When I was very young, I didn’t go to church except for once a year since my parents were unchurched and weren’t especially motivated to seek a regular church fellowship. The once-a-year trip was to the neighborhood church in the Lee-Harvard area of Cleveland, and it was on Easter Sunday. I was too young to have a clue about church except that it was a place to go on occasion where you could wear your best light blue pastel suit and sit for a couple of hours on a hard bench and get overheated very quickly because of the lack of ventilation. I felt relief when I finally left the church and got outside, where the cool breezes would call attention to my perspiration under a steamy, polyester-like suit.
I did pay attention enough through the heat, however, to see that church was not such a scary place after all. I had already experienced the screaming, sanctified woman at the colorful, inner city church where the women dressed as nurses would carry the wounded yellers out of the sanctuary. I had to learn over a few visits that the screamers was not a regular part of church (thank goodness).
Now that I am older and a little smarter about the church experience, I realize that, many years ago, I was part of a large group of people that go to church once a year, and that group still exists today…the Easter Sunday once-a-year church goers. As I checked through my Facebook faith posts and Twitter faith tweets, I noted that there were many efforts to get people to go to church services on Easter in large venues–even stadiums–in different parts of the country, or there were multiple services at large churches to accommodate the crowds.
There must be a sense of duty behind the magnitude of people compelled to attend Easter services. It is a movement that occurs on the one day that Jesus Christ is given honor by the secular or unchurched people…and that’s just fine with me. It is my hope, however, that the people who do visit church will actually come to the understanding that visiting church once a year does not earn brownie points or good favor with God because of the effort. While God sincerely appreciates the visitation, I have found that many once-a-year visitors often slip into church and sit in the back row at the start of the service only to duck out the door before it ends…these premeditated escape artists put Houdini on notice.
Not to be overly critical, I must point out that the once-a-year tryout people have a latent curiosity, if not an outright need for understanding, of how the other half lives–in other words, how can these church folk stand to go into churchdom (AKA boredom) every Sunday? What is the attraction that one can have to maintain such a regular routine as going to church every week…wait, sometimes even twice a week…or even (heaven forbid) go to Sunday school???
There is no single answer for this phenomenon of regular church attendance, but the reasons all circle back to one simple thing…there is a strong likelihood that many of the people who attend church once or twice a week (and even Sunday school) have a greater understanding about what it is to have a healthy relationship with God. The regulars are far from perfect–and share the same flaws that the once-a-yearers have–but they acknowledge these shortcomings by recognizing that God provides forgiveness and healing…missing commodities in today’s world of artificial fixes.
And now I’ll speak for me, one of the regulars, who did not come to a greater understanding of who Jesus Christ is until I was 26 years old, and when I accepted Him as my personal Savior. It took a little interest, and then curiosity, and then an open mind to help me to understand that I needed Him in my life. That’s what it ultimately takes for each of us who want to learn something new. Sometimes we have to realize that it is the very things that we don’t understand that we are most afraid of. It is all about overcoming our fears, which we often have to do to grow personally, and even spiritually. We also have to be careful to not listen to someone else’s opinions about something that we don’t understand, which can keep us from seeking what ultimately is the truth. That is what is really tragic about not trying something…when you make excuses not to seek understanding when you have everything in your power to make it happen.
It is my prayer that if you are a once-a-year Easter Sunday tryout person that you consider going back to church in a week or two, but don’t wait an entire year. There are many wonderful bible-teaching churches with people just like you that are more than willing to welcome you for the second, third, or fourth visit (but you have to stay long enough after the service ends, of course). You just may find that the friendliness and fellowship that you experience will be far from boring and will actually be refreshingly sincere, which just happens to be just the way Jesus Christ would have you to see Him. Church is not really a scary place, but you’ll have to try it out more than once to see for yourself.
Copyright © Melvin Gaines. For more content, please see melvingaines.com and melvingaines.blogspot.com.