Five Holy Habits - Fellowship - Episode 53

Five Holy Habits - Fellowship - Episode 53
Season 4 Sweet Selah Moments Podcas...

 
 
00:00 / 00:31:06
 
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Church. What kind of picture comes to your mind when you hear that word? The Bible is very clear that we are to fellowship with other believers. We all have gifts that we are meant to share within the body of Christ. We need to listen to teachers and we need to gather together as a family of believers as well. But church is not easy. Mostly, because it's filled with imperfect people in varying stages of maturity with very diverse personalities. Nicole and Sharon talk about the marvel and messy-ness of church together today. Listen in, friend. Let's celebrate what is good about church and ponder how to help when things get messy.

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Read the transcript for Five Holy Habits-Fellowship

Speaker 1 (00:02):

Are you ready to embrace a little stillness, some rest for your soul today? Welcome to the Sweet Selah Moments Podcast, where we stop and study God’s words and encourage one another to know him better and love him more. The Sweet Selah Moments Podcast is brought to you by Word Radio and Sweet Selah Ministries.

Nicole (00:29):

Welcome to the Sweet Selah Moments Podcast. Today we’re finishing up our Holy Habits Series. We’ve talked about the blessing that comes from cultivating good habits in our lives in the areas of Bible reading, prayer, rest and service. Today on episode 53, let’s talk about the Holy Habit of Fellowship and what that looks like. We’ll start with the definition of fellowship. So the basic definition of Christian fellowship is that it is the act of meeting with those who are converted and who possess the same general beliefs. It is the sharing of knowledge and the trials and triumphs of life among those who are called and chosen of God. Sharon, that sounds an awful lot like church.

Sharon (01:10):

It sure does. And you know, whether your church is a cathedral or a house church, we are absolutely talking about a regular gathering of believers who share life together, just like the church did in the early days. Nicole, church matters. You and I know this, whether it’s a big one or a tiny one, super formal or super informal, we are supposed to gather together regularly. So fellowship in the biblical sense of the word, the meeting together of believers who know each other intimately is what we commonly call church. And you and I sorta know churches because of our military background.

Nicole (01:47):

Yes.

Sharon (01:48):

I mean, Ray and I have been in house churches where we literally met in a house and we sat at little round tables and the pastor talked and then we discussed what he said. I mean, they were very informal. And then we’ve been in Protestant chapels that were way more formal than that, all kinds. But, but the thread was, we all came to worship Jesus. How about you? I bet you’ve been in a lot of churches too.

Nicole (02:12):

Yeah. We’ve been in some Southern Baptist churches, we’ve been in tiny churches. We’ve been in huge churches cause we moved a lot as well. And then during COVID last year, we had a home church for a while and it was so nice, but all these different types and you know what, it was just nice because we all got together to worship God and to talk about him.

Sharon (02:29):

Yep. I love that. And when we were overseas, one of the sweetest things was me realizing that wherever I went, I was going to find brothers and sisters in Christ. And you know, growing up the same town and going to the same church as a kid, you kind of feel like there’s no church like your own?

Nicole (02:47):

Oh, yeah.

Sharon (02:47):

And we had to get used to so many different ones, but it really broadened my perspective that you become instant family with anybody that you’re worshiping that you are coming together in agreement with that Jesus is King.

Nicole (03:03):

I know that he binds us all, all over the world.

Sharon (03:05):

He does!

Nicole (03:06):

It’s so cool.

Sharon (03:07):

It is!

Nicole (03:07):

I love that. All right then, well Sharon, what are some of the things you love most about church and the fellowship we find there when we come together?

Sharon (03:15):

Okay, that’s a hard question because I basically love church. So here we go. I love singing songs out loud with other believers. Oh man. I missed that when Ray and I, you know, with COVID, sat home. He doesn’t sing. So I’m listening to the worship songs, you know, on the TV and I’m singing, but it’s odd, you know? So when we first got back together and we were all singing in harmony together, and even if all our voices weren’t gorgeous, the cumulative effect was gorgeous.

