Why should we attend church? We all have our reasons. My gleaming Sunday School perfect attendance pin was the pride of my charm bracelet collection. My third-grade year, it was my all-consuming desire to win the pin. Practically perfect, the blue and silver shield had “perfect attendance” emblazoned upon the front like a banner from heaven. In order to receive the coveted award, I not only had to show up every Sunday on time without fail, I had to read the weekly Sunday School lesson and bring my offering envelope.
On the Sunday before Labor Day, Mrs. Brumit marched Randy Phelps to the front of the classroom and announced he had won the coveted prize -- the perfect attendance pin. He proudly stuck out his chest and Mrs. Brumit penned his award from Jesus to his freshly washed IZOD polo shirt. Applauding wildly, I had a revelation from the Almighty. When I looked at Randy’s bespectacled face, for one brief shining moment I thought I saw a halo encircling his blonde buzz cut. I determined that morning that the next year I would stand before God, the angels, and the cheering crowd sporting that silver emblem on my gingham dress.
But “perfect attendance” wasn’t an easy feat to perform. Three Sundays in November I hacked and sneezed all over Sandy French because I wasn’t going to let the Asian flu keep me from my trophy. In April I puked twice in church after eating too many donut holes before the lesson started -- or was I sick? I can’t be sure. After my breakfast preceded me, everyone looked a little green around the gills. Debbie McCoy and Vicky Palmer contracted the virulent strain of intestinal flu I so graciously shared with the class. Undaunted, I came week after week after week after week...
Twice I almost lost the competition because of an errant offering envelope. One windy March Sunday, it fell out of my pocket when I hopped out of the Pontiac and onto the pavement. Sweet Mrs. Bentley saw the little white square under the car and returned it to me in the nick of time. The second envelope fiasco came the Saturday night I decided to hide it in my Bible between Nahum and Habakkuk. I hoped the fiery minor prophets would hold it fast until I arrived at class. When Sunday School started, I frantically thumbed through the Bible pages hoping to locate my nickel for Jesus. Where did it go? I scoured all of the “ah” prophets: Isaiah, Hosea, Ezra, Jeremiah, Jonah, Nehemiah, Zephaniah and Zechariah.. My tithe envelope was nowhere to be found. Suddenly I recalled a Lucky Strike commercial from the night before. The book had something to do with tobacco -- no, it was Habakkuk. I found Habakkuk and placed my envelope in the offering plate and breathed a sigh of relief. After 12 months of hard work, I reached my lofty goal and wore my heavenly treasure, my Baptist banner, with pride.
God was not interested in my goody two-shoes to-dos. My obsession with pleasing God through works, receiving accolades from my Bible-toting buddies, was flawed. I viewed God as a demanding taskmaster instead of my loving, Heavenly Father. His grace was replaced with guilt, and Sunday morning was just another excuse to feel ashamed about not measuring up, no matter how hard I tried. When we attend church for the right reasons, everything changes. We want to live for God because we are grateful for His love and sacrifice for us.
God first and foremost wants us to worship Him because He is delightful and He delights in us.
I love King David’s words in Psalm 122:1:
“I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go up to the house of the Lord” (NIV).
David loved worshipping God. He loved it so much that he danced in the streets in front of the Ark of God. In this verse from Psalm 122, David reminds us that worshipping God is just plain fun. We revel in His presence, remember His goodness, we receive His forgiveness and we connect with His people. Go to church because you love God and He loves you. Forget the brownie points.
Portions of this blog are taken from Bored in Big Church: Recollections of a Church Brat and Tattletale by Dr. Julie Barrier and Brianna Barrier Engeler.