“I suppose it must have happened upwards of 2000 times by now. I exit the car, usually with a wife and various kids in tow, and amble in the front door, tossing off a quick greeting to whomever is handing out the folded sheets of paper that in church-speak are called ‘bulletins.’ After a quick scan of the seating situation—who has already parked themselves where, who I might want to avoid and so on—I choose a spot not too near the front and sidle into the chosen row, smiling feebly at the person sitting on the other side of the seat that I’ve politely left vacant between us. And there it is. I’ve walked into church.”
So begins Tony Payne’s really helpful little book, How to Walk into Church. Using the imagery of walking, Tony provides valuable instruction to believers in seven tiny chapters.
- How to walk into church.
- What is this thing we call ‘church’?
- Why am I walking into church?
- Before I walk into church.
- After I walk into church.
- When church finished but doesn’t.
- How to walk out of church.
In this blog post, I will simply highlight a few key thoughts.
Pray about where to sit.
In the first chapter, Tony admonishes us to walk into church praying about where to sit. He gives two reasons.
- First, whenever we pray, we express the bedrock truth that God is the gracious sovereign God, and our lives and purposes are in his hands. “When we pray about where to sit in church, we’re expressing our trust in God for what will happen in church today. We are looking to him and calling upon him as the Lord of the church.
- Second, we also put ourselves in the right frame of mind toward one another. When we pray about where to sit, “We have started to think about church as being about someone other than me.” When we walk into church, “we come not to spectate or consume, nor even to have our own personal encounter with God. We come to love and to serve.”
Know why you are walking into church.
Some people view the church as an impediment to the Christian life, but the growing believer understands differently.
- We should gather because we belong together around God. “His whole purpose in Christ is to save and gather his people around himself, and our local churches are the manifestation of that purpose here and now.”
- We should gather because running the Christian race is hard, and we tend to shrink back from trusting Christ. This makes “constant mutual encouragement and exhortation desperately necessary.” We also need to learn to love one another. Let’s realize that 1 Corinthians 13, the Love Chapter, was not written for weddings, but for the church. “Church is not about me. It’s not about the experience I have or what I get out of it. Church is a classic opportunity to love my brothers and sisters who are there, by seeking to build them up in Christ.”
How to Walk into Church is part of the Brief Books series from Matthias Media. The “worship experience” of every believer will be enriched by reading and applying Tony’s counsel. Churches would be strengthened by giving a copy of this little book to every member family.
[This article was originally published August 9, 2017.]