I lived a lot of my life thinking that attending church was an unnecessary part of Christianity. I remember being young and hearing people say “I don’t have to go to church to be Christian”. Going into my teenage and early adult years I adopted that mentality.

It wasn’t until I was older and found myself attending church and then eventually working in church that I fully understood how important it really is in a relationship with Jesus. Regularly attending a local church isn’t, or shouldn’t be, an optional part of Christianity, it’s fundamental.

I love this story I heard in a sermon once:

“An old man and younger man were sitting by a campfire in the middle of the night having a disagreement about church and its importance to a christian life. While they were talking the older man walked over to the fire and poked around with a stick, seemingly ignoring that he had knocked a red hot coal from inside. The two men continue their conversation, each taking turns in giving input. After a while, the older man with the stick asks the younger if he noticed anything special about a burned-out coal next to the fire. The younger man responds by saying that it was no longer hot. The older man exclaims ‘exactly’! The younger man, being a bit confused by his friend’s enthusiasm, listens intently. The older man said ‘at one point this coal burned as brightly and with as much heat as all the others inside the fire. Now it is here, alone, no longer even warm to the touch. The reason church is so important is because without the other coals and the heat they give off we will all end up like this burned-out ash. No longer able to keep ourselves on fire’.”

We need to be surrounded continually by a body of believers who will encourage, uplift, love, and support us while we walk through life following our Savior. Without each other, the accountability and support a church community provides we are destined to follow the same path as the burned-out coal. What was once a flame and a burning desire inside of us will slowly fade. Leaving us wondering where the joy of our salvation went.

Hebrews 10: 25

“And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.”

I think so often growing up in the South allows us to have the mentality that we are “Christian” mostly because of proximity. We are surrounded by a church on every corner, conservatism, traditional values, and good ole Southern hospitality. Still, we have to be careful not to mistake those things for what being a Christian really is!

Being a Christian is being Christ-like. That we submit and surrender our lives, our will, and our plans to Jesus. That we allow Jesus to influence and impact our daily life, our decisions, our conflicts and our time. That we make Him a priority over every area of our lives, our extracurricular activities, hobbies, and yes, even sunny Sundays!  We are to love His church and make regular church attendance a fundamental part of our journey with Him because in those churches is where we are strengthened and encouraged to be able to face this world every day until He returns for His Church!

Hebrews 9:28

“So Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.”

My prayer for you all is that you experience Jesus fully in your heart and not just culturally. That you allow Jesus to change you from the inside out and that you would get involved in a church community that keeps you burning brightly for Him in a world that so desperately needs more of His light!

Jessica Evans
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