“We need you at church.”
My friend Jeff was talking about plain old Sunday morning worship service at our 125 year old church. I wasn’t scheduled to deliver the sermon, lead us in the Lord’s prayer, or do special music (phew!). I wasn’t scheduled to do anything. And yet, for some reason, he said he needed me. “Our community needs you,” he said.
No you don’t. I thought.
My mind raced with excuses.
We’re a big enough church that no one even notices if I’m there or not. Maybe true.
I shouldn’t go if I have mixed motives or a bad attitude for going. Sometimes valid, yes.
I’m tired. My baby was up all night. My toddler has really bad separation anxiety. I can’t sing. My favorite preacher isn’t preaching. It’s boring. Jesus shouldn’t be boring. Yes, yes, and yes.
I have a confession: a lot of times, I view Sunday morning worship service like I view screen time. As an optional, unnecessary, probably useless practice. And myself as an unnecessary, unnoticed, probably worthless spectator. Even when the sermon isn’t boring, I still manage to “open other apps” in my mind, answering a long stream of semi-important questions: What will the weather be like later this afternoon — good enough to BBQ? Did I add ‘tortilla chips’ to my grocery list? Hold it, zoom in right there: You know, for being a bald guy, our pastor sure has a thick, lustrous beard.
Listen to me: All of those thoughts are just fine. You’re in good company. Don’t feel guilty when you aren’t 110% engaged in 110% of the Sunday morning worship service. It happens to all of us, every week.
And we still need you.
I need you to sing. I sing louder and with much more fullness of heart when my voice blends and disappears into the voices all around me.
I need you to hold out hope for me during the seasons when all I feel is cynicism and despair.
I need you to be cynical and critical; challenge the status quo so that I don’t get safe and comfortable.
I need you to greet just one person around you with depth and sincerity. Instead of the nominal, “Good morning” followed by a quick turn back to your spouse, I need you to say, unobnoxiously, “Hello, my name is _____. I don’t think I’ve met you before. How long have you been attending here?” And then I need you to listen and remember their name and say “Hello ______!” next week.
I need you to pray for me. When I have tears streaming down my face. When I have my arms crossed. When I’m obviously exhausted. When I’m fighting with my spouse. When I look like I just need prayer. When I look like I clearly don’t.
I need you to be standing out in the foyer with your fussy baby. Just seeing her sweet baby cheeks or holding her for a few minutes or standing next to you while I hold my equally fussy baby might be exactly what I need for that day. In fact, it might be better on that day than all the sermons in the world.
I need you to hold my hand. Really, sometimes that’s all I really need.
I need you to keep your spiritual eyes open to the people around us. Who is hurting? Who seems lonely? Who came for the first time out of a place of spiritual emptiness in their life? Who looks like they have it all together, but might just be faking it? Who seems like they can’t get out of the pew and out the door fast enough? Who is feeling discouraged and tired of serving in their Sunday school class? Who is old, talks and walks slowly, and just needs to feel seen? I need you to reach out. I need you to give a hug. I need you to share an encouraging word. I need you just to pray. I need you to do what you were made to do, in your own God-given way. However you can. However the Spirit leads you. I can’t do that on my own, not for each person who needs it. Neither can our pastors and elders all by themselves. There are just too many people, too many diverse needs.
I need you just to show up sometimes, even when you don’t feel like it. Because just seeing your face, holding your hand, singing with you, snuggling each other’s babies, being with you butt to butt in the pew is worship. Even when it doesn’t feel like it. And God always shows up (Matthew 18:20) to receive our worship, even when we don’t feel it. Even when we can’t see it. Even when our minds are wandering, our hearts are distant, our bodies are tired.
So, listen, the bottomline is: It’s perfectly fine to skip Sunday morning church service sometimes. I do it, too. For a plethora of great, decent, and ok reasons. But please don’t skip anymore because you think: No one needs me; no one will notice.
I need you. I will notice.
We need you. We will notice.
And please join me: I’m going to start showing up sometimes even when I really especially don’t feel like it. Because, after all, who knows how God might show up?
For further discussion:
How do you know that your community needs you?
Do the people around you know that you need them?