According to Forbes Magazine, “the average car on the road today is almost eleven years old.” Those made since 1996 have “service engine” lights, and a remarkable 80 percent of the vehicles we pass on the highway currently need servicing or repairs. In many of them the “service engine” light is on. In fact, Forbes claims that 9 million drivers in the United States have been ignoring their “service engine” light for three months or more.1

If you’re like me, the “service engine” light is a frustrating icon. Most of us have no idea what it means or why it turned itself on. It doesn’t tell us what the problem is—just that something is wrong somewhere in our car, even though the vehicle seems to be running just fine to us and the trip to the shop may be expensive. We need a mechanic to run diagnostic tests with small computers to tell us the nature of our problem and perhaps replace an oxygen sensor, a catalytic converter, or a mass airflow sensor. If we’re lucky, it’s just a matter of a new spark plug or gas cap. Though frustrating, I guess we should be thankful for advanced technology that warns us before our jalopies totally break down.

If there’s a “service engine” light in the Christian life, it’s church attendance. As a pastor, I know church attendance is often the external indicator of a person’s spiritual state. If people start skipping church, it’s likely because they’ve lost momentum in their faith, they’ve been diverted by lesser pursuits, they’ve had a conflict with someone in the congregation, or they’ve fallen into a sin that’s robbed them of the joy of worship. Maybe they’ve gotten too busy, and their lives are out of balance.

In some cases, illness and infirmity keep people from church. A crisis in the family can disrupt church attendance patterns. Our jobs often interfere, and work schedules change. Still, speaking as a pastor, I want to know what’s going on in the lives of my people, and I long for them to want to be in church as much as I want them to be there. When people are AWOL, it’s like a “service engine” light indicating they need assistance.

Personal devotions and private Bible study are great, but something special happens in our hearts as we consistently sit under the sound teaching of God’s Word. It’s uplifting to play Christian music on the radio, but it’s even better when we’re lifting our voices with the crowds around us, everyone singing praise to God. The Bible exhorts us: “Let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25).

Vance Havner once said, “There is something wrong with our Christianity when we have to beg most of our crowd to come to church to hear about it.2 How true! I hope you’re attending a good church where the Bible is rightly divided and systematically taught, where songs both ancient and modern are woven into tapestries of praise, where prayers are offered, where the Gospel is preached, and the Cross is proclaimed. We need churches where love unites the members and is displayed to the world.

In such environments we make ourselves accessible to the Holy Spirit as He moves among His people; and we open ourselves to God’s grace, guidance, words of insight, and fellowship of love. We can’t accelerate in our Christian experience without being in a healthy church. If you need assistance while traveling down the straight and narrow road, let your church’s worship service keep your “service engine” light unlit.

Check-Up Challenge: Glance at your calendar and see how many weeks of church you’ve missed in the last three months. Think of it as an illumined “service engine” light and make a specific plan to be in church this weekend (and the next).

1Joann Muller, “What That Dreaded ‘Check Engine’ Repair Will Cost You,” December 7, 2012, at

2Vance Havner, In Times Like These (Old Tappan, NJ:  Fleming H. Revell Company, 1969), 73.