Posted by: Nathan | December 4, 2008

(Not) Keeping the Sabbath

“Some keep the Sabbath going to Church –
I keep it, staying at Home -“
–-Emily Dickinson


Dickinson’s poem has been on my mind a lot recently as I have struggled a lot with going to church. My wife and I have attended three churches regularly in the past few years, but we never felt at home in any of them. When we first arrived in Colorado, we did the usual church search, which was a dispiriting exercise. There were countless churches filled with good people that I absolutely didn’t want to be a part of. One visit was enough. So we bounced around for a while. Right now, we call St. John’s Cathedral our home, but we still don’t attend every week.

What is it about going to church that is so hard? I’m sure the Enemy does not want us to go and works hard to keep us away; sadly, I’m aware of this and still lose the fight. Also, Sunday is the only day J and I are home together for an entire day. We like relaxing together. Additionally, we usually have to run an errand or two on Sunday, and church becomes another thing to get to. We’re tired. On top of all that, our church is still 30 minutes from our house, and we don’t know anyone there. Thus, church attendance is always a battle.

So can and should one keep the Sabbath at home, like Dickinson suggests*? I think the answer is: not solely. What’s missing from a home worship model is fellowship. We are called to be the body of Christ to our neighbor; that’s hard to do when we don’t go out. And there is something invaluable about being in a house of worship with fellow seekers, even if you don’t know them. Church has the additional benefit of providing things that are outside of one’s usual experience: hearing new ideas from the speaker, singing with others, taking communion, etc. Most of all, perhaps, the act of going to church has intrinsic commitment: regardless of what’s happening in my life, I devote this amount of time to being with God in one of his houses.

I’d like to blame my failure to become part of a church community on outside forces, but I know I am at fault. All the factors that work against me going to Sunday service are not insurmountable. The fact is, I don’t go because I’d rather stay home. If I were to invest more time at my church–any church, actually–I would find people to be friends with. I would get to know my church family and settle in. There would be more to be excited for each Sunday. I know this, yet the battle persists.

I need a sense of need. If I am desperate to hear from God, no excuse would be sufficient to keep me away from my church. Hopefully, in this season of Advent, I will rediscover the value of church-going and my own desperate need of the Savior.   

*Dickinson’s ideas about church attendance aren’t surprising considering that she was a recluse. 


  1. Thank you for your thoughts on this. I understand that “church shopping” can be a hard thing to do and you might not think it’s worth all the effort, but I just want to encourage you that God does have a church family out there for you. Just continue to pray and ask Him to lead you to the church He wants you to attend. We’ll be praying for you guys.

  2. This is a very honest piece, Nathan. I enjoyed getting a better understanding of how your church frustrations are playing out. Like Nate said, this situation warrants a call to prayer. Your analysis of how your desire to go to church will grow once you choose to get involved was spot-on, I think. Some of your barriers to attending a church are also understandable, especially when you consider your schedule.

    I feel like whenever we tell God that we are fed up or frustrated with a situation and simply lay it before him, He answers. The only problem would be God’s timing vs. ours…

    I will be praying that God will take over control of your heart in the matter. I think that God will fulfill/change your desires if you ask him to. See you in a couple weeks!

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