Why go to church?
I’ve been a church-going Christian for over three decades. For over two of those decades, I was a pastor on staff at a church – first as a youth pastor, then as a worship pastor, then as a children’s pastor. During those years, I could give you some good reasons why you should choose go to church, but for me and for the other staff pastors, there was really no “choice.” It’s not like we could wake up on Sunday morning and say, “Eh…I really don’t feel like going to church today.”
Now things are different for me. Earlier this year, my baton was passed to an amazing and dynamic new kids pastor, and since then, after decades of having no “choice” of going to church (if I wanted to keep my job), now I get to choose whether or not I’m going to church each Sunday.
And I choose YES!
It seems like this time of year, coinciding with the “Back to School” routine, many Christians are joining the “Back to Church” routine.
Routine. That’s a scary word to me, because routine activities can become just that. Routine. I propose we change that word to “routiney”, because then we’d be forced to notice the “Y” in it.
Every activity is way more meaningful when we remind ourselves exactly why we’re doing it. If we don’t ask, “What is the purpose of this activity I’m doing right now?” that activity can begin to feel quite purposeless.
So, let me ask you: exactly why do you go to church? To worship God? To make Christian friends? To meet a nice Christian man? To learn more of God’s Word? To have someone pray for you? To teach a Sunday school class? It’s the best coffee in town? You enjoy the music? To make your parents happy? It’s a great networking opportunity for your business? Simply because the Bible says so? (Hebrews 10:25)
You know, I think there are many reasons why we attend church. I think there are some good reasons, as well as some “not-so-good” reasons. The thing that amazes me is that God is so gracious, He will meet us even when our motives are not the most pure. I first chose to go to church (instead of being forced by my mom) as a sophomore in high school because a friend invited me, and there was a good chance I would meet some cute boys at that church. Even though that was my motive, God totally transformed my life there.
Yes, God is gracious and patient, but sooner or later, we need to go for the right reasons in order to get what God intended out of the experience.
There are many good reasons, but here are my faves—Three “Y”s that I need to remind myself of on those days I feel like sleeping in.
#1 I go to church to be an active part of something bigger than myself.
When we place our faith in Christ, we become a part of the “Body of Christ”.
Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 1 Corinthians 12:12 (ESV)
We naturally (and kinda arrogantly) think everyone—especially the pastor—should think, act, and feel like we do.
If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 1 Corinthians 12:17 (ESV)
I think there are many times in which we look at other Christians in the church, and we think, “And how could I possibly need her?” And that’s where we simply need to trust that God knows exactly what we need.
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 1 Corinthians 12:21 (ESV)
#2 I go to church to learn how to become more like Christ.
We can study the Bible at home. We can listen to sermons online. We can worship God anywhere with or without music. So why go to church?
Because we cannot fully learn to become more like Christ in isolation. Jesus gave His time and eventually His life to a less-than-ideal group of guys. He washed the feet of Peter who would deny Him, of Thomas who always seemed to doubt Him, of James and John who wanted to use Jesus to get right and left hand seats in glory, and Judas who would flat out betray Him.
Jesus never isolated Himself. He served and lovingly spoke truth to people who were nothing like Him. God’s plan for us is not only to know Jesus more, but to become like Him as well. We cannot learn to have His attitude of putting others first if there are no others in our lives to put first.
For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. Romans 8:29 (NLT)
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Philippians 2:3 (ESV)
#3 I go to church because giving is more rewarding than getting.
I often think of Paul the Apostle on his missionary journeys, and of all the trials he must have gone through to share the Gospel message with lots of people. When I’m at church, I think, “Wow, I just rode ten minutes in a comfy car to get here, and all these people just magically showed up for me to encourage them to get closer to Jesus. I have it waaaaaaayyyy easier than Paul did.”
Who can you encourage to get closer to Jesus when you see them at church? Which reluctant guest can you greet with a smile and put their heart at ease to hear from God that day? It’s crazy. The more I go to church to give, the more I get out of it.
Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25 (NLT)
Questions to ask yourself this week:
Why am I going to church this week?
Why “should I” be going to church this week?
How can I become more like Christ?
How can I help and encourage others to become more like Christ?
Coming up next week:
How to Help Your Pastor Become a Better Preacher (Ooooo, this one’s gonna be fun. :))