Note from Randy: I love this thoughtful and Christ-centered post that Benjamin Watson wrote last summer. In the last five years Nanci and I have come to know and love Ben and his wonderful wife Kirsten. For fifteen years Ben was one of the most highly respected players in the National Football League, and now he continues to have a ministry to many inside and outside the NFL.
I’m grateful for Ben and Kirsten’s life and family and example. (Check out their podcast.) And Ben’s words below about church…wow. God spoke to me as I read them.
This morning, as we prepared to attend church, I felt discontentment in my heart. As a family, we have attended numerous churches as we have moved from city to city over the last 16 years. But throughout the journey, even in the warmest of congregations, there has always been a lingering remembrance of the temporary state we were operating in. We knew the moving day would arrive, a new church search would ensue, and the cycle would repeat in some other geographical region until we settled down and put down roots. At that point, I assumed the perfect church would magically appear. It would be close to our new home, Bible believing, verse by verse preaching, righteousness and justice exercising, Spirit directed, with a choir of heavenly proportions, and a large population of brown members who would not try to touch my children’s hair.
Now, the root planting process is in full swing and we have begun visiting churches. Today as I sat in service surrounded by God’s people I felt convicted. What I’m about to say is not an indictment on any individual church or believer. There are churches that perfectly fit each and every desire one may have, and this is wonderful. For some, lifelong attendance has married them to a specific congregation for decades. Others have landed in the pews after a year-long search. Church attendance should always be prioritized as it is an essential part of our instruction, fellowship, accountability, and corporate worship, and many of you love everything about your church. I am convinced that it is permissible to both seek churches that adhere to the inerrancy of Scripture and provide opportunities for growth, while also satisfying some of our cultural and stylistic proclivities. BUT I have realized that even the search for the perfect church can become an idol.
Finding a church that suits my every need and desire is NOT the ultimate purpose of attending church. The primary purpose of church is gathering together in song, prayer, proclamation, and admonition to worship the Lord. Church is about Him, not me. If I wake up Sunday morning and consider not attending the local assembly simply because I don’t feel that it is all I desire it to be, or because I am fatigued by the search, I lose sight of the purpose for me being there in the first place. Lord, forgive me.
Lastly, church once a week will never be a substitute for Christ every day. Daily time in God’s Word and prayer is where growth truly happens. In times when church attendance is a challenge, I implore you not to forsake individual time with Him and collective time with family and friends centered around God’s presence in our daily lives.
Even today, church attendance is not a legal option for millions of believers around the world. I am not one to compare settings to elicit guilt, but as they cling to one page of Scripture in underground churches, I am convinced that it is not the perfect church that sustains them. It is power of the Holy Spirit. It is the hunger to see God’s glory and to know Him intimately.
In this search for a church to call home, may my strongest desire be to know God. The conditions do not have to be perfect for the preached word to pierce my heart. The songs do not have to be to my liking to be full of praise. The congregation does not have to look like my family for true brotherhood to flourish.
Lord, lead us to where you want us to be.