Nicole (03:47):

Yes. I know.

Sharon (03:47):

I cried. So then I couldn’t sing.

Nicole (03:51):

Yep, there’s nothing like it.

Sharon (03:51):

It was so beautiful. So I love the singing. I love hearing our pastors preach. I love that we have a variety of pastors and each of them is so rich in the truth that they’ve gleaned and the fact that they apply it to their own lives as well. So I love that. I love adult Sunday School and our own life group that we host at home because that’s, those smaller groups are where I get to know people more intimately, where I know their ins and outs of their lives. So I get to do life with them basically. And I love that when I give, I can give bigger, you know, because we’re pooling our resources together. Like our food pantry that we have, you know, I can’t necessarily run a food pantry out of my house.

Nicole (04:31):

Right.

Sharon (04:32):

I mean, maybe I could, but I haven’t been called to that.

Nicole (04:34):

Right.

Sharon (04:35):

But I can contribute and so can everybody else in the church and we can do more good because we’re giving together.

Nicole (04:40):

It multiplies, yeah.

Sharon (04:41):

I love taking Communion and remembering just why we are Christ followers. And that always makes me think of people around the world. You know, all around the world we’re breaking bread and remembering his body broken. All around the world we’re drinking the cup, longing for his return. I love that. It’s just such a symbol of our unity in Christ. I love Baptisms. I love testimonies where just average ordinary people share about extraordinary things that God has done in their lives. All right, coming up for air. Did I leave anything for you?

Nicole (05:16):

(Laughing) I think you covered a good portion of it. Oh, but I really do love church too, Sharon. I get so excited to go each week. I just think that, you know, finding and being around people with the same hope and focus makes life so much sweeter.

Sharon (05:31):

It does.

Nicole (05:31):

Yeah. And in our season of life with a, you know, young family, raising them alongside a community of the young to the old, it’s such a gift. You know, we can learn so much from each other, especially the older generation.

Sharon (05:44):

That’s true. I love a multi-generational church.

Nicole (05:47):

Yeah. If you don’t have family close. My grandparents both live far away, like you don’t have that. So to kind of adopt people in the church to help out.

Sharon (05:53):

That’s so sweet.

Nicole (05:53):

It’s such a gift that God gives us, you know?

Sharon (05:55):

It is. Yes.

Nicole (05:55):

And I’ve found some of my dearest friends at church, I think that’s another little added bonus. You know, sometimes it’s hard to make friends as a mom?

Sharon (06:02):

It is. Yeah. And that’s where I found my best friends too. Wherever we moved in the military, I had my ‘officer’s wives-friends’, you know? But there was a formality there and there was an awareness that our husbands were competing for jobs because there’s more lieutenants than there are captains and there’s more captains than there are majors. So it wasn’t quite as free plus you couldn’t completely be yourself. You had to sort of put on your best face. But, I found my friends in church where I could be the real unvarnished me and tell them my joys and my sorrows, you know, and know that they would, they’d love me despite all the weirdo things.

Nicole (06:44):

It’s true. I just love it.

Sharon (06:45):

Yes, yes, yes.

Nicole (06:47):

So Sharon, church is every bit as wonderful if we have said, but it surely isn’t perfect.

Sharon (06:53):

No, it is not.

Nicole (06:55):

In fact, there were many years with brand new nursing babies and very wiggly, loud toddlers that I would wonder if it was worth the struggle to get there, just to end up, you know, hiding in the nursing room or walking the halls.

Sharon (07:07):

Why am I here because I’m actually not here?

Nicole (07:09):

Right.

Sharon (07:10):

Yes.

Nicole (07:10):

Can we do this at home? Just wondered if it was kind of worth it, but you know, and we’ve encountered a few issues and hurts over the years, too, in churches. You know, because church is full of sinful people because I’m in one and I’m a sinful person.

Sharon (07:24):

Right. Exactly.

Nicole (07:25):

So, you know. So Sharon, what are some other kinds of hard things that you have bumped into in churches?

