The assistant pastor of my church mentioned something this morning that underscored my own personal beliefs about my relationship with God while simultaneously leading me to a revelation concerning my frustrations with many congregants I've met in my church experiences. His words were simple yet profound. I need not recall his remark verbatim but the gist of it was that we should each seek as individuals to establish and maintain a personal relationship with God and our attendance at church is simply a bi-product of that relationship. Whenever I've gone "long" periods of time not attending church, someone, a stranger or familiar acquaintance, has felt compelled to ask me, when was the last time I've been to church or why don't I go every Sunday. As long as these questions have been posed to me my answer has been the same: I don't feel the need to attend church every Sunday, I have a very strong relationship with God. The interrogator has usually responded by asking additional questions or reciting some scripture they memorized in preparation for whenever they run into what they call a "backslider". They're all so very excited to share their very calculated words of wisdom with me as a sign of their knowledge of the holy word, meanwhile as soon as I realize that they are on a mission to either persecute me for my lack of attendance or sell habitual church attendance to me as the only way for me to honor my God, I check out because it is immediately apparent to me that they did not hear me when I said, I have a strong relationship with God.
I find that many people are eager to attend church either habitually or occasionally yet this urge is not motivated by an internal calling stimulated by their relationship with God, rather they attend out of loyalty to custom or tradition or because they are seeking social recognition from the other congregants they see when they do attend. No one wants to be judged as a sinner or backslider for being absent, yet our own selfish and egocentric minds may never even consider that those who decide to attend church habitually are not in the least bit concerned about those of us who have not.
I cannot and perhaps am not required to fully explain what happens when I do attend church. What I do know is that I am in consistent and persistent communication with the higher power I call God and on occasion I feel compelled to attend a weekly meeting in a building, where there is a choir, and where there is someone who is able to not only recognize my personal relationship with God but who can welcome me into their spiritual home to listen to their thought provoking and spiritually/intellectually stimulating interpretation of an ancient script that contains so much wisdom.
When I am not attending church I am living my life in relation to that higher power and in accordance with a set of broad yet influential and significant principles that direct my actions. As I live in the midst of my personal relationship I don't find myself concerned with what others say or see, as I said it's personal...