I had the weirdest dream the other night, but I think it had some good value for learning.
In the dream, I was teaching my small group at the intersection of the road just down the street from our house here in Haiti. There were a few people on nearby rooftops watching us look ridiculous with our school desks in the middle of the road. However, my reasoning in the dream was that it was just the best place to have a small group so we went with it! As we were discussing the importance of the Church as a group I stood up and told my small group that it was an important topic and we needed to tell other people about this too.
Cut forward in time, I was in a church sanctuary with my small group in the front row and many people filling up the seats around them. Everyone was chatting amongst themselves about how happy they were that the small group was visiting their church. I got up from my chair and started talking to the group of people. I was addressing the crowd in English but I had another leader with me translating into Creole for the small group members. I could feel how excited everyone was for some reason. Then I started talking about the importance of the Church and after a bit I asked a question.
“Is going to church something for your benefit or God’s? Does God need your worship or your listening to a pastor?”
“No, God doesn’t need anything from us. He has everything He needs in Himself already. Therefore engaging in the body of believers that we call the church is something for our benefit. Is going to the gym or eating better something that helps someone else get healthy? No, of course not! It helps you get healthy. Going to church doesn’t help God, it helps you! Neglecting other believers is bad for your spiritual health!”
After saying these things I felt pressed to share a passage from the Bible. I ran to my seat in the sanctuary and grabbed my Bible from my wife. (She was loudly shouting encouragement the entire time I was speaking, so you know it was a good dream!) I opened up to Galatians 1 and told everyone to read it.
That’s when the dream started to change. Immediately, everyone stopped listening except the small group members. Everyone was chatting again and promptly got up (still talking) and just left the room like the time was over. I tried to keep talking for a bit, but as I realized they weren’t listening I stopped and let everyone leave. In the dream, I sat down and was super bummed that no one wanted to listen despite being excited at the start.
And then I woke up. The dream was done.
It was stuck in my memory though and as soon as I woke up I grabbed my Bible to read what Galatians 1 said.
Two things stuck out to me as I read it.
1. Verse 6 (ESV) – I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel
This was the crowd of people in the auditorium! They were there to be encouraged that they were doing everything right. They didn’t want to remember that they were called by the grace of God only. It was easier to just come to sing songs and listen to a pastor encourage their lifestyle while looking down on those singing next to them. We are all called by God’s grace, not because we deserve it but because He chose it. This leads me to the second thing:
2. Verses 11-24 (ESV) – For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. 12 For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. 13 For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. 14 And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers. 15 But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, 16 was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone; 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.
18 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and remained with him fifteen days. 19 But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord’s brother. 20 (In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie!) 21 Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. 22 And I was still unknown in person to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. 23 They only were hearing it said, “He who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” 24 And they glorified God because of me.
What stuck out to me about this passage wasn’t what Paul was sharing, but that Paul was sharing his story with other believers. Remember, going to church isn’t for God’s benefit, it’s for our own. One way that it helps us is by sharing what God is doing in our lives with others. Sharing our story of God working in our life leads to people glorifying God because of us. You don’t get to do that just showing up to church to sing and listen. It happens in the hallways, the foyer, in your living room and kitchen, maybe even over text. The point is that it happens when you get off the sidelines and into the game.
I don’t know who needed to hear this or if someone is going to read this 2 years from now, but being a Christian is more than just filling a pew on Sunday morning. You aren’t going to impress God by showboating your attendance record. Showing up to church is a reminder that you’ve been called by the grace of God and that story of God’s redemption is worth sharing.