Sharon (07:31):

That’s a good point, Nicole. And, you know, just because you and I happen to love the church we’re in and we’re sort of optimists anyway, doesn’t mean that church can’t hurt sometimes. And I think it’s because we come to it with very high expectations, higher than we should.

Nicole (07:46):

Yeah.

Sharon (07:46):

We’re like, no, but you love Jesus. You should be nice to me all the time.

Nicole (07:49):

Yeah, right.

Sharon (07:49):

What’s wrong with you? As I criticize them.

Nicole (07:52):

Right.

Sharon (07:54):

And we have to remember that people are in all ages and stages of growth in Christ. Some are new believers. Some are going through a really hard time and it’s drained their faith. We are all in desperate need of help. You know?

Nicole (08:08):

Yes.

Sharon (08:08):

And there’s not just that, sometimes pastors let us down. This is such a weirdo story, but this is what happened to us. When Ray and I first got married, I was from a church background and he was not. So I’m all about tithing. He’s like, are you kidding me? You know, I’m all about every Sunday church. And he’s more the occasional worshiper, even though he loved Jesus, he hadn’t quite got there yet. What was the third thing? Oh, and I thought he should be baptized as an adult, he had been baptized as a baby, because I was Baptist. Right?

Nicole (08:36):

Yes.

Sharon (08:36):

So, did he agree with me on any of these things? Absolutely not. So we started going to this church in Maryland and there was this dynamic pastor there and Ray’s coming home going, we need to tithe. We need to be there every Sunday. I think I should be baptized. And I’m like, yes! So, but it was really far from our house. And we ended up changing churches. Well, shortly after we left that church, it turned out the pastor had lied about everything on his resume. He had said that he had the American Psychiatric Association Approval and he was, you know, could counsel. No. He’d said that he was a graduate of Harvard. No.

Nicole (09:15):

My goodness.

Sharon (09:16):

Oh man. Yeah. He had lied about, just about everything. So there was a huge church split because he was charismatic. So some people wanted to still follow him and others didn’t. And Ray and I are sitting there going, but he taught Ray to do all these good things.

Nicole (09:30):

Right. ???

Sharon (09:33):

And, what we concluded was church isn’t about the pastor, church isn’t about the people, ultimately it’s an act of obedience to go. And it’s about hearing the Word and Ray heard the Word preached. And so we received that it came from an imperfect mouth, this dear pastor, who I hope has straightened out his act by now. But he still did good because when he talked from God’s word, it was true.

Nicole (10:02):

Right. God’s word doesn’t return void.

Sharon (10:04):

It doesn’t. Yeah. But all those things can impact. And Satan loves to get in there and make church about the people and not about the worship and about the obedience to Christ and that’s what keeps people away.

Nicole (10:16):

Yes.

Sharon (10:16):

So yeah, there we go.

Nicole (10:17):

Oh, that’s true.

Sharon (10:19):

Well, everything we’ve shared so far has basically been experiential. Right?

Nicole (10:25):

Yes.

Sharon (10:25):

If we’re going to call this a holy habit, we need to look at God’s word and see what he says about attending church regularly. And we also need to look at what God’s word has to say about some of the difficulties in church. You know, it’s funny, Nicole, one of the sweetest things about church attendance is getting to know some people. One of the hardest things about church attendance is the sinners that are there. Those same awesome people who let us down. But first of all, let’s go with what the word says. Let’s unpack why you and I believe so strongly that this isn’t just a ‘nice-to-do’. Church isn’t just club.

Nicole (11:01):

Right.

Sharon (11:03):

This is what God calls us to do, whether it’s hard or easy. So why don’t you start us off with a verse and we’ll talk about it and then I’ll do the next verse.

Nicole (11:11):

Okay. I’m going to read Luke 4:16, “When he came to the village of Nazareth, his boyhood home, he went as usual to the synagogue on the Sabbath and stood up to read the scriptures.” So in this verse it looks like Jesus made it a regular habit to attend synagogue.

Sharon (11:27):

He did.

