As expats, one of the challenges we have is connecting regularly to a church community. Often, because we are in a new environment for a short while, it is easy to let attending worship regularly slip. Either culture shock or depression wear us down, or there are new family schedules and routines requiring our attention. Sometimes, it’s wonderful to visit new places and we feel that we’ll get back to going to church when we return to our home country.
But these times away from our home countries are when we most need to connect with the body of Christ. If you’ve fallen out of the habit of going to worship or praying, here are a few questions to consider about why we need to join together as a Christian community.
1. Why should I go to church?
It is what Jesus did. “And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read” (Luke 4:16). “As was his custom”—as followers of Jesus we are called to adopt his habits.
And whatever the church is or isn’t, it is the place where God chooses to continue his work and where some very important things continue to happen. It is a place where God answers prayers and strengthens us as we meet regularly together as a faith family.
The church is also where often our healing takes place and where our dreams are born. God is not, according to the false rumor, the “Dream Killer.” He is not the one who takes our highest dreams and stamps upon them, “Declined.” Rather he is the “Dream Maker,” the Way Maker—the one who grants life-dreams and intends to fulfill them. We may launch out in life fervently believing that our skills, efforts, and intelligence are more than enough to get us through. What we discover over time is that we need a force far greater than our own. Our great dream needs a great power (Ephesians 3:20-21) and only God can bring that to pass.
2. Why should I pray?
We pray because Jesus says, “…always to pray and not lose heart” (Luke 18:1). Prayer is a private conversation with a loved one. As anyone who loves you enjoys hearing from you, so does God. He loves you with an everlasting love and is interested in every single thing you do and every desire of yours—and he’s the only person in the world who can do something about it! The apostle Paul in Colossians 4: 2 writes, “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.”
On a human interaction level, in his article, 5 Scientifically Supported Benefits of Prayer, Dr. Clay Routledge writes, “Recent studies found that having people pray together with a close friend increased feelings of unity and trust. This finding is interesting because it suggests that praying with others can be an experience that brings people closer together.” As expats, this is important to our life of faith.
Also, praying together as a family helps us hear each other’s needs. Often, in prayer, we will get to know the hurts and concerns of our child and be able to comfort them and know how to help them. If you haven’t yet started, try finding even five minutes to pray with your children and to hear their prayers.
A quick summary of some of the benefits of prayer from Dr. Routledge are:
- Prayer improves self-control.
- Prayer makes you nicer.
- Prayer makes you more forgiving.
- Prayer increases trust.
- Prayer offsets the negative health effects of stress.
What are some others that you can list?
3. Why should I read my Bible daily?
Simply because reading the Bible draws you closer to your Father in Heaven. It is the place that holds the life-transforming message of the single most important figure in history—Jesus.
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). It is God’s word and read daily and applied regularly gives us hope and the strength to face everything that life may throw at us.
No one can make you read your Bible daily. It is like going to the gym or beginning a diet. Unless you see the necessity of it, begin it, and experience the benefits of it, you’ll never do it. It’s a discipline that requires your focus and dedication. The length of time or the extent of reading is not what I’m talking about, it is the every day taking time apart to be with God and abiding in his Word. Keep this in mind—if you don’t find time to read your Bible and pray daily, you will be subject to the whims of the culture, tossed to and fro like a leaf in the wind.
4. Why should I, for my children’s sake, attend church?
“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). Trying to get your children ready, haul them out of the door, maybe juggle train schedules, facing inconvenient worship service times, pressing homework and sports deadlines—it’s enough to give up and stay home. But what you love your children will love! If you train your children that other things are more important than church, they’ll learn those lessons quicker and for a lifetime.
If you want to raise your child in the faith, you will make attending church together as a family a priority. Typically, your children tend to imitate what you do, not what you tell them they should do—what is important to you will make an impression on them. By taking them to church and helping them learn about the importance of God in their lives, you are paving the way for a smoother future for them. When they go through heartbreaks and tough times in their lives, you have given them a firm foundation and a Mighty God to lean on, One who will be their Guide and Protector in all the storms of their lives.
While raising children in an atheistic and agnostic culture, there is a greater necessity to keep close to the church as the pressures of a faithless school tend to erode the values of a faith-filled family. Also, if you wait to take your children to church or leave the decision up to them when they get older, there are more chances that they will leave the faith. In a study conducted by Dr. Mark Gray of the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University, he found that, “the typical age for the decision to leave [the church] was made at 13…” He adds, “In the whole concept of faith, this is a generation that is struggling with faith in ways that we haven’t seen in previous generations.”
Finally, being a part of a church community ensures being a part of a life-long family of faith. No matter where you go or where your children may go, they’ll be united in a Christ-centered family who will care for them the moment they walk in the doors of a godly church.
5. How can we as Starnberg Fellowship help others?
According to Barna Research president David Kinnaman, it means, “…the entire community of faith, across the entire lifespan, working together to fulfill God’s purposes.” As part of the family of faith here in the Starnberg-Gauting area, we may seek to be light and salt, to be God’s feet and hands and to express his loving care to all who enter our doors, and to those whom we meet as we walk out to wherever God leads us. May God embolden and strengthen us as we seek to fulfill his purposes.
Photo by Thomas Wolf via Wikipedia