I love our Sunday gatherings. I love it even more that we usually have a "full house" each week. It is an absolute joy that few in the Hopewell flock ever miss a chance to join together in worship.
Being that we are above board on this one, it's a good time to address excuses for missing church. Satan hates it that you are in these pews week after week. And we need to be aware that all the demonic forces of hell are plotting to pull you away.
Being that this is so, let's consider some of the most common excuses for skipping church.
1. I don't feel like going. I put this first because it is nearest and dearest to me. There are many days that I don't feel like going...and I'm the guy who usually has to preach.
Don't get me wrong, I love church. I love our church family. But sometimes my body is tired, I'd like to nurse that sinus pressure, or I have a serious case of the introverts.
Sometimes it can be more spiritual in nature: you feel down, depressed, or have some other options that are a little more fun available to you. These are common snares to worship attendance.
There may be legit reasons for not going to church (by all means, if you're sick, stay home). However, we need to be careful that our feelings are not dictating our behavior or giving us a lame justification for missing out on the worship of the King.
2. I've been burnt by the church. I don't want to downplay your hurt, but we must admit that this is not an excuse to cut out on worship. In all reality, we should expect the ugly sinners in the church to hurt us.
We can remember too that Jesus was burnt by the church in a pretty terrific way. Yet he never gave up on his people or organized religion. Worship was and is still a priority for him.
You, God, are my God,
earnestly I seek you;
I thirst for you,
my whole being longs for you.
Additionally, our primary focus for worship is to be the Lord, not his people. Scripture urges us to seek the Lord and his grace, to celebrate His kindness, and offer ourselves to him (even with all our brokenness). And if someone poses a problem with that, we are to use the means of Matthew 5:25f and 18:15f to get it right.
3. I've not found a good fit yet. News flash: Worship is not like choosing a pair of underwear.
It doesn't matter what kind of worship style they have or if you feel like you stand out. It's about coming to the Lord and giving him your sacrifice of praise.
You may cite doctrinal differences, and this will sound quite pious. But it's no real justification for avoiding worship. Jesus had some doctrinal differences, and he still attended the synagogue each sabbath (Luke 4:16). As long as it is not heretical, you can still worship there. You may have to grit your teeth and show some grace, but you can do it.
4. I've had a busy week. That's wonderful. I'm glad you are serving and have so many opportunities. You deserve a break. And worship is the best way to refresh yourself.
God instituted the Sabbath because he knew our human frailty needed it. Worship is a part of the rest we so desperately need. As a matter of fact, getting refreshment for your soul is the primary way to restore your sanity and your beleaguered body.
What's best, you can reward yourself with a good, long nap in the afternoon.
5. I get better teaching online. I'm not going to disagree with this one. You can definitely get better teaching from the web. I'd rather listen to Alistair Beg than listen to myself too.
However, worship is more than a sermon. In worship, you meet with God and his people. There's something sacred to being amidst the body of Christ. The Spirit of God comes in a unique manner when the people meet corporately. That's something you just can't get from a video or podcast.
Online teaching isolates you too. If you are in the habit of watching or listening to sermons, then you are missing out on how your gifts and graces (and merely your presence) can benefit the wider body of Christ.
Do You have a Better Excuse?
What about you? What excuses have you made or heard? I'm sure they can't be as bad as these. (ha!) Be sure to send us your best if you have one.
Last Day for the Used Bible Drive
Do you have old Bibles lying around collecting dust? Let's put them to good use! This month Hopewell will be collecting used Bibles to donate to Mission Cry. This ministry supplies pastors in devastated places around the world with resources they could not otherwise afford.
Had Enough of the Excuses?
Maybe you're not a part of the regular Hopewell crew. Maybe you've fallen out of the habit of being in worship and would like to get back in it. If that's so, please know that we'd love to have you come and worship with us. Find out more at our website, or contact me to have a chat over coffee.
Have you ever had the feeling that you missed worship, despite having sat through the entire service? You sang the songs and were there, but it was like driving in open country: you look back and don't remember the last several miles.
It may be that you leave with a blank sheet because you were not properly prepared to engage in it. Worship is much like anything else in that regard. If you just run into a grocery store without a lot of forethought, you're likely going to miss a few things you should have gotten.
How much more true is this in regards to worship, that sacred time of meeting with God?
When the Israelites were to meet with God, they didn't just waltz up to the foot of Mt. Siani. They took two days to consecrate themselves. Washings, meditation, reflection, prayer, repentance, not to mention tidying up any items pertaining to the household and work.
In the NT we read about the "Day of Preparation." (Luke 23:54) Jesus' body was hurriedly stowed away in the tomb because the Sabbath was about to start. The Israelites recognized they needed to get ready for the Sabbath. It was so important that they denominated the Friday before as the "Day of Preparation."
The same holds true for us. Scripture encourages us to maximize worship through intentional acts of preparation. How do we do that? Here are some suggestions:
1. Plan your work and work your plan: Don't let the household chores flow over to Sunday. Make a point to get all your work (occupational and household chores) done prior to Sunday. That way it's not hanging over your head and consuming your mind while you are supposed to be concentrating on things of a more divine nature.
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Ex. 20:8
2. Get a good sleep: Everybody knows that "Saturday night live" makes for "Sunday morning dead." By all means, have a great time on Saturdays and enjoy an evening out, but make a habit of getting to bed in good time. A good 7-8 hours of sleep will help keep your eyelids from drooping and your brain from dragging.