Nicole (11:27):

You know, he shook things up a bit and healed occasionally at the synagogue, but he never stopped attending. Jesus set aside one day in seven and stopped to worship God at synagogue. And so should we. Sharon, I now see the blessing of this in our lives as over the years of church going, even with little ones in that exhausted season, we kept trying to get to church. And even if it wasn’t a mountain top experience each week in that season, we were developing the habit of going to church.

Sharon (11:56):

Yes you were.

Nicole (11:56):

Which, now that it’s easier, we just go, it’s such a natural part of our life. You know, we don’t often consider other options for Sunday morning.

Sharon (12:03):

Right. It’s the rhythm. It’s just our rhythm. And you know our neighbors notice, you know, they see us on a Sunday morning and it’s just a quiet way to say I value God so much that even though we work hard all week and you know, there’s lots of stuff to do around the house.

Nicole (12:21):

Yeah.

Sharon (12:21):

I’m going to set aside this time as a time sacrifice and go. So yeah. Yeah. I agree with you, even though it’s not always, you know, super fun. It’s a habit that we should develop.

Nicole (12:34):

It’s worth doing.

Sharon (12:34):

It is. Yeah. And Jesus did it.

Nicole (12:36):

He did.

Sharon (12:37):

So that’s a good reason.

Nicole (12:37):

We’re called to follow him.

Sharon (12:40):

Yes. Okay. Our next verse is Matthew 18:20. It says this, “For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them.” That’s always fascinated me because God’s everywhere. Right?

Nicole (12:53):

Right.

Sharon (12:53):

So even when I’m by myself, there he is with me. But something unique happens when people gather together. It must be because that’s what Jesus says, ‘where two or three gather together as my followers’, not just gathering like, you know, for pizza.

Nicole (13:10):

Right.

Sharon (13:11):

But gathering as his followers.

Nicole (13:13):

In his name.

Sharon (13:14):

I think he’s there in a unique and special way. There’s an intensity, maybe, an increase in energy. There’s a feeding into each other. There’s a reminder that we’re not alone. But in any case, it assumes that we’re going to gather together.

Nicole (13:30):

Yeah.

Sharon (13:30):

When you do, I’m there in a special way.

Nicole (13:32):

That is pretty cool.

Sharon (13:32):

So, so we need to remember that too. When we gather with other believers, there’s a special intensity of his presence.

Nicole (13:38):

Oh yeah. I know. There really is something special about being with brothers and sisters in Christ. It’s kinda like getting supercharged too, you know?

Sharon (13:44):

It is.

Nicole (13:44):

You kind of feed off each other and encourage each other. I love praying with other believers and when I was a little girl, I used to go with my parents to this quiet little church, Wednesday night prayer meeting with all these little old people sitting there praying, and I wouldn’t pray cause I was terrified, but I would sit there and listen to these, these elders and saints just pouring their hearts out to God. And that was, I was just so in awe of being in that…

Sharon (14:08):

Environment.

Nicole (14:08):

Yeah, it was such a beautiful thing when I was little.

Sharon (14:10):

Yes, I had the same thing, Wednesday night prayer meeting, older believers, crying out to God, lifting up other people’s needs. And that’s a time sacrifice too.

Nicole (14:20):

Yeah.

Sharon (14:20):

To go and pray for someone else.

Nicole (14:23):

That’s what shocked me. They were praying for other people.

Sharon (14:25):

Yeah.

Nicole (14:25):

Like this is amazing.

Sharon (14:27):

Yeah. It’s a gift.

Nicole (14:28):

It left a big imprint on me.

Sharon (14:29):

Yeah, it does. And then when you’re sick, it’s awful nice to know Wednesday night meeting.

Nicole (14:33):

Is lifting you up. I know.

Sharon (14:35):

Right, right. It’s a gift. It really is. So prayer is wonderful and praying for people around the globe in hard times like we have right now, and gathering together to do that is just another way to serve the church at large, people everywhere.

