Why do you go to church?
I hadn’t really thought about it before… that’s what Christians do, right? But then several people challenged my assumptions, and this question has been nagging me ever since.
I didn’t always go to church. My family wasn’t “religious” and church wasn’t part of my childhood. When I became a believer, at the end of my freshman year in college, all my Christian friends assumed I’d be going to church with them—so I did. I’ve been attending church regularly ever since.
Recently, during my search for a meaningful church experience, I re-examined my purpose in attending a weekend service. What was the point? I searched through scripture, talked to friends, and read books and articles. Along the way, I learned a few things.
It’s all about worship
There’s a reason it’s called a “worship service.” Most churches strive to offer an experience, enhanced by music, that makes us feel close to God. Some congregations stress the personal feelings angle, while others encourage us to “bless the Lord” with songs of praise and devotion. The loud music, the colored lights (which seem to have replaced stained glass) and assorted other visual effects are all aimed at creating an atmosphere where we can sense God’s presence.
The music is often followed by an offering, another act of worship where we declare that God is Lord of our finances.
Worship is an essential aspect of a believer’s life, but it’s not a sufficient reason to go to church. Everything we do should be considered worship. As Paul puts it in Romans 12:1, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” Worship is acknowledging that God is God, and submitting to his lordship, every minute of every day. It’s not something we do for just a few hours a week.
It’s all about the sermon
The sermon is usually considered the centerpiece of any church service. A pastor (or minister, or whatever you happen to call him—and it’s usually a him), who has had years of training in biblical exegesis, interprets the scriptures so that the average parishioner in the pew can understand them. Plenty of examples from everyday life encourage everyone to apply what they have just learned. After years of sermons, I know a lot about Christianity.
Sermons are certainly Biblical. In Acts 20:7-12, we read about one of Paul’s sermons, which went on for so long that one of his listeners, a young man named Eutychus, fell asleep… and then fell out the third story window!
Yes, sermons are helpful, but in this day of readily available books, magazines, and Google, we don’t need to go to church to become knowledgeable about our faith. How can one person’s teachings, week after week, compare to the information we have available at our fingertips? Why not learn from the most profound writers, the most moving speakers, or the most eminent scholars?
It’s all about…??
I came across some other tantalizing tidbits as I read through the Bible—other purposes for gathering together modeled by the first century church. How about…
- coming together for a meal? (Acts 2:46)
- coming together to share all our possessions? (Acts 2:44-45)
- coming together to unite in prayer? (Matthew 18:19)
- coming together so God will bless us with his presence? (Matthew 18:20)
- coming together because we like one another? (1 John 1:7)
What it’s really all about
My final conclusion is that church is all these things and more, as we do them together. It’s all about being one body, with Christ as the head. I got so excited about this idea that I wrote an entire post about it. I’ll talk about that next time. Meanwhile…
Why do you go to church?
I think you’re right that the church is what we do together as a family. Orchestrating that into a regular, consistent pattern (e.g. Sunday service) does not make it church, and indeed may have the opposite effect. Ever read “So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore?” by Wayne Jacobsen?
Yes, I’ve read Jacobsen’s book. (http://www.lifestream.org/waynes-books.php?bid=6) I thought he had a lot of good points. However, I think we need to be intentional about our gathering together or we’ll tend to drift away. I schedule weekly together times with Pete and with my friends, so why not the church?
Church should be about God. We go to honor Him and connect with Him. I think too often we make church about us, and forget the reason why we should be going. Great post though. Really got me thinking.
I totally agree that church should be about God. Everything should be about God. But why meet together as the church? We can (and hopefully do) honor Him and connect with Him all by ourselves.