Stop “Showing up” at Church

Saturday, May 17

5-17By Sydney Arden of Nashville, Tennessee, USA

As he taught, he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes…and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets! …and for the sake of appearance say long prayers.” A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins…“Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury.”

—Mark 12:38–40, 43 NRSV

Yes, you read it right, stop showing up at church.

Years ago I tired of merely attending church services. No longer did the prayer-hymn-word-hymn-prayer “sandwich” connect with me. I am not sure it ever did. I soon realized my soul stirred and longed for something more.

Sunday mornings and I were like a shallow middle-school relationship, and I was ready to break up. For a while I wrestled with feelings of frustration, hopelessness, and hurt. I tired of just “showing up.”

After soul-searching sessions while driving my car, waking in the middle of the night, and doodling during my college classes, a phrase formed among the black ink scribbles.

Start being the church. Stop just “showing up” at church and start being the church.

This is what I call a light bulb moment. The light kept shining. I realized that being a disciple of Jesus Christ doesn’t involve “pew sitting” alone. It is hard work, messy work, and nonstop work. And, most of the time the work does not show immediate results.

What I’m looking for is the glimpse of the sacred in the mundane. I want to see the sparkling moment of Spirit in the hurt and pain. I am aware this is who God calls me to be. There is much more I can do. There are more people to serve, more hurts to heal, more hungry mouths to feed, more to give.

All the while, I realize there is much work to do in my own heart. There are more layers to peel, fewer judgments to give, and much more stretching and growing. So I feel the growing pains.

As I move forward from “church-going” (just showing up) to “church-being,” I will feel the uncomfortable stretch. Sometimes it might hurt. I hope you join me on this changed journey. We can encourage one another rather than allow frustration to take over. Patiently we can reach out. We can help each other to go beyond the pew and engage in Christ’s mission.

I dare you to stop just showing up at church.

Prayer for Peace
Make us, O God, a community that dares to stretch for the sake of the World and Christ’s peace. From the strength we gather in the pew, help us grow and reach out to others.

Spiritual Practice: Develop Disciples to Serve
As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are called to respond to people and their needs. Pray about using your skills to help another person. As you feel affirmed, thank God for the opportunity to be a responding, serving disciple while you move into the outward journey.

Peace Covenant
Today, God, I will put my trust in the community to help me be the church.

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Leave a comment


  1. Susan Gregory

     /  25 May 2014

    Challenge accepted!!!

  2. Janné Grover

     /  17 May 2014

    Amen!!! Thanks so much for sharing the light bulb experience we all should encounter!

  3. Dick Hahn

     /  17 May 2014

    Thanks Sydney, for this “simple truth” reminder. I’ve been showing up regularly since age 12, all the time, early and eager to learn and grow into a true disciple of the Lord. Somewhere along the path I also learned what you did, – we have to “be” the church in mission. Now, in old age, it’s a beautiful blending of the two. Praise the Lord!


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