I’ve been to church


In Psalms, there is the principle I like to think of as the “I’ve been to church” principle. (Yes, I know disciples are “the church,” but there is also something to the idea of “coming together as a church” — 1 Corinthians 11:18 and I’m after something like that here). You’ve “been to church” when you’ve emptied yourself before God and His people in praise, worship, prayer, fellowship and wonder (the kind of things we hear about in the psalms). It is not something that results in checking off a box — it is an experience that impacts your life. It might be something loud and obvious, but it could just as easily be something soft and subtle. It may or may not involve lifting your hands, but it is always about lifting your heart to the great God of the universe. When this happens, you have been to church, and the church has been to you.
Listen to their testimony:
I will declare your name to my people; in the assembly I will praise you. (22:22)
I will give you thanks in the great assembly; among the throngs I will praise you. (35:18)
I proclaim your saving acts in the great assembly; I do not seal my lips, Lord, as you know. I do not hide your righteousness in my heart; I speak of your faithfulness and your saving help. I do not conceal your love and your faithfulness from the great assembly. (40:9-10)
Praise God in the great congregation; praise the Lord in the assembly of Israel. (68:26)
How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord Almighty! My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. (84:1-2)
Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you. (84:4)
Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked. (84:10)
I rejoiced with those who said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” (122:1)
That is where the tribes go up — the tribes of the Lord — to praise the name of the Lord according to the statute given to Israel. (122:4)
Praise the Lord. I will extol the Lord with all my heart in the council of the upright and in the assembly. (111:1)
Praise the Lord. Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise in the assembly of his faithful people. (149:1)
You can go to a building and never go to church. It’s easy. You just have your mind a million miles away, allow peripheral things to distract you, or think about where you want to eat afterwards. You never engage with the singing, the praying, the praising, or the preaching. You walk away as empty as you came because you become what you worship. You worshiped nothing so that’s what you walk away with.
The people who wrote Psalms knew when they had been to church. They walked away renewed in their purpose and passion for the Lord.
We can’t be the church if we haven’t been to church.

Find more of Bruce’s writings at his website: a-taste-of-grace-with-bruce-green.com.