In Mark 1 and Luke 4, we are told about a man who had an unclean or evil spirit. He wasn’t at home or hanging out in the streets. He was at church. I don’t know if this was his first time going to the synagogue or if he was a faithful churchgoer. Why was he there? Was he looking for answers? Was he looking for help?
Like a lot of Christians today, he probably looked like he had it altogether on the outside. I say this because he wasn’t described like the demon possessed man who wore no clothes, cut himself and lived in the tombs (Mark 5). The church members and the teachers probably didn’t know what this man was dealing with inwardly. Every Sabbath, scribes would teach the law, but none of their words gave life. No one was healed. No one was raised from the dead. No one was delivered from yokes, burdens, devils or oppression in these meetings.
The spirit that was in this man was like the serpent that was hiding in the cold until Paul laid a bundle of sticks on the fire (Acts 28). No one was ministering to this man the way Jesus had ministered to the woman at the well. He told me all that ever I did (John 4:39). This man sat quietly in a cold synagogue until the word came in the form of a burning fire.
Can you imagine the looks on their faces when they heard what was speaking through this man? Those who knew him knew that it was not him speaking. Can you also imagine how they felt when this man was set free? Well, it didn’t take long for the news to spread. When Jesus left the synagogue, he went to Peter’s house and healed his mother-in-law who was sick with a fever. Mark 1:33 tells us that “all the city” was waiting at the front door to be healed of something.
Jesus was different. He wasn’t like the scribes who just preached a good word and sent everyone home. He spoke with power and authority. He demonstrated what he preached. Signs and wonders followed. He just didn’t say what He heard his Father say, but He did what his Father did (John 5:19).
I grew up going to church because I didn’t have a choice. I had to go, but now as an adult, have you ever asked yourself, Why do I go to church? Some of us go to hear a good word and to be encouraged for the week and that’s good, but what about the person who sits beside you, in front of you or behind you? There is someone in church hurting, but you can’t see their wounds. There is someone crying, but you can’t see their tears.
Thank God for pastors, but they can’t do everything. Just like how you expect the pastor to show up when you are in the hospital or show up to the funeral when your loved one has passed away or show up to preach on Sundays, the pastor needs us to show up. Every gift is needed. Some of us are like the man at the pool who was waiting for someone to put him in the pool when we should be walking by now and helping others to get in the pool.
God wants what we hear in church to be demonstrated outside of the church. But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only (James 1:22). I don’t think we realize how much people are watching us – at work, at home, while you’re driving your car. They see your attitude. They see how you treat your spouse and your children. They are following our lives – and not just on social media.
The writer of Hebrews warns us to not stop meeting with other believers (Hebrews 10:25). Go to church. You don’t know who needs strength or encouragement. If you only look at church as a building to go to when you need something, you’ve got it all wrong. Your presence is very important. We need you to be present and functioning. As I said in my last blog, if Elijah hadn’t showed up – if he hadn’t done what God told him to do, the widow and her son would have died.
I think about the times I struggled to get out of bed to go to church. Now, don’t get me wrong. I sometimes struggle to go to work too, but I get up because I want that paycheck. Unless you are self-employed, most of us don’t show up to work when we want to because we would be fired, yet we show up to church when we want to. I’ve learned that those times I didn’t want to go church was when I really needed to go the most.
The next time you attend church, go with an expectation – not just to get something, but to give something. Give a hug. Give a smile. Let someone know that God hasn’t forgotten them. Let them know that God still loves them. You don’t know what people are dealing with. Let them know that God is not punishing them or that He’s disappointed in them. Sometimes as Christians, we act like the disciples, who when they saw a boy that was blind from birth, they immediately assumed it was because either the boy sinned or his parents sinned, but it was so that God could show others what He could do for this boy as well as for them.
I haven’t always treated everybody right. At times, I’ve been judgmental and hypocritical, but I’m learning to give to others what God has given me. I’ve decided that I don’t want to be the reason why someone falls, but I want to be the reason why they get back up again.
Going to church was a ritual for me. It was something to do, but now I see it as an opportunity to be.
Don’t just go to church. Be the church.