Usually Ernie, Ivy, and I have been taking turns carpool driving to work in downtown Tucson but this week Ernie and I are riding the bus to and from work because Ivy is on a one week vacation.
It’s a cool but not uncomfortable February morning as we’re sitting at the bus stop on Ina and Oracle Road waiting for the downtown bus to show up. No one else is waiting except us.
I’m checking email and reading headlines on my iPhone. That’s when Ernie said, “I been thinking about church.”
Sort of disinterested I say, “Hmm, you have huh … what have you been thinking about church?”
Ernie launched into what he’d been thinking. “Well, I’m trying to figure out: what good is church?”
“Hmm,” I said. “And what have you figured out so far?” I looked at Ernie.
Ernie looked serious. “Well, from what I’ve read, fewer people seem interested in attending church. Why is that I wonder? I guess it could be because they don’t want to face any discomfort.”
Discomfort. I thought, Yes the church can cause discomfort. I said, “You know I read somewhere that church appeals to only four out of ten people in the USA. Why do you imagine that is?”
“I’m not sure,” Ernie said. “I suppose a number of them do not view church as all that important. And maybe they’re too busy with other stuff because they suppose other stuff is more important.”
“Or,” I surmised, “they’re just plain lazy.”
“ … Certainly that may be a point. But, I’m trying to figure out what I might be missing by not going to church?”
“Well, for me when I attend church, I hear some pretty interesting sermons.”
Ernie frowned and said, “Wonderful … So is that what church is, hearing pretty interesting sermons or, should it be more that that?”
A bit confused I asked, “Such as what?”
Ernie said, “Well off the top of my head I’ve thought of two things I miss by not attending church. First is the benefit of social interaction and second is the benefit of using and developing my talents and abilities.”
“That’s sounds like three things.” I corrected Ernie’s math.
“Actually there are more than two or three things that I miss by not going to church.”
“You’ve made a list?”
“Sort of,” Ernie said.
I miss loving the Jesus I say I love.
I miss loving people inside the church.
I miss receiving encouragement.
I miss giving encouragement.
I miss caring for the poor and needy.
I miss getting care when I’m poor and needy. And maybe most importantly,
I miss showing others what God has accomplished in me in spite of me.
In other words I’m missing benefits and perks I could be, should be enjoying.”
I cleared my throat. “Hmm, interesting.”
“I avoid church because I have this nagging suspicion that the church is
only concerned about my money and
is full of hypocrites,” Ernie said.
“Yeah, those are points I’ve heard and witnessed.”
“Yes,” Ernie concluded, “Nonetheless, I believe I’m hurting myself the most by not participating because the church creates opportunities I cannot experience anywhere else.”
“So you’re saying benefits and perks are missed by missing church.”
The bus pulled up and we got on to head to work.