I am a part-time chaplain at the University of Essex. I have just received my new parking permit for 2013-14. I am designated as an ‘occasional user’. This means that I am not on the campus more than a couple of days a week at most. There are other categories for those who are on the campus more frequently.
As I was sticking the permit onto the inside of my windscreen this morning I had a mischievous thought. If your church issued parking permits, what sort would you need? Are you a frequent attender, an infrequent attender, an occasional attender or a CE* attender? When I ask people about their attendance or non-attendance I often feel like a truant officer and people generally feel obliged to explain themselves. But here I ask the question not to induce guilt, but to encourage us to pause and ponder.
There may be things (or even people) that irritate you about your church, but for a moment put them aside. I also understand that many people attend church other than for Sunday services, but for the sake of simplicity assume I am talking about Sunday services. What do you appreciate about church when you do attend? What do you miss about church when you aren’t there? Why do you go to church when you do go?
Last night I reflected on Psalm 67, especially the first two verses:
May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine on us – so that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations.
Aside from the interesting change of ‘person’ (from ‘us’ to ‘your’) what struck me is that often we go to church for the first part – for what we can get out of it, for our preferences, for our blessing. But the reason God wants to bless us is so that others will be drawn to him by seeing that relationship in action. To use a dodgy analogy from Formula 1, church is not where we sit in the grandstands and cheer our favourite drivers, it’s a pitstop where we are refuelled** and made ready for serving God and others in the following week.
Are you due a pitstop?
Be blessed, be a blessing.
*here CE means ‘Christmas and Easter’ not ‘Church of England’
**yes I know that there’s currently no refuelling in Formula 1, but it makes for a better analogy. I told you it was dodgy!