Recently I had the opportunity to reminisce with the man who was my mentor when I first graduated from college and was young and quite foolish. I’m older now and probably not that much wiser, but it was a real pleasure to catch up with him and to listen to him explain some of the lessons God has taught him over his many years of ministry as a pastor, teacher, and school administrator. It was especially interesting to hear him talk about the value of building relationships in the church and how those friendships had been a source of strength and encouragement on a regular basis as he gathered with God’s people throughout the week in different venues. He talked about a Thursday night Bible study he led that had been a weekly appointment for 10 years with a group of faithful saints, and he shared that his church’s Wednesday night prayer meeting and Bible study were like a verdant oasis in the midst of the desert of the work week.
There was a time when I would not have understood what he meant about the mid-week gathering of believers, because I was raised going to church every Wednesday night and never gave it much thought. It wasn’t until I found myself in a new city without a church home for nearly a year that I experienced the spiritual dryness of which he spoke. I can remember struggling through the work week in the midst of what I now recognize were significant spiritual battles, feeling completely exhausted and not really knowing what it was that my spirit was longing to find. For 11 months my wife and I visited churches every week, around 20 in all, only to be disappointed by the lack of Biblical truth being preached or sung or applied to the life of the church in any meaningful way. As we moved from church to church, trying to listen to what was said and ask as many questions as we could, we found ourselves often coming away from our visit more spiritually and emotionally drained than before. Without receiving the encouragement and building up of the body of Christ, I found myself growing more and more cynical and frustrated, and I struggled just to make it through the week with my sanity and Christian testimony intact.
But when we finally joined a local church and began to develop edifying relationships with the godly saints there, everything changed. Instead of going to church like a field mouse venturing out to forage with every sense alert for danger, ready to turn and run at the slightest hint of a threat, we were able to enjoy being with the saints to learn from God’s word and worship the Lord Jesus Christ. And the mid-week gathering became the oasis that I needed. Knowing that I would be singing, praying, and joining in fellowship with my church family, I was able to face the inevitable spiritual battles with a new outlook. It really didn’t change my work environment, but it did become an essential part of my life in a way that it never was before. I am so thankful for the people who made those gatherings a priority each week, because their presence and spiritual camaraderie were such a powerful force in my life and growth as a disciple of Christ. Have you considered the impact of your presence in the church’s gatherings? If you are willing, you can become part of someone else’s spiritual oasis, and they can become yours.