Thoughts on Skipping Church

I skipped church this week.

I realize that there are millions of people everywhere who spend Sundays sleeping in, reading the newspaper, brunching in their bathrobes, walking their dogs, mowing the lawn (or raking leaves), and catching up at the office.

I am not usually one of them.

My typical Sunday looks like this: I wake up at 8:15 (okay, so I guess I do get to sleep in a little), dress, and eat a quick breakfast.  Tim glances over his Sunday school lesson while I pack our lunch.  We leave the house just before 9:15.  One of the men of the church teaches Sunday school for the adults from 9:45-10:20ish.  I attend while Tim teaches his 4th graders in the Fellowship Hall.  Worship starts at 10:30 when the pastor reads a Scripture passage that will later tie in with his message.  Tim usually plays either organ or piano (growing up, I remember thinking that I was never going to marry ((or be)) a pastor or a pianist because I felt so sorry for the people who had to sit alone in church ((I reasoned so deeply as a child))).  We sing three hymns from either the blue Trinity or the hymnal of Worship and Celebration.  We read a passage of Scripture corporately.  Two men (rather than four) collect the offering (our church is small).  The pastor notes any birthdays, anniversaries, or announcements (at first, I thought this sacrilegious.  Now, I see it as an expression of love and fellowship).  He preaches a 45 minute sermon full of the Bible and the gospel (currently from Romans 2), usually on just 1-2 verses (and it’s all sermon.  No entertaining anecdotes from this pulpit).  We dismiss for lunch in the fellowship hall.  At 1:00 pm sharp, we begin again: more singing, more praying, more preaching (a series on the nature of the church).  ((This is in lieu of an evening service for those who travel long distances.  Whether as a testimony to this way of doing things or to the fervor of the church, over 90% of the people who attend the first service stay for the second.))

After we socialize a bit, we make the trip to Pop’s house (Tim’s grandfather).  We usually arrive around 3, and he expects us.  We chat about our weeks, church, family, current events, and future plans.  Sometimes, Pop relates the same thing twice (sometimes we do, too).  But no one minds.  He tells us how hard it is for him to think about change, which is one reason he has put off so long coming to live with us.  But we understand.  

Between 4 and 4:30, we make our departure.  We talk about the sermons on our drive home or if time is short, Tim will call his parents.  Otherwise, he phones when we get home and talks while I scrounge the fridge for some sort of dinner (by this point in the week, I’ve exhausted my supply of leftovers and I am cooked out).  I begin to dread the morrow: Tim will once again leave for work and I will have to teach.  Sometimes in the evenings we go play games with friends; sometimes we stay right where we are.  

That is my 49-weeks-a-year Sunday in a (very large) nutshell (the other 3 weeks we’re either on vacation or traveling with Tim’s work). 

This week, however, was different.

This Sunday morning we woke up at 8:15, got dressed, ate breakfast, and then instead of reviewing his lesson, Tim googled “how long is a cold contagious”. 

  Bad news.  “When someone has a cold, their runny nose is teeming with cold viruses”.  (As I wrote this, I used my 259th tissue in 2.64 days.)  We made the joint decision that Tim would attend church alone.

No one, after all, needs what I can give this week.

Instead of attending Sunday school, I did my devotions and checked my e-mail.  Instead of attending worship, I played through some hymns, blew my nose, listened to a sermonaudio.com exposition of Romans 2:17-29, blew my nose, started a load of laundry, and wrote a blog post.  For lunch, I made myself three fried eggs and half a bagel with cream cheese and blackberry jam.  Tim called to check on me.  Instead of the afternoon service, I listened to a sermonaudio.com on Spiritual Gifts in the Church, blew my nose, and folded laundry.  Rather than chat with Pop, I wrote another blog post and blew my nose.

And now I’m ready to evaluate the experience (and I’m extremely tired of blowing my nose):

I think it was good for me.

  1. It was good for me because I didn’t have to blow my nose quietly or cough only during hymns.  I find nothing so distracting to a meaningful worship experience (for myself and for those around me) than seeing to the needs of a head cold.
  2. It was good for me because I didn’t worry about getting anyone else sick.  No one in my church wants to get sick, and a few of them just can’t at this stage in life.  I would hate to be the cause of their major misfortune.
  3. It was good for me because even though I didn’t get to worship corporately with others, God still provided means for me to learn and grow in Him.
  4. It was good for me because I get double the sermons this week (Tim brought home CDs of what I missed).
  5. It was good for me because I have been wanting to skip church for a long time, but I didn’t dare.  Now that I have (and know what I’m missing), I can (hopefully) better address my bad attitude.
  6. It was good for me because as much as I’ve at times thought I’d welcome just such an excuse to stay home, I really did miss church.  I missed singing and praying with other believers.  I missed the fellowship and I missed the preaching.  I didn’t miss it as much as I should have, but still enough for God to remind me that I am blessed to be in a faithful church even when I am weak or discouraged or frustrated or lacking in my participation therein.

Yes, I think it was good for me.  But I do hope for all our sakes that by next week, I will have something other than snot to share with the congregation.

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  1. #1 by Angela Starosta on November 15, 2010 - 9:23 am

    Wow. I too skipped church for the first time in a very long time yesterday, though both my reasons and my lesson learned pale in comparison. I really need an attitude adjustment. Unfortunately, it looks like my skipping wasn’t what was gonna cure it. Glad it benefited you though, and hope you feel better!

  2. #2 by joannamv on November 16, 2010 - 2:05 am

    I think there was an entertaining anecdote in the sermon. Just one, and not long, and not sacrilegious. But sometimes they do get in there 😛

    Hope your cold clears up soon. We missed you! Church was half empty, actually.

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