Irreligious Thought #1: On Not Being Excited About Going to Church

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. – Jesus

That man is perfect in faith who can come to God in the utter dearth of his feelings and desires, without a glow or aspiration, without the weight of low thoughts, failures, neglects, and wandering forgetfulness and say to him, “Thou are my refuge.” – George MacDonald 

Irreligious Thought: On Sunday I heard a pastor confess in an opening prayer for worship, he was not excited to be there. I cannot tell you how much that meant to me and my wife.

Am I the only one who has looked at facebook or Twitter on Sunday morning and saw where so very many people were ‘excited’ about going to church and thought, “Really?” Not because you think they are lying. You just cannot imagine being so. Excited, that is.

A confession: I am not always excited about going to church.

And to make it worse, I’m a pastor. Actually, let’s be honest, I am rarely ‘excited’ to go to church. The question used to swirl around in my mind, “Is something wrong with me?” Am I supposed to be ‘excited’ about church? Are you supposed to feel ‘excited’ about corporate worship? What if you are not…really…’excited?’

Cue up our recent visit to the church where my wife and I met over 13 years ago. It’s where we heard grace clearly for the first time. We had just sat down after singing a song, led by my friend, Jason. And the Missions Pastor stands up to pray and he confesses at the very beginning of his prayer how he was not excited about going to church that morning. I was encouraged.

I have no problem with people saying they are excited about going to church. Actually, I guess I am glad there are those who react to the week-in and week-out rhythms of corporate worship with excitement. I’m just not one of them.

Expectantly. With hope. Some humility. And a desire to hear from God. But excited? The word feels…how do I say this?…plastic. Or as Lewis might describe it, ‘tinny.’ Was this the way the saints of old came together? Was this the expectation for nearly two millennia? Is this the expectation now?

When Jesus tells us – all of us who labor and are heavy laden – we are to come to him for rest, I assume we don’t only come to him like this the first time we come. My assumption is we are always to come to him like this, as those who are likely to labor under a heavy load of guilt and coldness and confidence in our efforts instead of rest in him. We are to come with a faith expecting rest.

This should be encouraging. Encouraging because I cannot be the only one who comes in faith but rarely – if ever – with excitement. My temptation has been to be discouraged at my lack of excitement. But the excitement is not where the encouragement comes from. It comes from the Person who gives rest to those who are not. Excited, that is.

(Full list of ‘Irreligious Thoughts’ here.)

3 thoughts on “Irreligious Thought #1: On Not Being Excited About Going to Church

  1. Southern Cheesehead January 24, 2011 / 3:52 pm

    Interesting thoughts here. I'm not always excited to go to church either, but I now have a different perspective I must say. Being married to a pastor I'll admit that sometimes going to church was basically like going to work…or a chore it seemed sometimes. Usually God's kindness would lead me to repentence during that service and I would realize that was my fault for looking at it that way. We have had a few months off from full time church ministry and it has done a lot for us. It has given us perspective (among many other things like a renewed calling and a time of rest). It's been good for us to gain the perspective of visitor…I believe that it will make us better in ministry in our own church. I now know what it is like to hand my children off to complete strangers…I had never had that perspective before. I remember waking up that first Sunday "off" and thinking that in my 39 years I had never gotten to choose what church I was going to. I lived at home up until I got married and then I married a pastor. It was exciting for me. We then ended up at 7 different churches in 7 different weeks and I longed for "normal" or "routine". We have that now…just in time for our new church launching Easter!I also have to say that I'm honestly excited about that first church service Easter weekend. As much as I like the church that we've been attending – I don't feel a part of it because I'm not. It's not my home…I'm not involved…I'm just an attendee. I still enjoy going and just being an attendee for now because I enjoy learning more about the Lord and His Word and singing praises to Him. Excited? Probably not…I can say that from this new perspective I now realize how easy it is to choose not to go to church with people who aren't involved and just attend. (That's probably a whole 'nother blog post!) I'm excited about that first service because we will both be back to doing what we were truly called to do. This new perspective has taught me that and I don't ever want to take that for granted again. I was glad when they said to me, Let us go to the house of the Lord! My husband was called to pastor a church…I was called to help him do that and to lead in worship…I'm excited about doing that and that's not plastic!

  2. Tony Java January 24, 2011 / 11:25 pm

    Heavy laden. I've heard and read that all weekend. It popped up in one of those perpetual calendars, my devotional, at church, in both the sermon and well as a song during communion, now this. I am heavy laden at the moment and it looks like one of those slap-in-the-face-to-get-my-attention things. Thanks Matt.

  3. Kara January 25, 2011 / 3:31 pm

    I needed this reminder. I miss the joy of being excited about going to church. I know I once had it. Lately my attitude has been, "Ugh. Here we go again. Who am I going to have to talk to today." And by lately I mean for the last six months. I am so thankful for the rest and the reminder.

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