Nicole (14:47):

Absolutely. Yeah. Pretty neat. So the early church is our next example. Jesus went to synagogue. Jesus promised a special blessing when we gathered. In the book of Acts, we read about churches, not just individuals praying on their own, but actual churches forming and coming together. I’ll read three verses from Acts. The first is Acts 2:42, “All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship and to sharing and meals, including the Lord’s Supper and to prayer.” And then Acts 11:25-26, “Then Barnabas went on to Tarsus to look for Paul. When he found him, he brought him back to Antioch. Both of them stayed there with the church for a full year, teaching large crowds of people. It was at Antioch that the believers were first called Christians.” Interesting.

Sharon (15:35):

Yeah.

Nicole (15:35):

And then Acts 20:7, “On the first day of the week, we gathered with local believers to share in the Lord’s Supper. Paul was preaching to them and since he was leaving the next day, he kept talking until midnight.”

Sharon (15:46):

Good grief.

Nicole (15:46):

That’s a long message, he wanted to get all the words in.

Sharon (15:50):

This always impacts me because I think, you know, we’re looking at our watches if you know, the pastor’s ten minutes late.

Nicole (15:57):

I know.

Sharon (15:57):

That’s so awful.

Nicole (16:00):

And here he was.

Sharon (16:01):

They were just listening till midnight.

Nicole (16:03):

Yeah. It’s so neat. It’s cool cause we, in these verses, we see a few of the things we talked about, like doing life together. The first verse it talks about, you know, they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship and to sharing meals, communion together. It gives such a good example of how they started out early with forming these habits and they did life together.

Sharon (16:23):

Yes.

Nicole (16:23):

It’s really neat.

Sharon (16:23):

In little pods.

Nicole (16:24):

Yes.

Sharon (16:24):

Which we now call churches.

Nicole (16:26):

Right. Which is what they were. And then the last verse, it says on the first day of the week they gathered. And it sounds like that was their habit together, the first day of the week. And Christians, you know, modern Christians, we gather on Sunday, which is the first day of our week.

Sharon (16:40):

Exactly so.

Nicole (16:41):

We kinda ‘carried over’ after all these years.

Sharon (16:43):

I know it. I know it. And that’s why I’ve always said one day in seven, to me, it doesn’t have to be the Sabbath. Some people believe it needs to still be Saturdays. Okay. That’s fine. But to me, it’s just, out of seven days, one day is set aside.

Nicole (16:57):

Yes.

Sharon (16:57):

And it’s an act of worship and they did that. So sweet, so good.

Nicole (17:02):

It is really neat.

Sharon (17:02):

Oh man. So, okay. So we also have the witness of believers in the early churches who formed churches.

Nicole (17:09):

Yes.

Sharon (17:10):

Yeah. So we’re now going to move beyond Acts to Ephesians. We could literally choose any of Paul’s letters. I mean, I was looking through to find these verses. I’m like, it’s everywhere!

Nicole (17:20):

It’s loaded. Yeah.

Sharon (17:20):

To find references to church attendance, because he’s writing to churches in these letters, you know, the church at Ephesus. The church at Thessalonica. The church at Corinth, they’re all written to churches. So, or in the cases of Timothy and Titus, you know, they were servants at a church.

Nicole (17:35):

Yes.

Sharon (17:36):

So, but they all assumed church attendance, all of them and belonging. All of them, nobody is like this Lone Ranger sitting on a hill, loving Jesus alone.

Nicole (17:44):

Right.

Sharon (17:45):

They’re with others. So anyways, so I’m going to read three verses in Ephesians that all talk about this togetherness and the need to be together as Christians. Ephesians 1:22-23 says this, “God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church. And the church is his body. It is made full and complete by Christ who fills all things everywhere with himself. And then Ephesians 4:16 says, “He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.” That is the ideal isn’t it?

Nicole (18:31):

It is a beautiful picture.

Sharon (18:34):

Healthy and growing and full of love.

Nicole (18:34):

Yes.

Sharon (18:35):

Yet not always realized.

Nicole (18:36):

No.

Sharon (18:36):

And then Ephesians 5:25, “For husbands, this means love your wives just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her.” Oh man, he gave up his life for the church. He gave up his life for each one of us. And I think Americans are just so, we’re so individual we’re like super-individual. Other countries are more clumpy.

