What if you only ever listened to your feelings? Can you imagine what your life would look like? Seriously, right now, take a break from reading this post and imagine. I’ll wait ………………………………………… Still, thinking? OK, no worries. I will give you a bit more time...............................………………………………………… So, what did you imagine your life would look like? I bet most of us imagined a life that looked terrible. If we did only what we feel and let our hearts be the dictators of our lives, I can imagine a whole host of awful likely scenarios …
Our marriages would never make it. The longer you are married, there are plenty of days where you just don’t feel like you did when you were a newlywed. You remember those days when just the sight of your bride made the birds chirp and the hills were filled with the sound of music. After a couple of years though, that same spouse rolls over in the bed and their morning breath has killed all the birds and silenced the music.
We would all be grossly overweight. If I let my feelings dictate my actions, I would never stop eating foods that are deep-fried and smothered in some sort of spicy gravy.
Not many of us would have jobs as we would have chosen to listen to our feelings and sleep in instead of getting up to get to work.
What do we do when we don't feel like doing things that are best for us? We do it anyway. That is the most simple and best advice I can offer. The world we live in would think that is downright terrible advice. The world would tell you to always listen to your heart and always listen to your feelings. In case we forget this worldly principle, we even have catchy tunes to keep it fresh in our minds. Someone cue up the old-school Roxette tune from 1989 …. “Listen to your heart, When he's calling for you. Listen to your heart. There's nothing else you can do.” It may be a common phrase and a catchy hit-selling song, BUT … it is terrible advice. The bible is overtly clear on this.
Proverbs 14:12 - There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.
Jeremiah 17:9 - The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?
Matthew 15:19 - For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.
When it comes to connecting, attending, and being involved at church, these struggles with our feelings apply. There are times when we just don’t feel like going to church. We don’t feel like getting involved in a small group or serving the body of Christ. I am a pastor of the church and there are times when even I do not feel like doing so myself.
I read a book this weekend and the first line was short, sweet, simple, and spot-on …” The most important time to be at church is when you don’t feel like it.” (Gunderson)
“Therefore, don’t believe in your heart; direct your heart to believe in God. Don’t follow your heart; follow Jesus.” (Bloom) I would imagine if there ever was a season where a Christ-follower would feel tempted to disconnect from the church this is the season. Under normal circumstances, there are a million life distractions that the enemy uses to tempt believers to disconnect from the local expression of the body of believers. Busyness, fatigue, apathy, laziness, anger are all readily available whenever our great enemy wants to pull them off the shelf to draw us away.
Now, after 6 months of social distancing due to Coronavirus, it seems that we can add a global pandemic to the list of things that make war with our feelings about church. Many have now gotten used to watching online. Others are tired of watching online. Many don’t feel safe attending in person. The list grows and grows.
Maybe today you are just feeling disconnected. Maybe you don’t feel like reading your Bible. Maybe you don’t feel like praying. Maybe today you are frustrated, angry, or tired and you just don’t feel like connecting at church. What do you do? Let me say it again, go to church even when you don’t feel like it. Keep reading your Word when you don’t feel like it. Keep praying even when you don’t feel like it. Some may say, “well isn’t that hypocritical?” I would say resoundingly, “NO! Not at all.” Hypocrisy is doing things that you don’t believe in. It is not hypocritical at all to do things you believe in, even when you don’t feel like doing them.
Let me offer you a quick and fresh reminder of the importance of the local church from author and pastor Gunner Gunderson. (below)
WHAT IS THE CHURCH?
The New Testament uses three images for the church that emphasize our togetherness: a family of siblings, a body with parts, and a temple with stones. The church is “the household of God,” “the body of Christ,” and “a dwelling place for the Spirit,” built with “living stones” (1 Cor. 12:12–27; Eph. 2:21–22; 4:15–16; 1 Tim. 3:15; 1 Pet. 2:5). The implications are obvious: families live together, body parts work together, and temple stones fit together.
Some people use these truths to discount church attendance. “The church is a people, not a place,” they say. “It’s about being the church, not going to church.” But instead of lowering the bar, these images actually highlight the beauty and benefit of gathering with our fellow believers. God’s people have always been marked, known, and renewed by regular, rhythmic, orderly gatherings (Heb. 10:24–25). A body that’s never together is more like a prosthetics warehouse, and a family that never has any dinners or outings or reunions won’t be healthy or happy if any family at all. No temple stands firm when its quarried stones refuse to stick together. Being together—in person—is that important.
Sure, you could listen to some Christian music and an online sermon once a week, but there won’t be any face-to-face fellowship or personalized care or communal bread and wine symbolizing the body and blood of Jesus. You could read the Bible and pray on your own, but you won’t hear the studied voice of your own shepherd teaching and comforting and correcting you. You could even attend another church for a while because yours has grown unsatisfying, but that’s not treating your local church like much of a covenant community.
I know you might not feel like it this weekend. You might not feel like it for a while. The reasons you don’t feel like going to church might be good, bad, or ugly. But, as a fellow sheep loved by the same Shepherd, I’m asking you to trust God, ask for grace, and go.
Go, because the church gathers every Sunday to remember the death of Jesus for our sins and the resurrection of Christ from the dead, and that’s precisely what we all need to remember and celebrate, regardless of what else is happening in our lives.
Go, because like Martha, you’ve been working all week, and like Mary, you need to sit at the feet of Jesus and hear his word (Luke 10:38–42).
Go, because the songs of the saints are the soundtrack of the Bible, and your soul needs to sing and hear singing more than you’ll ever know.
Go, because the Bible you’ll hear tells the true story of the world, and the gathering of heaven’s saints on earth is nothing less than the presence of the future.
Go, because the gifts Christ poured into your life didn’t come with a receipt, and you have the happy duty to use these God-given tools to build up his spiritual house.
Go, because even though your church has problems, your church also has a Savior, a healer, a shepherd, and a friend.
Go, because right there with you or somewhere far away, there’s a brother or sister who’s hurting or hungry or persecuted or imprisoned, and if your church family is worshiping, so can you.
Go, because the world’s been seducing your senses all week, but what you most need to see, hear, taste and touch are the waters of baptism and the body and blood of Christ.
Go, because the rest you ultimately need is not just sleeping in or getting out of town but rediscovering the gospel’s promise that in Christ you’re forgiven, new, and free.
Go, because the stone trapping you in the cave of anger or bitterness or despair or doubt or loneliness or fear can be rolled away in a night, and once God does it, no Roman soldier or Jewish priest can stop him.
Go, because the good news of this gospel is not just that you’re reconciled to God but that we’re reconciled to each other.
Go, not because your trials aren’t real, but because that table with bread and wine represents the crucifixion of the worst sins you could ever commit and the worst realities you’ll ever experience.
Go, and in your going, grow. Go, and in your going, serve. Go, and in your going, let God pick up the shards of your heart and piece together the kind of mosaic that only gets fully crafted when his saints stay committed to his long-term building project—when we speak the truth to one another in love (Eph. 4:15–16).
The most important time to be at church is when you don’t feel like it. So please, brothers and sisters, go. (Gunderson)
I would highly recommend you grab a copy of “What If I Don”t Feel Like Going To Church?” by Gunner Gunderson. It is only one chapter, but it has a ton of more awesome encouragement for us all.
See you at church on Sunday.
Pastor Brad Kirby