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OPINION COLUMN: You’ve got to see it to believe it

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As someone who grew up in Florida, I can’t say that I was very familiar with the National Hockey League in my younger years. In fact, I wasn’t even familiar with ice skates. The idea of watching men skate across the ice with a puck for three periods was something that I had no interest in watching. After all, I’d seen it on TV, and it hadn’t looked exciting. It seemed more confusing than anything. What’s an “offsides”? How do you go about “icing” a puck? Honestly, hockey seemed like far too much work to understand or appreciate. Boring!

In the early ’90s, the Tampa Bay Lightning became an expansion team in the NHL. I remember when my father bought two tickets to go to a Lightning game at the cavernous ThunderDome in St. Petersburg.

“You have to see hockey in person to really understand,” our snowbird friends told us.

Admittedly, I was not convinced. How could being at the hockey game in person make me feel any different about something so dull?

Wow, was I ever wrong!

What an experience it was to sit perched high in the stands that night. I watched grown hulks of men glide across the ice with grace and agility that boggled my mind. I caught my breath every time one of the Lightning players got checked into the boards. I remember the sound of the organ, the smell of the popcorn, and the surge of energy coursing through the arena.

My favorite part? When the Lightning scored, the horns blared, and complete strangers high fived each other and cheered together at the top of their lungs. It was an experience that I’ll never forget. Our northern friends were so right. If you weren’t there, you missed out.

Over the years, I’ve had scores of people tell me that attending a church service is an experience that’s more to be endured than enjoyed.

“It’s so boring,” they often lament.

The hymns, the sermon, and all the sitting and standing seem far too much for some people to take part in. Even though these sentiments are rarely based on actual experience, these folks would prefer a root canal over a Sunday morning church service.

Admittedly, simply sitting in church doesn’t make you a Christian no more than standing in your garage makes you a car. Yet the Bible tells us of the importance of being part of a church when it says in Hebrews 10:25, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”

The church house is a sacred place, and being part of a worship service is something you have to physically be a part of to appreciate and understand why it is so important.

There’s something about worshiping God in church that cannot be replicated in any other way.

It’s joining your voice in rapturous song with a sea of men and women, boys and girls. It’s the fellowship of the other people who, although they may have different colored skin, enjoy a kinship with one another. It’s encouragement. It’s strengthening. It’s joy. It’s a thousand things just like these, and they’re the types of things that you simply can’t replicate over a screen (or in the woods or on a lake, as some people say they have their “church”).

In the end, there’s nothing as helpful or encouraging for a soul than to regularly be a part of church services at your local Bible-preaching church.

May I take this moment to challenge your mindset about the great value of belonging to and attending a church? Just as a hockey game is more engaging in person, being a part of a church that proclaims the truth of the Word of God is something you simply can’t afford to miss.

Of course, the best way to derive pleasure from the house of God is to know the God of the house. I implore you to be born again as Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3. This life-changing experience is sure to change your perspective on the joys of church attendance.