Nov 072020 0 Responses

A Phrase That Scares a Pastor

Over the past few months, there has been a repeated phrase as we’ve talked to church members. Speaking to them about Sunday gatherings, what keeps getting repeated is “we are out of the habit.” It’s an understandable concept. So much of life is a habit. That’s why we need to learn to stop bad habits and consistently engage in good habits. Even aspects of our spiritual lives are habits. We hope to help people build the habits of loving our neighbors, praying, and giving.

And COVID has greatly changed our habits—both good and bad. So it’s no surprise that many have gotten out of the habit of corporate worship. Yet what’s interesting about the phrase “we are out of the habit” is that while it’s fully understandable, it’s not the way it would be described using Biblical language. How would the Bible describe what we call “being out of the habit?” It would call it disobedience.

I’m not saying if you aren’t attending corporate worship on Sunday mornings that you are being disobedient. There are many who have serious concerns and are rightly changing their lives to love others and protect themselves. They aren’t going to the gym or inside restaurants or on trips because of underlying conditions in their lives. But there is a good number who have not dramatically changed their social lives, but who have radically changed their involvement with the church. We call it getting out of the habit; the Bible calls it sin.

The problem with not using the Biblical language is that it lessens the feel of the choices and deceives us into thinking there aren’t many negative consequences to our decisions. The wages of a bad habit might be a couple of extra pounds, but the Bible says the wages of sin is death. There are consequences to our disobedience. I’m not saying God is taking attendance on Sunday morning and punishing those who aren’t in attendance. But I am saying that the one who created us understands what we need and when we ignore what He has commanded, we pay a price for our choices. (See: Why Can I Go to Wal-Mart and Not Church?)

It may not physically kill us, but it does begin to kill:

  • Passion for the things of God
  • Our positive influence over others
  • The level of encouragement in our hearts
  • Our ability to know God’s will

Never be deceived into thinking that we can ignore God’s commands without suffering negative consequences for our actions. Obedience leads to life; disobedience leads to death.

That isn’t hyperbole. It’s Biblical truth. However, when we water down our language regarding our actions, we can deceive ourselves into thinking that what we are doing is minor. It’s not. The difficulty is that even as aspects of our lives are dying due to our disobedience, we don’t see it. We don’t see the slow slipping of our passion for God or the subtle erosion of understanding God’s will.

Never allow disobedience to become a habit. And the moment you recognize it has become a habit, change it. Don’t water down the language. Don’t feel false shame or guilt. Feel conviction, admit the problem, and make better choices.  Accept what God has told a believer to do and do it. Not in an attempt to earn God’s favor or check a religious box, but obey because you know that Jesus is inviting us to a path of life. His commands are an invitation to a better way of life. (See: What Does It Mean to Have a Public Faith?)

One of those commands is corporate worship–the habitual gathering together with other believers to proclaim and celebrate the glory of God. We when obey God, our hearts are encouraged; our minds are strengthened; our affections are increased, and our souls are nourished. Gathering allows us to “stir up one another to good works” and to “encourage” one another. (see Hebrews 10)

Yet when we choose to ignore God’s commands, we pay a price. In many cases, the price is not immediately seen which empowers us to think our choices aren’t that important. But we should not be fooled. Choices matter and disobedience comes with a price.

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