The Church Habit

By: Natalie Lamb

In my desire to obtain the fullness of what God wants for me, I have to question everything I do and have done in my Christian walk. I have to look at the mundane things as well as the extraordinary. I must always be in pursuit of the life He wills for me and to make sure I am not doing things to get in His way. One of the most basic behaviors Christians prescribe to is going to church. We pride ourselves on trying to be there as often as the doors open. It is encouraged to come as often as possible and to “press your way” when life gets in the way of church attendance. The general idea is that we need to have a “church habit.” We need to make church such a part of our lives that we don’t even need to think about it. And no matter what happens in our lives the one thing we don’t want to change is our church attendance.

It is thought that if you have a habit of going to church, it will improve your odds of becoming a better Christian. So I began to question if having a church habit is a benefit or a hindrance in becoming whom God wants us to become? Does God desire for us to make him a habit or does He want us to be conscious as we praise and worship Him? A habit is defined as an acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary. Does God want our walk with him to be involuntary, embracing rituals and traditions without thought? Or does he want each behavior and thought towards Him to be purposeful?

It is easy enough to be converted to Christianity and exchange our sinful habitual behaviors for “godly” habitual behaviors. At first we have passion behind our new habits. It was thought out to attend service and expect something amazing. We couldn’t even imagine not going because so much was gained every time we went. Our thinking and hearts were directly attached to our attendance. But as time goes on, if we are honest, coming to church becomes a habit to which we give little thought. Now, many will argue with me and say, “what is wrong with that?” It is a good thing to come to church all the time and for it to be so embedded in you that you don’t even have to think about; come rain or shine - I am there. Now for some that will work and maybe that is the best you have to offer to God. But let me explain where I am coming from.

It is my belief that we are to give are all to God. I Samuel 12:24 says, “Only fear the LORD, and serve him in truth with all your heart: for consider how great things he hath done for you.” In order to give your all you have to be conscious. Consciousness leads to perception and awareness. This is the problem with habits. Even if the habits are good they are still done without consciousness and perception. Why do we need consciousness and perception in living for God? Well, for me to accurately assess my standing I must be conscious of my faults. I must be able to define what I am doing, why I am doing it and what I need to change. If I live my Christ walk in habitual mode I become unaware of me and my relationship with God. I can easily fall into rituals and traditions and do them without thought, even though they may not hurt me. BUT are they really pulling me closer to God and transforming me into who God wants me to become? We see this happening when we all want to look, act, speak, and behave the same way. We remove our uniqueness and God’s multifaceted-ness. God created me to be me and you to be you. God needs me to come to my full potential so that His face can shine through me. If we all become cookie cutter saints, then God’s many faces cannot shine in this world. We deny the different, clever and fascinating sides of God.

God wants transformation not conformity. To conform means to be or become similar in form, nature, or character, where transform means to change in condition, nature, or character; to convert. Lets examine Romans 12. In verse one he asks that we present all our facilities to God; in order to do that we must have purpose of heart. In verse two it goes on to say not to conform to the customs of this present world, but to be transformed by the renewing of your mind. This means you must put thought into all that you are doing for God. The purpose behind the renewing of the mind is for us to find through experience the will of God for us individually. He goes on to tell us not to value ourselves too highly and to cultivate sobriety of judgment. If we further define that, it means to develop or improve by education or training through seriousness and gravity; the ability to judge, make a decision, or form an opinion objectively, authoritatively, and wisely, especially in matters affecting action; good sense; and discretion. Please tell me how you can apply this if we operate in a habitual mode, involuntarily living our lives supposedly in conjunction with God.

Habitual mode goes against the scriptures. How can you test the spirits if you live in a habit of conformity to man-made agendas? The scriptures explicitly tell us to be sober-minded and be vigilant. The problem with habits is when the behavior no longer serves me well, I still continue in it. Let’s say that I had a habit of waking at 5 AM every morning to pray and it worked because I had to be up for work and this time didn’t interfere with the rest of my daily activities. But then I get a job where I work later and need to be sleep past 5 AM but my mind is in “habit mode” and I get up anyway and feel guilty if I don’t; now I am falling asleep at work. Since God is always up I can easily adjust my prayer time to fit more properly into my lifestyle. And with the change of time I am more sober and wise in my prayer time instead of having vain repetitions that the bible speaks negatively of. And if we go back to having a habit of going to church every time the doors open, we also miss the complexity of living a Christian life where we are asked to make wise and educated decisions. For example, I have been working a lot and my child hasn’t had much time with me. Sunday is the only day I have off and I know I won’t be free for another two weeks, it would be wise to make a day all about my child to reinforce to them that they have priority in my life and I recognize they want and need time with me. Or we can use the example of me being sick and needing to stay home and recuperate, but instead I have a church habit so I have to go even though while I am there I don’t hear a thing because my body is hurting and I am wondering why I am even there.

Please understand my point. I am not suggesting that we do not attend church regularly or pray daily. I am suggesting that we put serious thought and passion behind all we do for Christ. If at anytime you begin to operate on robot mode, know that the passion and heart that God desires is not in your actions. Now man may see them and applaud you, but God searches the heart and the motives. We must make sure that all we do is of pureness of heart and mind and not mere involuntary actions. God is so expansive and when we limit him to our habits and comfortable forms of “Christianity”, we have missed what is to move from glory to glory. Don’t you want to see God do new and exciting things in your life, then change your actions and find newness with Him. Come out of your comfort and find Him. Maybe you need to take your praise and worship to the mountains or the beach one weekend. Maybe you need to stop fasting every Wednesday and go have lunch with a sick friend. Maybe instead of waking at 6 am and praying the same way, you call someone in grief and encourage them. One could say you can do all of the above mentioned, but test it out and see if when you break your ‘godly’ routines if you will experience a freshness in your walk. I will end with a quote from an English Novelist, “Habit converts luxurious enjoyments into dull and daily necessities”. Don’t let the luxury of salvation become a dull necessity. Fight to keep your salvation fresh, fluid and exciting; explore new grounds and gain new victories.