It’s the final exam time of year for most high schoolers. As a youth pastor I get a lot of questions about this time. Sometimes, young Christians tell me that they won’t be coming to church this week because they are too busy studying for those finals.
I get that. I know what it’s like to spend hours at studying for a huge test or writing a massive research paper. I crammed a bachelor’s degree into three and a half years and a master’s degree into a year and a half. I know what it’s like to have a huge amount of pressure or high expectations from parents, teachers, and yourself. I’m not writing about this to add even more pressure to your already busy week or guilt trip you into coming to church.
Many people in our church culture have an improper or even unbiblical understanding of the importance of church. There are no doubt Christians reading this who think it’s somewhat silly that I would put such a big emphasis on always being there. But I can’t help coming away from reading the Apostle Paul and think that I really need to be at church “so much the more as (I) see the day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25). Paul instructs us that it should be the desire of every Christian to worship together (Ephesians 5:19-20), to fellowship together (1 Thessalonians 5:11), and to be taught God’s Word together (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Church isn’t just on my priority list – it’s at the top!
The truth we can all attest to is that saying, “I’m really busy right now” is a very easy excuse to use for a lot of things in life. And for a lot of things in life, it’s even a legitimate excuse. I’d love to put some work into my kitchen but I really don’t have time right now. Some days I’d love to take a nap or watch my favorite sports team play but the grass needs mowed. Sometimes I really am “too busy right now.” But this excuse doesn’t work when it comes to church attendance. If dedicating 2 hours to public worship and Bible study on Sunday and 1 more on Wednesday is too much for me, how does that reflect on my priorities as a Christian?
When I was in high school, college, and seminary there were many times where I was tempted to skip a church service to catch up on school work but one thing kept bringing me back. I worried about what those habits would look like after graduation. Studying for an exam is hard work. But so is being a businessman under massive pressure from his boss. If I couldn’t learn how to make space in my life for important things (like church), then how would I be able to cope in the future with the competing demands of work and family?
There’s no doubt that finals can be stressful. For me, I know that I would hole up in the library during college that whole finals weeks only to come out of hiding to grab a large coffee and a quick bite to eat. I was like many of you reading this right now – I didn’t want to fail! But in the midst of my stress I committed to never missing church. What could be more important, during times of great stress, than to spend an hour or more with my brothers and sisters in Christ and be reminded of who our God is? Church wasn’t a frustrating interruption to my study schedule, it was a welcome reprieve from study stress!
I fear that you are not fully realizing that skipping church to study for a test is a dangerous one – not for the church, but for you! Frankly, this isn’t about your pastor or even the church. While your lack of attendance does impact them it impacts you most of all. You don’t earn God’s grace by attending church, but you DO experience God’s grace. Don’t let your pursuit of schooling get in the way of your pursuit of the Savior. Commit to being at church during finals week. I know you won’t regret it!
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