Love Versus Churchianity
December 28, 2021

          I had a very pointed lesson in church life this week. 

         I had gone to visit my son’s church, which is decidedly different from the church I attend. An altar call followed the message of the sermon, whereupon most of the adults flocked to the altar in response. I preferred to just stay in my seat and quietly contemplate what the message meant to me. However, I was aware that my failure to kneel at the alter might appear as though I might be disrespecting the message and/or the messenger.

         The next morning, in my quiet time with God, I approached him about my inner struggle - do I go to the altar to show my reverence for the delivery of the message, even if I am simply doing it for show? Do I go ahead and stay in my seat, even if it appears I am being stubborn and rebellious? Or do I simply avoid going to my son’s church to escape creating conflict for myself or others? I asked God to show me what His mind was on the subject - and how would I know? Should I ask my son’s pastor? Should I ask my pastor? As I prayerfully contemplated my dilemma, I decided to calm myself by looking at my emails.

         I opened my messages in what should greet me in the very first one, but a devotional titled, “If You Don’t Do This, You May Ruin Some of Your Relationships!” It had absolutely nothing to do with altar calls, but the message hit my prayer square on the head with an answer I very clearly understood. I am not at church to please the pastor or the rest of the congregation. I knew that for sure.

          However, the Bible is very clear on the matter of not stumbling our brothers and sisters. This particular church teaches that a trip to the altar is always in order to consecrate one’s life afresh to the Lord. It is certainly not for us to determine the condition of another believer's relationship with the Lord. But we are to evaluate whether they are walking as close as possible to Him and assist them if they are struggling in any way.

          I had asked God for His mind on the matter. By faith I was able to receive it through that one email: Rather than cause my fellow believers worry about my willingness to kneel before my maker - or cause conflict in anyone’s Spirit - God was asking me to yield myself to the physical act of public consecration in order to remove any doubt. As I reflected on that concept, the first thing that came to me was, “whatever you do to the least of these, you do unto me.” The loving response, then, is to comfort both the Lord and His people by reassuring them that I gladly surrender myself at God’s altar when a call is made to do so. Not for show. But as an act of surrender to God himself.

         I cannot begin to express what an intimate demonstration of answered prayer - of communion in dialogue with God - that whole scenario opened up for me! Church is, after all, a community event. We live out Kingdom principles in concert with our spiritual family members. I asked a pointed question, and I got a pointed answer. I shared this with my husband, and he concurred. He said, “by going to the altar, you are saying, an arousing "AMEN!" to the pastor’s concern for your soul and to his call to renew your commitment to God.” I not only now have peace about my question, I also now have a definite sense of compassionate care for God’s church - wherever and however I may encounter it.