“Devote: 1 to give up or appropriate to or concentrate on a particular pursuit, occupation, purpose, cause, etc. 2 To appropriate by or as if by a vow; set apart or dedicate by a solemn or formal act; consecrate.”
The early church recognized, at their peril, that devotion to gathering as the church was vital to their faith and their spiritual growth and health. This understanding has not changed in the past two thousand years. It is still vital to our faith that we gather together in community for fellowship, study, worship, and prayer. It is why our membership vows include the word “presence” in the things that we promise to offer to God.
It seems, however, that our culture has different ideas about how we spend our time. There are many activities that are robbing us of our time together as the church. Sleeping in on Sunday mornings is a common thief of our time. Sports, travel, yard work, and numerous other thieves are also robbing us of our time with God and with each other on Sundays. These temptations are all too real and they are not foreign to me. (I wouldn’t mind sleeping in on an occasional Sunday morning either.)
My point is that we all have lots of things pulling at us and demanding a piece of the 168 hours we have to work with each week. The very least of these demands seems to be the hour or so God has asked us to offer to his glory on Sunday morning. (If you consider Sunday school as another opportunity to praise God, then add another hour to this.) It seems to me that 2 hours a week is a tiny offering to make to the One who created us and gives us everything we have to work with the other 166 hours a week…That’s not even a tithe of our available time. (A tithe of our time would mean offering 16.8 hours each week to worship and service. We’re only talking about 1.2% here.)
Now, don’t get me wrong…I know there are lots of “reasons” for staying away from church on Sunday morning. I’ve thought of them all and probably used a couple dozen of those “reasons” myself over the years. The truth of the matter is that God hears those “reasons” as “excuses” and is very disappointed in how we set our priorities. I remember when I was a kid and we went on vacation my Dad always insisted we find a church to attend wherever we were. I never understood why until I got a lot older and began to notice how I missed church whenever I didn’t start my week visiting for a while with God.
Going to church every Sunday is a habit that grows into something we love and cannot imagine being without. NOT going to church is also a habit that grows into loss of our relationship with God. Habits are hard to break and simple to cultivate. We have a choice – which habit are we going to break and which one are we going to nurture? What habit are we going to teach our children?