“and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24
When one lives in far-flung places, it is very easy to skip out on Sunday meetin’s. The reasons are valid, or at least understandable. There are pressures and responsibilities that people who work 9-5 just don’t understand. Agriculture has unique challenges that make getting away difficult.
First, it’s too far. Well yes, it is. You may need to spend lots of time and money to drive to a church. You may not be able to sleep in Sunday morning; you may need to get up while all your city buddies are still snoozing. This can seem like too much to ask, but we all know how early we rise, and how far we drive to a branding or a great bull sale, am I right?!
Secondly, we always have something urgent to do. This one is my personal enemy. I have heard this excuse (not from my husband) and I dislike it. Yes, there will always be something to do. There always is, when you live on a ranch. There are 101 things that need our attention, preferably yesterday. But you gotta choose, okay? That ditch can be dug on Monday, that bunch can be moved later. (unless they’re in the neighbor’s pasture – then get it done now!) Trust me, most of the pressing stuff can wait. It’s a mindset.
Trigger warning: what I am gonna say next may make you upset!
We love our life and we’re happy to sacrifice everything for the ranch. But that’s not so healthy, really. We need to have friends and interests that include things off the ranch. This is one reason so many kids are running away from the ranch when they turn 18. They want nothing to do with our obsession. I can’t blame ’em.
Third, we do try, but then get stuck. This one can be comical, like the time we were headed to church one Sunday morning and noticed one of our bulls standing inside a round-bale feeder! We tried to tip it up, but that bull wasn’t standing around to allow that! He hightailed it up the hill, feeder bouncing along!
I could tell more stories of how we’ve been held up last-minute from church or other plans. It seems the ranch knows when you want to leave. It finds all sorts of weird delays to throw at you. You have to be careful what you allow. It will suck you back into the craziness if you let it. Before you go saddle up or start the tractor – stop! Think; is it a matter of life or death for livestock? If not, it can probably wait a few hours.
Fourth, there’s mostly hypocrites in church anyway. Sadly, there are many hypocrites in church. Churches also often have some gossips, cliques, power-grabbers, and lazy back-seat warmers, too. Which one are you? Are you on fire for God, willing to serve your brothers and sisters in the church? Or are you just wanting to get your blessing for the week and go home? The problem starts with us. How often am I a hypocrite? Have I ever said “I’m praying for you!” but forgotten to actually pray? Hypocrite.
Have I ever acted or talked like my marriage was great, but we actually argued on the way to church? Hypocrite.
Have I pretended to be a faithful reader of God’s Word, but actually only read the verse of the day? Hypocrite.
Sadly, the church does seem to bring that out in us, I don’t know why. But the fact is, there are hypocrites everywhere, so don’t blame your staying home on that. Yes, Christians should live higher lives than celebrities or actors or sports people. They should. But they often don’t. Because the church is US, folks. Just ordinary people like me and you. And if I am a hypocrite – even once, then others can blame it on the church. If you are a ever, ever a hypocrite – even once – then someone may be using you as their excuse.
Lastly, I can worship God here on the ranch, surrounded by His nature. This one sounds so good. Anyone who has watched the sunrise over the hills, or walked though a fresh-cut hay field, or stopped to listen to the call of a bird on a warm summer evening knows the sense of awe that comes over you.
But friends, that isn’t church. Yes, Jesus preached on a hillside. When you have a crowd of 5,000 following you, feel free to have church on the hillside.
Church is about fellowship with other local believers. Encouraging one another in the faith. Speaking truth from different view points, so you stay balanced. Support in difficult times, and praise together in the good.
You just can’t get that alone. You can learn many things from God while you are alone on the ranch. Many lessons in nature, many neat truths from Scripture. But those cows aren’t gonna ask you how your week has been. The pony isn’t going to say: “Hey, let’s pray about that thing in your life.” The dog, much as he loves you, is never going to say “Come over and eat tacos with us tonight.”
There are so many blessings you can get from being a regular, committed part of a church. I know – many churches aren’t functioning correctly. In the effort to not step on toes, they have made everything bland and generic and unhelpful. But go anyways. Ask God to lead you to a place where you can go and find fellowship. Even if it is 1-2 other people in your home, who also love the Lord and have a vision to grow His kingdom.
“For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.” Matt. 18:20
We need other faithful Christian friends to keep us sharp.
Bonus: we have nothing in common with those city folk. Well, Jesus came from Heaven, and yet He found a way to fellowship with us earthlings! So… I guess we can manage to get outside our little world and find fellowship with people who live in the concrete jungle! Seriously though, it is great to be with other ranch folk. But don’t pick a church by the clothes the pastor wears. Find one that sticks close to truth. Cowboy church is great – IF it’s great. But slapping a hat on your head does not mean your theology is sound. Be wise.
You may feel like it isn’t worth the effort, but I can tell you that if you find other like-minded Christians to fellowship with on a regular basis, you will grow. You will be encouraged. It will be worth every commitment and sacrifice. Give your best to God, and He will bless you spiritually.
What are some obstacles you face, that make it difficult to make to church?