The church as convenience store

convenienceJust down the road from my house are a couple of small stores where I can buy a loaf of bread, a gallon of milk, aspirin, and even gasoline for my car. These small shops are rightly called ‘convenience stores’ because they are nearby, open long hours, and offer basic items for me at my convenience. They often charge higher prices for the same things I could buy at a large supermarket, but I gladly pay the premium!  Are they the place to do serious grocery shopping? No, they are there to fill in the gaps and for that millions of us are grateful when we just need milk at 8 PM.

There are people who treat God’s Church like a convenience store, dropping in when need arises, grabbing a little ‘inspiration,’ asking for a prayer, looking for a moment of pastoral care. They are not looking to create a relationship or become a faithful part of ministry. They are just a consumer of ‘religious goods’ prepared to drop some dollars in the contribution box in return for the assurance that they are on the right side of a God that they do not really know very well.  To borrow a phrase, they are having an ‘adventure in missing the point.’

The best and deepest Christianity requires a mix of several choices;  receiving God’s grace by faith, learning God’s ways through regular study and daily prayer, building relationship with God’s people in the Church, and serving God’s purposes as life’s highest priority.  Being a disciple is not convenient! Jesus teaches us that His call is comprehensive, touching every facet of life, and seeking our full engagement.

Take up your cross and follow Me,” He said. Think about that. It is not a pretty metaphor. A cross is an instrument of death, not a means of finding one’s personal path of pleasure.  The invitation is to ‘follow,’ not to lead.  His invitation is costly, not convenient, but it comes with great promise.  “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but are yourself lost or destroyed?” (Luke 9:23-25, NLT)

Knowing how quickly human beings will abandon the pursuit of the Holy, Moses warned the ancient Israelis about wandering. God was going to give them blessings, provide abundantly for them.  Would they be grateful, careful to remain devoted to Him?  Read on.  “When God, your God, ushers you into the land he promised through your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to give you, you’re going to walk into large, bustling cities you didn’t build, well-furnished houses you didn’t buy, come upon wells you didn’t dig, vineyards and olive orchards you didn’t plant. When you take it all in and settle down, pleased and content, make sure you don’t forget how you got there—God brought you out of slavery in Egypt. Deeply respect God, your God. Serve and worship him exclusively.” (Deuteronomy 6:10-13, The Message)

The Bible gives us the history of God’s people that we would learn from them. They did forget the Lord!  Just a couple of generations after they entered the Promised Land, they were compromised with idol worship. When crisis came, they turned back to the Lord and He faithfully loved them, though they suffered for their sin.  Restored to wholeness, they prospered, and wandered again.  The pattern was repeated many times!

Are you treating the things of the Lord like a convenience store?  Do your prayers become fervent, your searching Scripture intense, when some stormy season arrives, only to be laid aside when things level out? There is a better way. He invites us to ‘keep step with the Spirit’ as we practice the daily choice of godliness. We will not always ‘feel’ like worship, prayer, or service. Truthfully, sometimes we will do what we are called to do, not because we love to do it, but because we know He is worthy and it is right. That’s why we call such things ‘spiritual disciplines.’

Here is a word from the Word. “So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you! Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised. “For in just a little while, the Coming One will come and not delay. And my righteous ones will live by faith. But I will take no pleasure in anyone who turns away.” But we are not like those who turn away from God to their own destruction. We are the faithful ones, whose souls will be saved.” (Hebrews 10:35-39, NLT)


Here I Am To Worship

Light of the world
You stepped down into darkness
Opened my eyes let me see
Beauty that made
This heart adore You\
Hope of a life spent with You

 So here I am to worship
Here I am to bow down\
Here I am to say that You’re my God
And You’re altogether lovely
Altogether worthy
Altogether wonderful to me

 Tim Hughes
© 2000 Thankyou Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) CCLI License # 810055

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