Heaven in the Church

Just last week, we saw how certain aspects of the camp I just participated in were like heaven, including the ­gathering of saints from different parts of the world, the continual, enthusiastic worship, the sharing of meals and friendships, and the constant presence we felt as we lived together for the week. These aspects of camp made it exciting, fulfilling, and revitalizing. It was hard not to want to live for God when you experience this type of fellowship together. 

The obvious question always follows after experiencing a week of this spiritual depth—why doesn’t God’s church also have these characteristics. Let’s be honest with ourselves, we don’t often feel spiritual uplifted when we’ve been together as God’s church. Normally, we do not feel worse, but we rarely feel stronger. We might gain some new information we’ve not heard before from our preacher, elder, or bible class teacher. We might laugh some with a brother or sister, or on rare occasions share a sorrow. But there is not the spiritual codependency in our local congregations that is often felt and experienced after just one week of camp. Why? 

First, we tend to live independently. We don’t rely on one another even though we know we could. We don’t ask for help when we need it, we don’t put ourselves in a position to be judged, and we definitely don’t confess those sins with which  we struggle.

Secondly, we tend to be distracted. At a week long camp, it almost always takes about three days of constant togetherness and worship to break down barriers and truly get to the heart of worship. At nearly every camp I’ve worked, Wednesday is always the turning point from distracted to focused. At our local congregations, we tend to rush in (sometimes late), sit down quickly in the first pew we can find, and expect to be able to worship fully with no preparation. We do this week after week, for a few hours per week. We do our best to focus our minds, but we are still beset with daily living, daily decisions, and daily distractions. 

Thirdly, we tend to be limited. We cannot live together ­because we have our own families for which we care. We cannot eat three meals together. We cannot gather to worship together daily. We cannot gather with other non-local Christians regularly. Camp is possible for a week, but it just is impossible for daily living. 

So how do we create the heavenly and spiritual spirit of camp outside of the situation of camp? Easy! Be ­determined to make the most of our time together. Come calm and prepared for worship. Listen to hymns all morning. Wake up and read God’s Word before attending. Get rid of the ­distractions that come with a typical Sunday morning. Come early and stay late so you might fellowship and build friendships in your local congregation. Be ready to eat with others at a restaurant or invite them back to your home. Be willing to share our life, struggles, victories, and ­encouragements with others. 

While we might be limited in our activity, this does not mean we have to be limited in our effectiveness and ­relationships. Let’s make our congregation a peep hole into heaven so we might truly inspire one another and others to want to go there with God. 

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5.15-16).