Since I didn’t grow up in an active Christian home (we weren’t atheists, just non-participants), the importance of attending church was never mentioned or even a consideration. When I dedicated my life to Jesus at the age of 24, God slowly began teaching me about the importance of his house. I was so happy to have found Jesus (or maybe he found me) that I became very zealous in my quest to invite people to church. Living in what is considered the Bible belt, almost everyone I spoke with seemed to already know Jesus. The response to my invitation was often “I don’t have to go to church to be saved.” Well, I suppose that’s true. But I knew the church must be pretty important since Jesus came here to establish it. However, the only scripture I knew at the time to give as an answer was Hebrews 10:25 “…not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another….” Quite honestly, my answer sounded lame even to me. I obviously still did not understand.
It wasn’t until life took a very tragic turn for my family and me that I was able to answer that question with conviction. It was the day after the accident that took the lives of my husband and four youngest children, and as you can imagine, we were all devastated and in complete shock. Most of the people in the house were being quiet and just staring at us and I was at a complete loss as to what to do. All of the sudden I realized what day of the week it was. We normally would have been in church on a Wednesday so I asked our four oldest kids if they would like to go. You would have thought I had thrown them a lifeline—all at once they jumped to their feet and said, “Let’s go.” When we arrived, along with several other family members, service had already begun and most people had no idea we were there. My pastor had gone to speak with the youth group and our associate pastor was running the main service. It felt to me as if the worship was labored and it was then that I realized we were not hurting alone—our church family was hurting with us. This kind of love unlocked something in my heart that night. Our church was large, approximately 5,000 members, and many of the people didn’t know us personally, but knew about the accident. The associate pastor made this statement during worship: “I told the Lord this morning that I couldn’t get through today without first touching the hem of his garment.” And then he opened the altars. My kids rushed to the front and I went with them. It took only moments for everyone to realize who we were.
All of the sudden people were holding my children as they cried and were praying for and comforting them. The entire congregation came to the altar and literally encircled us with love while we cried many tears. That night I understood more fully why we should “not forsake the assembling of ourselves together….” It is because we need each other. I thank God that every day is not our worst day, but I purposed in my heart from that point forward to be there for others when they were possibly experiencing their worst day. If we will all do this, we can change the world one person at a time.
I often hear comments in church about how the band is too loud, the pastor preaches too long, it’s way too cold, and why in the world is he asking for money again? That night, no one was complaining or even cared about those things. Instead, we were assembled together at the altar of the sanctuary: crying, praying and loving one another. Don’t underestimate the power of “… assembling of ourselves together….” This is how we overcome—together, with one heart, one mind and one accord. Romans 15:6 “so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.