The number of people attending church is on the decline. All sorts of reasons have been given and theories presented, but the truth is that church is not as important as it once was in the lives of many people. Some have asked the question; “What is point of going to church?” Others have said; “I can be a Christian without going to church.” Then there are folks who say; “Sunday is the only down time they have with their families or chance to rest.”
I get it, sometimes I feel the same way. But then I think is it about the church? I don’t go to church to worship an organization or a building. I don’t go to church so that I can socialize with my friends, although I enjoy being with folks at church. I don’t just go to church because it is my job, I must admit that some days I do. I attend church to be reminded of my connection to God.
Whether it is in worship or teaching a class, I gain strength from the sense of God’s Spirit working directly through me to others. Being a conduit of God’s grace and mercy is a powerful and empowering experience. I believe this is what worship and being involved in church should sometimes do. Not all the time, but when I most need to feel that guiding hand of God pushing me, pulling me, embracing me, it is then I am encouraged in my faith.
I have walked on the trails of Camp Emmaus in northern Minnesota and felt the hand of God. I have sat on the shore of the lake with my grand-daughter at my folks and felt the presence of God. I have stood on mountains, canoed rivers, sailed on lakes, bicycled through forest trails, watched the birth of my children and the interment of my mother’s ashes and felt the hand of God.
All these places, all these times I was moved by God’s Holy Spirit. But these are random times and places, it is the sanctuary of God, the worship place in church that I consistently feel God’s presence, I feel God’s hand upon me. Maybe this is just a pastor thing, but I am not alone here. I believe that God wants us to feel, sense, and experience his presence in our lives. For me, worship in the church provides that more often than not.
Jesus often times went to a high quiet place to pray, but he also was a regular Sabbath worshiper, in synagogues all over Israel. He also did worship from a boat on a lake, on a hillside, in a field and at the temple in Jerusalem. The church is a holy place and I believe it can be that place where we can feel the presence of God, for us!