I was able to attend church for the first time in two months. That’s eight weeks, 16 services, special meetings, prayer meetings and happy occasions. It was a long time. I was exhausted when I got back home, but was so happy to have been there. I missed the faces, the music, the worship, and the sermons.
Church attendance is far more than a mandatory social activity. Church is a place where I go to commune with God. It is a place to worship and a place to be fed spiritually with truths from the Bible. I have never made church attendance in my own life mandatory as part of fitting in a social group or being part of a clique within the church.
Having grown up a pastor’s daughter, I have a great deal of compassion for those who attend like clockwork and a great deal of sympathy for those who cannot for a variety of reasons. If I am not in church there is always a reason. For the past 8 weeks, it has been because I was still in recovery mode from knee replacement surgery. As much as I loved being there, my efforts may have been a little premature.
There is just something amazing about being together with a group of people who have entered together to draw near to God. In the best of services, we go away knowing that He has also come nigh to us and we all go away strengthened and encouraged to face a new day.
The church in America is still growing, but the rate is very slow according to Christianity Today. As Americans we often have tunnel vision about what God is doing in the earth, or in our own little neck of the woods. We compare the rest of the world to ourselves instead of the other way around and seem sure that if God isn’t doing spectacular things here, then He surely isn’t doing them anywhere else.
In this article it was pointed out that there has been an explosion of church growth in Asia, Africa, and South America. In Africa alone in the last 25 years, the number of Christians has grown from approximately 9 million to 541 million.
My personal belief is that in the United States, we have changed churches into watering holes (social gathering places), feel better about themselves for a little while, then go home and go right back to the same old same old. We have turned church into a production. So much is geared toward young people that are used to being the center of attention and want to constantly be entertained or engaged in social activities. That’s OK if the innermost needs of individuals are being met. However, I doubt that the Hollywood veneer is what any truth seeker really wants at any age.
Give me the real deal Jesus. Let me experience the awesomeness and holiness of God. Let me feel the Holy Spirit’s presence all around me and see lives changed, bodies healed, and captives set free. I want what is genuine and authentic. I believe that’s why our nation’s church growth has come to a crawl. Either people aren’t seeking a true intimate relationship with Christ, or when they do go to church they are given a watered down version of the gospel that has become sterile and powerless. Churches take on a form of Godliness, but deny the power they are entitled to experience as believers.
There used to be a saying that if the church catches on fire, people will show up to watch it burn. It is impossible to have an authentic, power-packed encounter with God and go away unchanged. Many believe we are revisiting an age where people are hungry for the power and presence of God in their lives and in their church services, and an age of the miraculous such has not yet been seen. For once, it is time for the church in America to catch up with the third world countries where the Spirit of God is moving in incredible ways.
Reach Judith Victoria Hensley at [email protected] or on Facebook. Check out her blog: One Step Beyond the Door.