I remember passing this sign as a college student in Alabama. It was on a piece of property right next to I-65, just north of Prattville. It was certainly easy to laugh at and dismiss, with the red devil complete with pitchfork and tail. Of course, nothing in the Bible depicts him in such a way, and with good reason.
Evil is much too smart to present itself in such an obvious way. And Evil is happy when we laugh at things that are meant for our destruction.
Like the idea that ignoring church will send you to hell. So simplistic. And how many of us have met people in church whose hatefulness was more fit for hell?
So we laugh at the cartoonish devil, and also at the notion that an Almighty God would reject us based on our church attendance.
Except that’s not the way it works. It’s the opposite. Evil is much more strategic than we’d ever imagined.
God doesn’t reject us because we don’t go to church. We reject God because we’ve not been to church to be reminded of who he is and who he calls us to be!
“Go to church or the Devil will get you?” Don’t laugh so soon. If you haven’t been going, there’s a good chance you’re already his.
Today is Saturday. So you need to be making plans to attend church tomorrow.
Wear a mask. Don’t wear a mask. But go.
You need to go where they love people.
You need to go where the pastors take a personal interest in you, and not where some celebrity rushes in and off a stage.
You need to go where they teach the Bible. Not just the cherry-picked self-help verses, but where they point out things God calls sin. Because if everything’s always positive, that’s not real. That’s hype.
You need to go where they care about the community. Not just with symbolic gestures and well-times photo ops, but real hands-on, boots on the ground, getting in the trenches, and helping people.
You need to go where the leaders are accountable to the congregation. Where pastors won’t touch the money and financial transparency is practiced (if you don’t know what that looks like, then your church probably isn’t doing it).
Finally, you need to go to a church where they aren’t ashamed to lead people to Jesus. Do they have a time in their services where people can accept Christ? Why in the world not? Because after all the songs are sung and sermons delivered, he is the one that will be going home with you. So your church better be giving him to people and making it easy to get to know him.
If you go to a church that doesn’t do this, you are enabling the dysfunction and are part of the problem. Sorry.
In a world that’s coming unraveled at the seams, church matters more than ever. Heaven matters, eternity matters. So stop messing around and take it seriously, while you still have time.
Dave Gipson is a husband, father of 4 adopted children and one biological child, former foster parent, and pastor at Naples Family Church of Naples, FL. An author, Dave's new highly acclaimed book, "The Seven Surprises: Everyday Epiphanies on Being a Better Human Being," is now available. He also contributes regular commentaries to the Naples Daily News as well as other international publications. He has served churches for the last 25+ years, from Florida to the inner-city of Chicago. Rev. Gipson holds his ordination in the Southern Baptist denomination, and has two earned Masters degrees in Religion and Divinity. Read more at http://davegipson.net.Follow him on Twitter at @realdavegipson.