Nicole (19:02):

Uh-huh, yeah.

Sharon (19:03):

They’re more community. But in this case, the Bible is calling us to the fact that Christ loves the church. He loves the body of believers and we read over and over that each of us is necessary for the other one. We don’t do life as well alone as we do together, even with all the nit-pickiness and the whiny-ness and the grating of personalities that happen in a church, we still need each other.

Nicole (19:30):

But that grating teaches us patience and grace with other people. And if we meet together, we can find out where we need to grow too, like, oh, I should have more patience with that person. Or they might say, Hey, Nicole, you’re getting a little gossipy. So when we’re meeting with other believers, it helps us to see things that we may not want to notice on our own, or we may not see, you know, for, oh, I’m fine. I’m just going to do my thing alone with no one else. God does not want that for us.

Sharon (19:56):

No he does not.

Nicole (19:56):

We need the accountability.

Sharon (19:57):

We do, we do, and the difficult people need to be loved.

Nicole (20:02):

Yes.

Sharon (20:02):

And if they can’t be loved at church?

Nicole (20:05):

Where can they?

Sharon (20:06):

Come on? So it’s good. And sometimes we’re the difficult people.

Nicole (20:11):

I was just gonna say… and sometimes that person is me. So thank you for loving me.

Sharon (20:15):

Sometimes you know, the one that talks all the time, maybe me, you know, needs some patience given by other people. Like, wow, she’s still talking. So, so church is supposed to be this wonderful community where we endure each other and love each other. We care about each other.

Nicole (20:33):

Absolutely.

Sharon (20:33):

With, you know, all our foibles.

Nicole (20:36):

Yes. Because we all have them.

Sharon (20:38):

We do. So. Okay.

Nicole (20:39):

Well, I’m going to end our section with an Old Testament verse that talks about the blessings of being in church. Psalm 133:1, “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity.”

Sharon (20:51):

Amen, Sister.

Nicole (20:53):

Beautiful.

Sharon (20:53):

Yes.

Nicole (20:54):

Sharon, it is a beautiful thing when we are working together in unity. I think that’s one of the best ways we can show the world that we are different because of Jesus, that unity.

Sharon (21:03):

Absolutely.

Nicole (21:04):

You know even a friend of mine who’s an atheist, he longs for peace in the world. You know, there’s a…, we all want that.

Sharon (21:10):

We all want that.

Nicole (21:11):

Even if they don’t have Christ in them yet.

Sharon (21:13):

Right.

Nicole (21:13):

So to be able to model that and offer a taste of that unity, that brings people from all different walks of life together with Christ’s help, that could be a huge draw for people to come to know Jesus.

Sharon (21:23):

It surely can.

Nicole (21:24):

We can’t do it on our own.

Sharon (21:25):

No we can’t. And when you see people from different walks of life that normally would not congregate together, rich, poor, construction workers, doctors, you know, everybody worshiping the same God, there’s something beautiful about that.

Nicole (21:44):

There really is.

Sharon (21:44):

And even in the difficulties, the fact that we’re still going, you know, that in itself says something? That being together once a week or twice a week, if we have a little home group, which you and I both are parts of home groups, it says something about, I desire to be with other people that love Christ as I do. So well, I think these verses do kind of underline that God expects us to be in church. I remember telling my girls when they were younger, that it’s one of the sweetest ways to tell God he matters by our actions.

Nicole (22:18):

Oh, I like that.

Sharon (22:18):

Right? Yeah. We offer him a time sacrifice every Sunday when we go and worship with others, listen to the sermon and basically celebrate Jesus corporately. It’s actually not just about the people. It’s an act of worship. It’s a declaration that we identify with Christians that are followers of Jesus Christ. It’s a way to show God our love for him. So that’s what I would do. Sometimes some of my churches were boring. We had wonderful dear pastors and staying awake? I took notes to stay awake. I just did. That’s just the truth. But I would say to the Lord, Lord, I am here because I value you. And I value that man who spent hours preparing the sermon that I’m having a hard time listening to because I want to be a part of this.

