A lot of my understanding of what church means, and what my involvement in church should be, was formed by things that I learned as child. All of those things impacted my life tremendously. Here are a few of them.
1. I Learned to Go to Church.
Not occasionally, not on special days or even just on Sunday. We went to every service that was available. Sunday morning, Sunday evening, Prayer meetings, Revivals, Missionary Services, Rallies, Business meetings, Every time the doors were opened, I was there. There was no question and no effective argument. My family was a part of the church and we went to church.
2. I Learned to Pay Attention.
Toys, books and other distractions were not offered as early as I can remember. I was expected to sit up and listen. I learned to listen early. I began taking notes and making notations in my Bible by the time I was eight years old. I wasn’t allowed to talk in church. (I wouldn’t have texted either if it had existed.)
3. I Learned to Give.
My parents furnished me with offerings for Sunday School and worship services. The offering plate was never passed without me making a contribution (if only change)! I got no allowance as a child (we didn’t have enough money for that) but I did get money for offerings! I still feel guilty if I ever let an empty offering plate pass me by.
4. I Learned to Sing.
The churches I attended were always “Singing Churches”. Songs were familiar. They were sung with enthusiasm, with meaning and were never boring. Not everybody sang well, but everybody sang! Visitors came (by their own testimony) “To hear the singing.”
5. I Learned to Respect the Church.
We didn’t damage the church furniture, hymnals or lawn. This was “God’s House”. It was a holy place and treated as such.
6. I Learned to Bring my Bible to church.
Following the reading of scripture in my own Bible started as soon as I learned to read. As a child I learned to love to read. I didn’t have many books, but I had a Bible! I read it!
7. I Learned to Appreciate Good Preaching.
Preachers were always among my family’s best friends. Pastors were frequent guests at our home and we visited them. Long before I learned much about politics or sports, I was exposed to theology and doctrine. I learned to think.
My relationship with God’s people, and I believe my relationship with God Himself, was shaped to a great extent by things I learned before I even became a teenager. Today, many of my best friends are preachers. I still love singing, preaching and Bible study. Bonnie and I have made friends across the conservative holiness movement, including some of the greatest evangelists and church leaders, also many Bible School choir members, quartet members and wonderful laymen. Our lives have been immeasurably enriched.
It all started with what I learned as a child. I’m so thankful to my parents and others who affected me in those early years.