Tuesday, June 21, 2016

How much time should you spend at church per week?

My answer: At least six hours.

Here’s why. First, and most obviously, Christians are called to worship. They observe the Lord’s Day, the Eight Day of creation, and they do so at least weekly (although I find the practice of Roman Catholics and some other communities of going to Mass daily quite beautiful and appealing). 

So at a Lutheran church, that’s at least one hour, maybe an hour and fifteen minutes. 

Then, some of our folks are regularly in the habit of coming early for worship, or staying late, for the mutual consolation of the saints. That is, they stand in the narthex and talk. They greet new people. They catch up with friends. They make plans. 

In particular, it’s wonderful when worshippers get to church early, and sit and pray and meditate in the space before worship begins. It creates a sense of the holy.

So let’s say that’s two hours so far.

Third, it is good for people to be in some kind of intentional study, whether that’s Sunday morning forum, or a mid-week small group, or a leadership huddle or a book discussion. So let’s say you study for an hour, and chat or eat a meal around that study—that’s another two hours.

Finally, the church needs, relies on, and thrives because of volunteers serving in many capacities. Not only do we need volunteer leaders who serve on council and committees, coordinate classes and Sunday school, organize social service and advocacy efforts, we also need people who show up week in and week out and make Bears, repair the facility, practice for worship leadership, sing in the choir, pray, sponsor new members, usher, and more.

Add some kind of service into the hours, and there’s six hours. Of course many people willingly and joyously give even more. But six is a good start.

Volunteering at church and for church ministries is not the only way Christians serve in God’s world, but without widespread participation by the members of the church, many roles fall on a few shoulders. 

And if faith in Jesus Christ is indeed a high priority for us, then a commitment to the work of the church and the strengthening of it should take pride of place in our commitments each week.

Because our church is also a catalyst for so much good done in Northwest Arkansas and beyond, it’s good to remember that the good we do can be spread many places, and indeed the majority of it need not be done at church. Consider a few of Luther’s words on good works:

Faith brings with it at once love, peace, joy and hope. For God gives God’s Spirit at once to those who trust Him, as St. Paul says to the Galatians: "You received the Spirit not because of your good works, but when you believed the Word of God.” 
In this faith all works become equal, and one is like the other; all distinctions between works fall away, whether they be great, small, short, long, few or many. For the works are acceptable not for their own sake, but because of the faith which alone is, works and lives in each and every work without distinction, however numerous and various they are, just as all the members of the body live, work and have their name from the head, and without the head no member can live, work and have a name. 
From which it further follows that a Christian who lives in this faith has no need of a teacher of good works, but whatever they find to do they do, and all is well done (Martin Luther, Treatise on Good Works).

We don’t serve in the church or in the world in order to earn God’s grace or favor, but simply because we are so inspired by what God has done for us that we find ourselves, sometimes even in spite of ourselves, up at church, among our people, doing God’s work. And in that Spirit all is done well.

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