Nicole (23:06):

Yes, absolutely.

Sharon (23:07):

This is my sacrifice to you. And I’m glad to be here.

Nicole (23:10):

It’s not always about us.

Sharon (23:13):

No, it is not. It is not entertainment.

Nicole (23:13):

No.

Sharon (23:13):

This is where we get into trouble when it’s like, well, I do not feel entertained this week.

Nicole (23:18):

Right.

Sharon (23:18):

Well, that’s not why you’re here. You’re here to honor God. To give him a time sacrifice and to say, teach me. And it doesn’t matter how, ineffective the sermon might be. If the word is preached, there’s something that can be taught from it and seeing a faithful man of God open and unpack the scripture in itself is testimony.

Nicole (23:37):

Absolutely.

Sharon (23:37):

Isn’t it?

Nicole (23:39):

It is. And if we go with a heart to be taught, we can come away with something.

Sharon (23:42):

We do. Yes.

Nicole (23:42):

From the dullest preacher in the world, if we go with that open heart, God will give us something.

Sharon (23:46):

Absolutely. He will. He will. We go because it’s a holy habit that changes and softens our hearts towards the Lord each week. So, but let’s talk for a moment about why this becomes hard for people. Nicole, what are some of the reasons people stop going to church?

Nicole (24:04):

I think past experiences can be a huge hindrance. You know, we’ve talked about imperfect people and I think we can lump God in with the Christians who hurt us and just stop going. I also think the busy-ness of life can keep us away. It’s hard to get to church on a glorious sunny day when you want a beach day or to catch up on yard work. And another thing is when we’re really struggling and feel alone or isolated, I think Satan likes to keep us there. And he whispers those lies that no one will see us at church anyway. So why bother going?

Sharon (24:33):

All those lies. Right. You’re right.

Nicole (24:34):

They keep us from going.

Sharon (24:35):

Yeah, I think so often our expectations for church are too broad and grand too. It’s a place where there’s imperfect people and that includes the pastors and elders.

Nicole (24:43):

Yeah.

Sharon (24:44):

And the women’s ministry leaders, you know, we, we expect too much of people sometimes.

Nicole (24:49):

We really do.

Sharon (24:49):

You know? I mean, they need to say, they’re sorry, that’s one of the kind rules, but we’re all going to need to say we’re sorry sometimes. We really do and be forgiven. So, we enable others to be refined when they have to put up with us as well.

Nicole (25:05):

Yeah, no, that’s huge. I think that it’s easy to just expect the church to be perfect and that, you know, it’ll do the work that Jesus does in our heart, but just showing up doesn’t fix or save us. We need to do the work too and try to bless others and serve alongside them as we also come to be blessed and serve and go to church.

Sharon (25:24):

You’re right. You know, the book of Hebrews has a couple of verses in it that assures us that even back at the beginning of things, people didn’t always want to go to church. I thought that was funny because well at the beginning…? They were all wonderful. Not every time, Hebrews 10:23-25, “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Not giving up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing.” Oh yes, one can get into the habit of not meeting together. “But encouraging one another and all the more as you see the day approaching.” And boy, do I see the day approaching Jesus is coming soon and all the more we better be with our brothers and sisters in Christ. So these people were also in the habit of not meeting together. Nicole it’s a habit either way.

Nicole (26:17):

Yep.

Sharon (26:17):

Right? Right? So just skip a few Sundays in a row because the kids are so, you know, not with it when they’re young and bam, you’re not going.

Nicole (26:25):

You’re in the habit of it.

Sharon (26:26):

You’re just not going.

Nicole (26:26):

I know. Well, we wouldn’t want to be, we never want to discourage people. So we want to encourage you that don’t be dismayed if you miss a Sunday. Goodness with COVID last year, we missed more days than we went. And we had a really hard time connecting online. It was just a rough fit for our family. But good news. When we have slip-ups in habit forming it doesn’t make us go backwards as long as we don’t give up totally.

