This week I took some time to get away in the mountains to reflect and pray. As I have spent a lot of time with God out in nature this week, I have reflected on how much of my spiritual growth has come from times that were not in a church service.
As a pastor, this is a tough pill to swallow.
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus has thirty-four intimate encounters with an individual. Of the thirty-four, one takes place in church.
And in the shorter Gospel of Mark, there are twenty-six such encounters recorded; two take place at church.
In fact, all of the most “famous” stories about Jesus—
his birth, baptism,
trial in the desert, calling of his disciples,
turning water into wine, raising the dead,
transfiguration, walking on water,
feeding of the five thousand,
Sermon on the Mount, calming the storm,
Last Supper, dark night in Gethsemane,
not one of them takes place during church.
This is no coincidence.
Jesus came to the most religious people on earth, and much of what he had to do in order to bring them to God was to free them from their religion.
I believe we need worship, sacrament, instruction, community, and service. I go to church. I encourage you to.
But you must stick to the facts—one of the most striking aspects of the stories about Jesus told in the Gospels, is how few, how very few of the events related by the stories take place within a religious setting.
The fact is, if you wanted an intimate encounter with Jesus, you would have been far more likely to find it outside church.
I know this is true for me. 99% of who I am in Christ has been formed by the times outside of a church service.
So, how about you? How are you spending the 167 hours a week that you have outside of church? If they are not as spiritually impactful as you want them to be…
Try. Something. New.
If you need help with that, let me know, and we will brainstorm together.
I hope to see you this weekend. (Ironically, at a church service.)