Do you ever wonder why some people spend a few hours each weekend doing the church thing? A pastor by profession, I attempt to regularly evaluate the questions others might be at least thinking… if not asking.
One question likely ranks near the top: “Why not just play golf?”
Honestly, that’s a logical question that deserves a thoughtful response. Considering days off are precious and holidays too infrequent, why hole up for a couple of hours with a couple hundred folk whom we may not know that well or like that much when the alternatives surrounding us are dazzling and endless? Why not just play golf?
It is true. We are blessed to live in a uniquely spectacular spot on the planet! Take your pick. Any road out of Payson is jaw-droppingly gorgeous, isn’t it?
My family discovered this little mountain jewel while considering a ministry move from Southern California. In the beginning, we were skeptical to put it mildly. Having never heard of Payson, Ariz., our minds went immediately to barren terrain scorched mercilessly by an unrelenting sun seven months of the year. How wonderfully misguided we were!
Since arriving in March, we’ve barely scratched the surface as to the myriad of recreational opportunities surrounding us. Up to now, we’ve merely been enticed by tales of the hidden treasure lying atop the sprawling Mogollon Rim. A seasoned local mused that one could traverse a different mountain trail for each day of the year — and find all equally delightful.
Bicycle paths abound in town and out. Beautiful parks, quaint shops, world-class golf courses, homespun restaurants, moderate weather and even blazing sunsets highlight a seemingly endless list of Payson pluses.
The town Web site was dead on. Too many choices… too little time! So why not just play golf, or delve into one of the other endless recreational options surrounding us? Why do people attend church?
My job, by design, drives me past the pre-described temporal realm — that which can be tasted, smelled, seen and touched. My training pushes me deeper… beyond the ‘what’ and ‘how’ to the ‘why’ of existence. French physicist and writer Blaise Pascal is credited with the following famous epithet: “There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus.”
My 20 years of pastoral ministry have proven this true. God created man to need Him — whether we realize it or not. You may not be ready to take the plunge of faith at this point, but at least wrestle with the concept.
As exciting as living the recreational high life can be, you’ve possibly sensed at times that something is missing. If so, you’re not alone. We were all programmed by our Creator for more. Common sense would argue we are multi-dimensional beings, and in striving to nurture all three aspects of our humanness — physical, emotional and spiritual — we experience deepening satisfaction and overall fulfillment. When we pay attention to the needs of our entire being, the end result is a heightened intimacy in our relationship with God and others. This is why many in Payson and our surrounding communities prioritize church before the ‘course’ every weekend. They’ve simply come to realize there is more — and their lives are indeed richer for it.
Maybe it’s time you prioritized a little enrichment program of your own. If so, there are many vibrant, God-honoring churches in the general Payson area waiting to welcome you with open arms. Give one a try this weekend. A whole new world of discovery awaits you!
It is my desire for this column to be encouraging and thought provoking for all who take time to read it — whether churched or un-churched. If God doesn’t presently have a place in your life, I would like to know what questions you are wrestling with, and how I might help. Please feel free to send any comments or questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Your issue just might be addressed in a future column.