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If going to church was like shopping...

My preferred method of shopping is the essence of simplicity. Make a list of the items I want. Take the list to the store of choice (usually a hardware store). From there it’s simple. Look. Find. Pick. Buy. Leave. Smile. That’s the ultimate shopping experience! Aarrgghh!

But sometimes I’m not sure exactly what I want. Sometimes I’m engineering something on the fly. I may have a basic design in my mind but I’m not sure exactly what materials I want to use. I may wander through the aisles, trying to make sense of the items around me. Trying to pull them into some form from which I can make something valuable. Sometimes I leave with my needs fulfilled and sometimes I don’t.

Then occasionally, I’m just there hanging out. That one is dicey. Sometimes I really enjoy hanging out in a hardware or tool store and sometimes I don’t. Am I tired? Do I have plenty of time? Do I have a project in mind? Do I want/need a new tool or am I really just killing time? Really just killing time is painful.

Years ago Libbie and I were early for an appointment and we had about an hour to kill. We went to a strip mall that had a teacher book store on one end and a tool store on the other end. Do I really need to tell you who went to which one?.

I have spent a lot of enjoyable time in this particular store. I remember when they first opened and I prowled through the store aisle by aisle looking at EVERYTHING!

On this day I spent the hour looking casually over almost every shelf. The items were mostly familiar. Lots of them were really cool and would be neat to have in my garage, but honestly, the time I spent there was not very fulfilling. I left without having particularly enjoyed the experience. But the problem was not with the store -- it was with me. I wasn’t really looking for anything in the first place. I didn’t think I really needed anything and I didn’t really want to be there so how could I have possibly been fulfilled? And that’s my point!

Some people come to worship every service and they leave fulfilled. They come with purpose. They intend to worship God, to fellowship with their brethren, and to be challenged with a message of truth in preaching or Bible study. The words of the songs are meaningful. They reflect upon their own lives as they commune with God and each week they leave fulfilled, satisfied and very pleased to have been there!

Others come to the same church but their purpose is unclear. Their experience from week to week varies. Sometimes they gain a little insight and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they listen to the songs but other times they just mouth the words from years of repetition without recognition. They tune in a little when the sermon comes to a story but mostly they’re just content to just sit. Mentally idling.

Still others come and they don’t want to be there at all but feel guilty when they don’t, or they are pressured by someone to be there. They are not involved in the service. They think church is totally boring. They would much rather text or talk during the whole thing. They expect to get nothing out of being there. And they succeed.

At the present time we also have the complicating factor of so many worshipping “online.” Now they’re alone with a screen and its REALLY easy to be a spectator or just not “watch” at all.

Just like shopping, if you have a goal in mind when you “go to church” you are much more likely to feel like you succeeded. Come expecting to think about God. Expect to look at your life and spiritual things. There is purpose in our gathering. What’s yours? What are you looking for? “... and so much more as you see the day approaching.” (Heb. 10:25).

- Tim Orbison


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