Jesus prayed for church unity (John 17:21-23). There are many ways to strengthen church unity. Allow me to offer one clear way: attend your church regularly. Instead of going to the in-laws’ church for the weekend, playing in a baseball tournament, or sleeping in, count the contribution that your habitual church attendance makes to your church’s unity. Consider how much you miss when you miss a service. Regularly attending your local church fosters church unity in at least five ways:
- It fosters unity in belief. Sitting under the same teaching together engenders the same thoughts on the same subject matter. As a pastor addresses various congregational needs from the pulpit, the congregation thinks through specific issues at the same time in the same way.
- It fosters unity in language. Listening to the same sermons, singing the same songs, and participating in the same prayers creates a unified experience in language together. As I’ve preached verse by verse through Genesis there have been various recurring themes. One such theme is a warning against seeing dangerous and even forbidden things, which results in living by sight instead of faith. Eve (3:6), the sons of God (6:2), Ham (9:22), Lot (10:10), and Lot’s wife (19:25) all walked by sight. They were deceived by looks. Those who have been present for all my Genesis sermons should have picked up on this by now. Together, then, we can admonish each other not to look at some things, because a mere look can deceive us. The phrase, “Remember Lot’s wife,” should make complete since.
- It fosters unity in memory. We share ordinary and out-of-the-ordinary memories when we are all present together. Memories of baptisms stand out. Exciting Sundays when we had record-breaking attendance. Or odd Sundays, like Christmas 2013, when attendance was cut by 75% due to an ice storm. Guest worship leaders and preachers. Sermon bloopers. Technological failures. Outbursts of emotion in prayer and preaching. These are all memories we share together if we attend together. And these are memories we miss if absent. Shared experiences bind our minds together in unity.
- It fosters unity in relationships. Sunday services are the only time we are all together. We only have 52 opportunities a year to relationally connect with every single person in the church at the same time. Don’t discount the relational significance of a handshake, a smile, small talk, or eye contact with a fellow parishioner once a week.
- It fosters unity in repetition. When several hundred people do the exact same thing at the exact same time every week they are repetitious together. Together, in unity, we create the same patterns and carve out the same ruts. Like an army marching together, we train ourselves to do the same thing at least one time a week. Doing this over and over, week by week, and year by year, creates a rhythmic unity with one another. It is a unified statement to the world that Jesus is our priority.
Something about mundane routines creates strength. As a child, my father jogged three miles a day, four or five days a week, along the same route. He did this for over twenty years. It strengthened him so that now in his seventh decade he is still lean and still plays pick-up hockey with university students. Not only that, our family always knew where he was at 6:30 AM. Come rain, snow, or hail, Dad was jogging between Guelph’s Paisley Road and Speedvale Avenue, somewhere along Edinburgh Road. The mundane routine of weekly church attendance not only strengthens our souls, but it strengthens the church.
So next time you contemplate missing church, think about what both you and your church will be missing.