It has caught my attention over the years at SNU seeing the struggle of attending church on Sunday mornings. I use the phrasing of “struggle” to signify how students often express their shortcoming in missing a worship service on a particular morning, which seems to show either a sense of guilt or rationalization within them.
Let me say straightforwardly that I do not intend to in any way condemn those who may relate to this topic, but I wish to shed light on this trend that seems to keep itself hidden and provide insight on the interrelationship between faith and fellowship.
I decided to interview two youth pastors who have dealt with students throughout their ministry who embody this “struggle” in order to appropriately address this subject. Brian Martin, a youth pastor at a Nazarene church in Amarillo, Texas, believes this issue stems from a falsehood: “The world has convinced people, including some believers, that regular church attendance is not essential to living a Christian life. The world has lied.”
Obviously for many in our world today, the act of Christian fellowship and worship is outlawed and a crime punishable by death, but Brian is explaining the great importance of our communal nature: “We all need the love and support of a Christian community, and we fail to receive that love and support when we choose to live apart from other believers.” Many of us have heard this truth and do not disclaim it, yet we still too often view our walk with Christ as individualistic.
I also interviewed Robby Patton, youth pastor at Lake Overholser Church of the Nazarene, and he also noted some of the reasons of this “struggle”: “[Believers] are not necessarily adverse to going to church, but they don’t see value in it [if] they don’t benefit from the relationships… The other sad truth is that a lot of people have been hurt by the church and it’s hard to want to go somewhere you’ve been hurt, especially when it’s completely optional.” According to Robby, it seems that a great deal of the dependency of the commitment to going to church regularly relies on how it serves the subject personally, which makes clear sense when talking about a church option that both is optional and presents spiritual challenges.
The good news, however, is that church does not have to be an uncomfortable space. For Robby, he finds that at church he is “encouraged… I see good in people. I see hope.” Though the church is not perfect, it is my opinion that the church strives to help others feel this same way.
Again, I recognize that I am, to use a relevant analogy, “preaching to the choir” in discussing the importance of fellowship. I do hope that we see as a campus, however, the opportunity we have to not only take advantage of the support of those around us but also in shaping our faith by getting involved at a church while we attend an institution with identical values.
If you’re wondering how to best get plugged-in to a church nearby, to use Robby’s words, “get involved in a small group or Sunday school class. For introverts it might be difficult and feel awkward, but find a place. If you are surrounded by people who know and care for you, and you know and care for them… the other excuses begin to fade away.”
Yes, it is very easy for us to find reasons to not go to church, whether they deal with homework, lack of sleep or the contentment of the school’s chapel services. But I hope we do not miss the hidden benefits of getting involved in our local ministries. We are so blessed to have the freedom to worship communally, and I fear that we too often take this blessing for granted.
There are so many Nazarene churches, not to mention all of the other denominations, in our local area, but here are a few to consider attending if you are not currently an active attender:
Lake Overholser Church of the Nazarene
Service Times: Sunday Worship @ 10:30 AM, Wednesday College Small Group @ 8:30 PM (Side Note: I hear the college group leader is a really cool dude. 🙂 )
OKC First Church of the Nazarene
Service Times: Sunday School @ 9:30 AM, Sunday Worship @ 10:30 AM
OKC Trinity Church of the Nazarene
Service Times: Sunday School @ 9:15 AM, Sunday Worship @ 10:30 AM
Yukon First Church of the Nazarene
Service Times: Sunday School @ 9:30 AM, Sunday Worship @ 10:45 AM
Midtown Church of the Nazarene
Sunday Worship @ 5:00 PM