One of the things I miss about being back on campus at Piedmont Baptist College is the daily chapels. I’m thankful my school offers online classes so I could do out of state internships while finishing a few classes, but I do miss being able to go to chapel everyday. Honestly, this was not my attitude over the past four years of being on campus though. Going to chapel everyday during the week started to get routine and with everything going on in classes it became a great time to take a “chapel skip” and do work or get a quick nap. Now that I am doing full-time work in a church, I miss being able to gather with my peers daily for a time of worship in singing and hearing God’s Word preached. I also think back to my high school years when I attended Union Grove Christian School. We had chapel 2-3 times a week and those became too routine for me as well.
Between growing up in Christian school and attending a Bible college that had chapel everyday, I had the privilege to hear God’s Word preached so often that if I applied everything I heard my spiritual growth should be off the charts! When your in a Bible college and you have to attend chapel a few days a week, or everyday, its easy to get into the rut of just going and not truly receiving God’s Word. If you can identify with where I am coming from, or go to a school or college that has chapels many days a week, then take the time to read this great article from a website called Going to Seminary.
Weekly chapel is an exciting rite of passage in the first weeks of seminary. I can still remember many sermons where a pastor would talk about his own chapel experiences way back in the day. This past year it was my turn. My wife even came to the first couple of chapel services too. I have to admit: the novelty wore off by the third or fourth chapel.
The first time I didn’t go to chapel I thought I had a pretty good excuse. I missed my quiet time with the Lord that morning at home. I was tired from not sleeping well the night before and my brain was already full from two hours of mind-boggling new information in hermeneutics class.
I was surprised to learn that I was not alone. I walked around the campus feeling like I’d stumbled into a secret club. Here and there, students were dotted around the campus. I thought I’d missed the rapture—and I’m an amillenielist! Other guys and gals were talking on their cell phones, typing away on their laptops, or just clustered around a table in the corner of the student center talking sports…or Greek (and then back to sports). When I asked one guy about why he didn’t go to chapel he shrugged his shoulders, “It’s an hour to get stuff done.” By the next week, when I had an assignment due that afternoon, I found out he was right.
OK, forget me, forget the other student. Forget even yourself. What about Jesus? He is our example for all things, but what about for attending chapel?
Think about the Lord’s experience growing up in Palestine. In coming to fulfill the Law and being Himself a model Jew, Jesus would have certainly attended synagogue every Sabbath and journey to Jerusalem at set times. Judging from what He had to argue against during His public ministry, I can’t imagine what He sat through before then.
Imagine Him sitting quietly, listening to Pharisees placing legalistic burdens on their hearers. How He must’ve wanted to shake His head at the misguided Sadducees denying the resurrection. How many eloquent-but-meaningless musings from the scribes, did He endure? Sure, there had to be times where He thought joyfully to Himself, “This one is not far from the kingdom!” But those moments were rare, unlike the religious hypocrisy of many teachers on display in the public places during the week. How many trips did He make to Jerusalem, where He would see and hear all of these things on a grand scale? It’s enough to make one never go again…
…but not Jesus.
Scripture gives no indication that He ever questioned/debated/argued with the religious leaders of His day before His public ministry began. To do so before His appointed time would have been disrespectful. It would have been dishonoring to His Father. No, Jesus came “to fulfill all righteousness” (Matt. 3:15). He did “all things well” (Mark 7:37). In fact, for these same reasons, not only did He attend services, He would have paid careful attention too. (As hard as this is for me to write–knowing my own shortcoming in this area—if He was a student today He also would not be surfing the internet during class lectures.)
Jesus, then, would go to chapel.
As I thought all of this through, when I came to the conclusion that Jesus would go to chapel (and pay attention in lectures) I was convicted. I started going to chapel again. Honestly, it is not always edifying. Sometimes I don’t know the songs, sometimes the sermon is academic, maybe, but not inspired. Other times I am simply pre-occupied with thoughts about what I just learned that morning, upcoming papers, or how I am going to pay for next semester. But I go because I want to be obedient to the Lord. He brought me here to seminary in the first place. He also was obedient and faithful in far more than just going to mid-week chapel. Do I not owe Him at least that?
Piedmont Baptist College students, please don’t take going to chapel everyday for granted. Go with a heart that is ready to worship God and apply whatever He teaches you. Christian school students, enjoy the break from classes and go to chapel ready to learn something from God’s Word. Online students, take time regularly to stop doing work and listen to your school’s chapel podcast or a chapel podcast from another school you respect.
Anthony Russo is a seminary student preparing for pastoral ministry. He originally wrote the Would Jesus Go to Chapel? that appeared on the Going to Seminary website. You can go here to see more of his posts. He has some really good stuff so check it out!