The church is not the gym

I hate it when people leave our church. It breaks my heart. They have their reasons, and a broad range of them, which I’m forced to acknowledge and accept. But it means our fellowship is broken. It means I don’t get to see them. It means they are removing themselves from our care. I wonder if I could have done more to keep them with us. I just hate it.

A light bulb went on for me recently when I realized that some people have not actually left. They just aren’t coming! If you can imagine, this got me excited!

And then concerned. Because why aren’t they coming? This is when you hear the excuses instead of the reasons.

The other day I ran into someone at the mall who said:

It has been a while since I came to church. I really should come out. It’s just that it’s hard in the winter to get up early in the morning.

Might I also say that I did not ask why they hadn’t been at church. I’ve stopped asking. Not because I don’t miss them, but because they say things like this.

I give this person credit for her painful honesty. But what made her think that this is an acceptable thing to say, to me, someone who wakes up on Sunday mornings in the winter? I’m not being self-righteous, it’s the truth of it, certainly as a Pastor’s Wife.

No, this is something someone would say to their personal trainer… A-ha! People treat going to church like going to the gym!  They know they should go. They know it’s healthy for them. They know that if they are disciplined about going, they’ll see changes–Stop. Just stop. The church is not the gym.

Ironically, we meet in a gym. Make that a gymnatorium. Which defines as:

The most craptastic multi use performance space in the world… second only to the cafegymnatorium… When you see a gymnatorium you know your day will suck.

I hope you pulled out the operative word “multi use.”

Yes, we have basketball nets, floors with shock absorption, poor acoustics, zero ambiance… and you can play volleyball on Monday nights where you worship on Sunday mornings. But that’s too obvious. I believe other churches with wooden pews, pipe organs, and stained glass windows hear excuses like this as well, “My bed is too comfy.”

We do a different kind of body-building at church. We, collectively, you who attend and you who believe while you sleep, are called the Body of Christ.

If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. (1 Corinthians 12:25-26)

When you stop attending, you miss out in one of the greatest blessings: doing life together. Having your people in your corner when you are in pain and celebrating your victories. That’s the benefit.

If the cozy family vibe doesn’t getcha, how about this? What about the call?

So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. (Romans 7:4)

…so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. (Romans 12:5)

We belong to Christ and each other. To clarify, this is not an “assimilation” type of belonging. (I may have to do another post called The Church is not The Borg.)

Just for kicks, I referenced again for the word “belong.” And like gymnatorium, they hit the nail on the head:

loving someone as much as your life.

Perhaps we’ve forgotten that whomever belongs to us should mean the most to us and vice versa. God proved this by literally giving up his life out of love for us. But we can’t get out of bed.

Let me clear, this isn’t about rules or points for perfect attendance. It will not be necessary for you to swipe your membership card at the door. God designed the Body*, so that we would love one another, build one another up, work together for the benefit of his Kingdom, to know what it is to be a part of something infinitely greater than we are on our own. Sunday mornings are a regular opportunity to get in on that. If we understood the call and the blessing of belonging, we would want to do this as frequently as possible.

*How and why God designed us to be the Body of Christ… is worthy of a proper Bible study. Do a word search for “Body of Christ” at to learn more about who you are and where you belong.


One thought on “The church is not the gym

  1. As a person who has struggled with a healthy version of family, it seems especially sad to me when believers opt out of church family. This is our chance to reclaim what God meant for us to have all along!

    Come, visit, worship celebrate and cry together, it is meant to be the vest place to do so!

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