Forced into Church

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010 at 10:08 am

Notes on Francis Chan’s
Forgotten God
Chapter 7: Supernatural Church

My dad posed an interesting question at dinner on Sunday. He’d been talking to a number of new members of our church who had not been to church since their teens, when they felt that their parents had forced them to go to church. “Did you ever feel like you HAD to go to church?”

Well, yes. I never felt that I had an option to just NOT go to church.

But that doesn’t mean that I begrudged the obligation.

I wanted to be there.

Church was where I worshiped God. Church was where I spent time with my friends. Church was where I had a JOB to do. It was just a part of life.

Sure, there were days when I wanted to sleep in or read a book–but on the whole, I wanted to be in church on Sunday mornings, and Wednesday nights, and for Bible study or small groups whenever they were.

I can’t really identify with those who felt forced to go to church.

I wonder what the difference was?

Was it because I was homeschooled and church was one of my only social outlets? Was it because I never knew any other life? Was it because I had jobs, tasks to accomplish at church (whether babysitting or running sound or overhead projection or teaching Sunday school or children’s studies)? Was it because my church was just so amazingly hip? (That one is doubtful, by the way.)

In part, it was probably a combination of all of the above. But I think the real inducement was that God chose to call me to Himself at a young age. In His grace, He set a fire in my heart for the church, His bride. I remember praying fervently on the playground as an eight-year old, asking God to save the surrounding neighborhood–Lincoln’s Airpark. I remember shutting myself in the unfinished bedroom in the basement with a boombox, singing praises to God. I remember eagerly volunteering to help out with Missionettes (a girl’s group) as a 7th grader–and stepping in to teach the kindergartners when the teacher had to quit unexpectedly.

Why did I never feel forced into church? Because God, in His great mercy, called me His own–and church was the gathering of His own.

Do I have any advice for parents to ensure that their kids never feel forced into church?

Do I have any advice for churches to make church feel less of a chore for kids and youth?

No.

Not really.

In truth, all your works are insignificant. It is only the Holy Spirit who can make a child, a teen fall desperately in love Christ. It is only the Holy Spirit who can instill in that youth a love for His church. It is only the Holy Spirit who can change lives.

As Francis Chan says in Forgotten God:

“…While I might be able to get people in the doors of a church or auditorium if I tell enough jokes or use enough visuals, the fact remains that I cannot convince people to be obsessed with Jesus. Perhaps I can talk people into praying a prayer, but I cannot talk anyone into falling in love with Jesus. I cannot make someone understand and accept the gift of grace. Only the Holy Spirit can do that. So by every measure that actually counts, I need the Holy Spirit. Desperately.”

Only the Holy Spirit can change hearts and lives. If the church is to be powerful and effective, if church is to be a pleasure rather than a chore, than the church–God’s people–need to be radically empowered by and obediently following after the Holy Spirit.

(See more notes on Forgotten God here.)

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Reader Comments (2):

  1. Kayla L. says:

    When I was younger I did feel forced to go to church. I really had no motive to get up every sunday and go… which eventually led to me simply not going for a number of years. I was thinking about why I was never motivated and I heard once that the biggest motivators are Progress and Productivity. I didn’t feel like I was headed anywhere or doing anything so I didn’t see the point. It’s true that no one said anything that made me want to come back to church but the Holy spirit moved in me at dare to share and I can’t imagine not going to church now. Praise God!

  2. bekahcubed says:

    Oh, Kayla–that is so exciting to hear! We have a God who is truly amazing, working in our lives and drawing us to Himself (even when we so often resist His Spirit.)

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