3. Devote to Devotions: Just because you're going to church doesn't mean you should skimp on Bible time. Athletes are encouraged to visualize their performance prior to games; to mentally go through their footwork and "get stoked" for the game. In a similar way, taking time to read, reflect, pray, and sing Saturday night or Sunday morning will prime your heart for the main event.
4. Monitor the Mouth: As with any day, a healthy breakfast is vital for one's attention. Binging on donuts or sweets the night before will likely reduce your ability to participate in worship in an engaging fashion.
5. Concentrate on Contrition: Humility breeds worship and repentance paves the way for it. For God can't dwell with sin. Being that this is so, it's always good at the end of a week to look back and take an inventory of the ways you've fallen short. You then can confess these things and fulfill James' admonition to "draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.".
6. Reconcile: You're going to have spats and quarrels, but you shouldn't bring that baggage into worship with you. Scripture behooves you to settle matters quickly and prior to bringing your sacrifice of praise. When you do this, not only will you be honoring God's command, but your mind will be free from replaying the argument in a million ways.
7. Rise & Shine: Sunday is for sleeping in because it is a day of relaxation, right? Sure, but don't get too carried away. You want to leave enough time for your morning routine and for getting out the door in good time. Nothing ruins worship like driving like a wild hyena and shuffling in late to the pews.
8. Pray for the Service: Your time in worship depends quite a bit on the faulty vessels up front. If you really want them to perform well, pray for them. The music and ministry of the Word come with greater beauty and meaning when they are padded with your supplications.
"Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored." 2 Thess. 3:1
9. Come Eagerly & Expectantly: Let's not forget that we must tune our attitudes. God's probably going to descend in thick clouds and fire, but you can still find Him if you're looking for Him. Even the worst service can be beneficial if we seek the Lord and the things He would have for us there.
"My soul longs, yes faints, for the courts of the Lord." Ps. 84:2
10. Invite others: No, this is not a cheap way to get you to help grow the church. It is a true means of preparation. When you invite someone, you are planning ahead. You are getting in the "church groove." And besides, there's nothing better than knowing a buddy is going to be there with you in worship.
"I was glad when they said to me, 'Let us go to the house of the Lord.'" Ps. 122:1
Now that you know how to get ready for worship, come and fill your soul! Join us this Sunday at 10:30 am for a blended worship. We're located in the conference room at Hedstrom Plastics.
If you are looking for a Biblically grounded church in Ashland for your Easter celebrations, Hopewell Church welcomes you. Join us this Sunday at 10:30 am at 100 Hedstrom Drive in Ashland (directions).
Above all, remember: We live because Christ is ALIVE.
We look forward to joining together on Christmas morning to offer our praise to the incarnate Savior. If you are looking for a worship service to attend, please feel free to join us at 100 Hedstrom Drive in Ashland.
Our message will come from the birth story in Matthew 1. We will have the gospel promises confirmed as we meditate on the name, nature, and nearness of Christ.
We've had a tremendous time studying what a gospel based church looks like in the book of 1st Timothy. It has been a rich time in God's word. Now we are looking forward to what is ahead in the book of Ezra.
We chose the book of Ezra because it is a book of new beginnings. It is about a people joining together by God's grace to become a people of worship and faith. That is exactly where we are at as a church in Ashland. The members of Hopewell have been joined together by God to establish a place of worship in Ashland.
The Hopewell gang enjoyed a splendid day in Willard, enjoying the many graces of fellowship.
Our first highlight was having the blessed opportunity to see three of our young people baptized. We were all exceedingly glad to have the promises of grace reaffirmed through in the service and for these young people's personal profession of faith
After the baptisms the congregation spent the day together swimming, eating, playing games, and enjoying fellowship together. The Lord blessed us with superb weather and by solidifying the bonds of unity.
The families of Hopewell Church, along with a handful of visitors, joined together in their first morning worship service this past Lord's Day. All expressed joy and were greatly edified by the time spent in the presence of God.
During the service 9 young people made a first time public profession of faith. Teaching elder Matt Timmons gave a message entitled, "Professing the Faith" for the occasion. The message was drawn from 1 Timothy 6:12, "Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses."
Prior to the service Timmons noted that a handful of families gathered together 200 years ago to form the first church in Ashland. These families were also dedicated to the Reformed faith and had taken the name "Hopewell Church."
A new pulpit was constructed for the service by member Dave Lillo. Others were acknowledged for having a hand in making the service possible.
We recognize most of all the sovereign hand of God and the immense grace of His Son in allowing us the blessed opportunity to gather together.
The Hopewell congregation is excited to begin morning worship services on May 15th. We want to invite you to join us as we come together to give homage to our Almighty Savior!
The services will begin at 10:30 am and we will be meeting at the conference room at Hedstrom Plastics (100 Hedstrom Drive). We are truly delighted to have this as our venue. It is a great location! As you can see from the pics below, the space is beautiful, spacious, warm, and bright!
If you are not able to join us for morning worship, we'd still love to have you come participate in our evening services (6:30pm). We've had a wonderful time in fellowship with friends from a number of different churches around town. It has been a great blessing to be able to worship together. It truly is a celebration of our union in Christ, despite our belonging to different churches.