Sharon (26:48):

That’s right.

Nicole (26:49):

When you keep, keep, keep, keep skipping is when you develop a bad habit, but occasional slip ups? It’s okay. There’s grace.

Sharon (26:55):

There’s sure is.

Nicole (26:56):

God knows we’re human. He knows how hard this life is. And while he also knows that church is where our souls need to be. He gives grace, so much grace. So if it’s been longer than you want to admit, since you’ve been to church, don’t stay away because of shame. God is that loving Father waiting for his prodigal son to return and to embrace us with forgiveness.

Sharon (27:14):

Amen. This is, this is meant to spur one another onto love and good deeds. Not heap humps of guilt on your heads, those of you who are listening, because condemnation is not from Christ. That’s from the enemy. This is, we hope, encouragement. Go to church, find a church. If the church you’ve been in, has wounded you, work through it or find another place after a good goodbye, right?

Nicole (27:44):

Yep. We know it’s worth the habit. It’s so good and you’ll be so blessed.

Sharon (27:48):

I’ve got a couple of quotes to finish us out. Dwight L. Moody said this, “Church attendance is as vital to a disciple as a transfusion of rich, healthy blood to a sick man.”

Nicole (28:00):

I like that.

Sharon (28:00):

Isn’t that awesome?

Nicole (28:01):

That’s good.

Sharon (28:02):

It’s like, next time I see you in church, I’ll be like here for my transfusion. So, and then Martin Luther says, “To gather with God’s people in united adoration of the Father is as necessary to the Christian life as prayer.”

Nicole (28:17):

And that is sure true.

Sharon (28:18):

Yeah, yeah. So Nicole, last advice that you’d give someone not attending church.

Nicole (28:24):

Well, to quote my favorite fictional character, Anne of Green Gables, “Today is a new day with no mistakes in it.”

Sharon (28:30):

Oh, I love that. She is like my favorite.

Nicole (28:33):

She is.

Sharon (28:33):

I read those books every ten years.

Nicole (28:35):

That’s wonderful.

Sharon (28:36):

I do. I just have like every decade, I’m like, I need to read Anne of Green Gables again.

Nicole (28:39):

Read some Anne. Oh, I love that thought. No matter how badly I did with forming good habits yesterday, I can pray today and ask God for forgiveness and help. And he will help my resolve to start fresh. As for the hurried-ness of life, that’s all the more reason to set aside a few hours to be with other Christians who also fail. You know, we can sit together and just remember his great love for us. Church can really refresh our souls and prepare our minds for the hurried-ness that waits just outside that door.

Sharon (29:08):

Amen. Well, let me close us with prayer. Oh Lord, I thank you for your provision for us to not have to be alone. And Father, I pray for every listener, those that are happily situated and those who wish they had a church where they felt loved. Oh Lord, help each one of us, to develop the habit of honoring you on a Sunday by being in church, or a Saturday. Guide us to where you would have us be to worship and Father help us to be part of the solution at a church, help us to be one of the loving, forgiving ones. Help us to be one of the ones that encourages. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Nicole (29:57):

Amen. Thank you for joining us today, friends, we hope you have found a good church home or that this episode will inspire you to look for one. As with all these holy habits, please let this episode be an encouragement to you and not a condemnation. We are all works in progress and God sees our hearts and our hesitancies, and absolutely loves us right where we are. And then gently leads us further into his grace and his kingdom work. He’s patient with us and I’m so grateful for that. Next week we’re going to start a study on the life of Nehemiah. This man from the Old Testament has a lot to teach us about how to live in the 21st century. We’ll start with episode 54, The Prayer-full Life. I can’t wait to dig in. Until next week may God bless you as you seek to follow him. Thanks for listening.

Speaker 1 (30:44):

We are so glad you stopped for a while with us. This Sweet Selah Moments Podcast is a co-operative production of Word Radio and Sweet Selah Ministries. More information about this podcast can be found at Sweetselah.org. Thank you for joining us.

 

You can download and print the transcript here.

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