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Why Going Through the Motions Isn’t Always a Bad Thing

What if going through the motions wasn’t such a bad thing?

I know, we trash the idea. We preach against it. We listen to the song on K-Love. We pride ourselves on the fact that we’re all about relationship, not religion.

But what if … what if we could use a little bit more religion in our lives? When did that word become so negative?

Of course, we understand the negative side:

• Going to church because you have to.

• Singing worship songs with a disconnected heart.

• Playing it safe.

• Living a different life Sunday than you do Monday through Saturday.

But what if the motions are there to serve us?

Of course, not all religious practices and habits are helpful. I’m talking about the biblical ones. The ones that remind us who we are as the people of God.

Go Through the Motions

Much of this is a matter of semantics, but I also know that going through the motions isn’t always wasted.

Here’s a look into my life:

Most of my childhood church attendance was “going through the motions.” I didn’t want to be there. I would have rather stayed home. Actually that’s not true because if I stayed home I would have missed out on lunch at Chili’s. Chili’s was delicious (and still is).

But the motions my parents led me through helped to form me into who I am today. It wasn’t my choice when I was younger, but it laid a great foundation for when it was.

I’m super fickle. One day I can feel like reading my Bible and the next it’s the last thing I want to do. Having a daily “motion” of Bible reading is healthy for me because I do it whether I feel like it or not. I go through the motions and I’m changed on the inside.

Most of the time I don’t wake up on Sunday longing to take communion. I’m not that spiritual. But when we take communion at church, I’m reminded of what Jesus has done. That is a motion I want to continue practicing.

Motions keep me where I need to be, whether I feel like it or not. It’s like an automatic withdrawal into a savings account. Whether you feel like it or not, it’s going to withdraw. You remove decision making from the equation.

We are shaped by our habits. We are what we repeatedly do (thanks, Aristotle, for that). If that is true, the motions we choose to go through are of utmost importance. They are shaping who we are.

Why Religion Is a Negative Word for Some People

Those who talk about “relationship not religion” are typically those whose only understanding of church was mindless and boring.

They experienced a real encounter with God, but it wasn’t because they attended their weekly service. It was a subsequent gathering where they felt the presence of God like never before.

Maybe your past religious experience looked like this:

• Recite 15 Hail Mary’s.

• Listen to a disengaged, monotone priest.

• Pay your dues.

• Go to confession.

It wasn’t their choice to go so it wasn’t personal. But then they “found Jesus” and everything changed. I’m not doubting their transformation. I can think of someone like my Mom who did a complete 180 and was never the same again.

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David is a Worship Pastor at Allison Park Church in Pittsburgh, PA.