Bob has had some terrific experiences in church as he has sat under the preaching of the Word. He’s been challenged, comforted, and met with God so powerfully that he will never forget those moments of sweet communion. But Bob is only in church about 1 week out of 3. He often is out-of-town with friends, or just doesn’t come when he is in town. Why? He knows that everything he hears will most likely be something he already knows.
Bruce is a new believer. He doesn’t know as much about the Bible as Bob does, but if Bruce isn’t in church weekly it’s probably because he is sick. He knows he has a short memory. He knows he easily forgets what he heard the week before so he developed a habit of coming to church week by week to hear the Word of God and be reminded of the glorious truths of Scripture.
The question in view here is not, is Bob or Bruce a Christian? Though that may be a good question to ask, the question I want to ask of these two men is this: which one, Bob or Bruce, will grow more Christ-like year by year? Bob is likely to be a spiritual firework full of fizz and bang for a brief time, but has no lasting, staying power. Bruce on the other hand isn’t a fire work. Nothing about him shines as extraordinary. He knows he is leaky, and needs to be reminded of what he has forgotten for his own good. Bruce will grow as each year comes and goes. Bob will likely fade out of church slowly and no longer commit himself to God’s people (which shows his commitment to God was shallow). Bob may in time show himself to be a living example of the parable of the sower, a weed that shot up quick only to fade away in time while Bruce is the slow-growing plant, whose roots go deep before visibly sprouting up quickly.
You see, God knows better what we need than we do. Not every passage of Scripture will feel instantly applicable but will over time produce in us what we cannot produce in and of ourselves – growth. How does this growth happen? By regularly attending church week by week. The short-term effect and visible consequences between Bob and Bruce may not be immediately evident, but in the long term – WOW. They will be night and day different. In the short-term Bob may look like a better, more mature, or more knowledgeable Christian, but in the long term, Bruce will be so much brighter than Bob that Bob will look like he’s not shining at all.
2 Peter 1:12 makes it clear that we need to be reminded. We are leaky people. What we hear the week before won’t stay in us very long. Therefore knowing this fact it ought to lead us buckle up and settle down for the long haul of the Christian life in the community of the local church. Growth as a Christian isn’t like a weed (quick) but rather like an oak tree (slow). You may not be able to see an oak tree getting bigger by the day or even by the month. But over time it grows bigger, its roots grow deeper, and it grows wider in its stature. This is Christian growth.
If you want deep change in your life, commit deeply to your church.
Practical steps to take:
1) Keep a count over 6 months of how often you attend or don’t attend church. Look over this afterwards and notice your own patterns.
2) If you find you’re away from church more than you realized, change some things about your life. Don’t go away as often, or return from trips early to be able to attend church.
3) Be aware of others as you listen to sermons in church and talk with others about the sermon afterwards. This will help you process what was said. This will aid you in your fight against your own leaky-ness.
4) Pray God’s Spirit would work to shape you as an individual and shape your church as a body of Christians who do life together.
Adapted from LISTEN UP! Christopher Ash, 2009