His halo-adorned opposite wouldn’t let me go that easy.
“Jimmy, if you honor God, He will honor you.”
For some reason—probably the nagging thought that sleep would now elude me anyway—I hurriedly got ready and headed off to church.
I’d love to say my decision was met with an attitude adjustment and a revived spirit as I entered the V-shaped sanctuary. But I was still every bit as cantankerous as when I’d slammed my palm into my defenseless alarm clock.
Been There, Done That
I don’t need to go to church to be saved.
Have you ever heard (or used) that phrase? I know I have. Taken at face value, it’s the truth. After all, all you really need to be saved is to “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.” The man said it Himself.
Why then do we let ourselves participate in this tireless cycle of overplayed hymns and worn-out sermon topics? How many times in the past year have you actually walked away from church with a greater understanding of what it means to be a Christian than you had on the drive over?
Oh, there are exceptions. Sometimes a fresh approach awakens our senses to a different side of God. Simple phrases have altered lives. But for those who’ve grown up in the church, or been attending for years, there’s often a feeling of been there, done that.
Sure, we all know the purpose of church is to worship God. But can’t I worship my Savior just as powerfully in the comfort of my own home? Doesn’t my praise reverberate with the same reverence as I enjoy a quiet stroll through a corner of His vast creation?
Maybe He still knows something we don’t.
Nothing annoys a sulking man as much as the tones of glorious singing. And halfway through one of those overplayed hymns, I was definitely perturbed.The only reason I came was to appease my nagging conscience. I’m not going to actually enjoy this.
I’m here, OK? Just leave me alone.
But He didn’t.
I don’t remember the sermon from that day. I don’t remember the music. I don’t remember the service whatsoever.
What I remember is the change. By the end of the service, despite my best efforts, my sulking had transformed into singing. Suddenly, the overplayedness of the hymn hardly mattered.
Walking out of the sanctuary I was greeted with hugs and encouragement by beaming members of my church family. By this point, I was smiling back.
True, worship is for God. But maybe it’s more important for us than we realize. And maybe try as we might, sometimes we don’t have the strength to start the chorus. We just need to listen a little before we find the courage to join in.
Waking up on Sabbath morning and going about the routine isn’t pointless monotony. It’s a scheduled weekly pick-me-up for your spirit. It doesn’t matter how great your relationship with God is, or how strong of a person you are, we all need to worship. We all need to be part of a community. We need to experience both at the same time.
I’ve used lack of sleep, the desire to be alone, and feelings of fear as excuses to skip church once in a while. Now they’re just signals that I need a pew a lot more than my bed. No matter how I feel, I’ve seen what God can do when we give Him an opening. Now imagine what He can do if we go in with a good attitude.
Yeah, I don’t need to go to church to be saved.
But life is hard enough. And I need all the help I can get.
Jimmy Phillips is a recent graduate of Union College in Lincoln, Nebraska.