FOCUS – Why you must go to church
While many bedridden Christians long to go to church, even more healthy people who profess to be believers do not go to church much at all. These Lone Ranger Christians have varied excuses for not attending:
1. I work long hours; Sunday is my only day of rest. (True rest is found in the Lord.)
2. I work Sunday mornings. (Churches everywhere have alternate services.)
3. I can worship God anywhere. (Then why not within his designated house, with his other children?)
It seems to me that Hebrews 10:25 should put an end to all discussion on this matter: “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another.” In my mind, that is a crystal clear mandate from God. But since so many people seem to ignore this command, I would like to mention just a few reasons for attending church.
1. You’re not doing what you say you’re doing. Many people say that they prefer to worship God in the great outdoors. If God must share center stage with the fish you’re reeling in or the view from atop a mountain you’ve just climbed, something is wrong. Idyllic settings will certainly make us think of God. But God has identified a day a week where he alone is the focal point. Even if you do successfully worship outdoors, God has placed great emphasis on group worship. It was during group worship that the Holy Spirit descended as fire. (Acts 2) Can you imagine the Holy Spirit descending one by one upon the early disciples as they were out enjoying a variety of activities, like hiking or rock climbing? The image is vastly different. Group worship is also our eternal destiny (see Revelation 19).
2. You can’t be your only teacher. God has gifted others to teach you. The person in the pulpit, the Sunday school teacher, the usher, the person next to you in the pew all of these people can contribute to your growth as a Christian, if you allow them. Proverbs 27:17 says: “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”
3. You can’t hold yourself accountable. Every Christian needs to check in with others who will give her a different perspective, help her see her sin, and guide her back to truth. “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed,” says James 5:16. For the most part, these relationships come from being connected to a church body. There are others with whom one might connect Christian work mates, for example. But those who rarely attend church are reluctant to enter any true accountability relationship.
3. A functioning Christian is part of a group mission. At the Willingen Conference of the International Missionary Council it was declared “there is no participation in Christ without participation in his mission to the world.” In other words, you aren’t part of Christ, you are not united with him, unless you are part of his mission. Over the last few decades, the word “mission” has been redefined. It does not simply describe an inner city church or a ministry in a third world country. Mission is why we exist. In his book The Open Secret, Lesslie Newbigin points out that those who belong to Christ were called to be bearers of the gospel, not “exclusive beneficiaries.” The church is called together by God to spread the gospel to every corner of the world, far and near. George Hunsberger writes: “Unlike the previous notion of the church as an entity located in a facility or in an institutional organization and its activities, the church is being reconceived as a community, a gathered people, brought together by a common calling and vocation to be a sent people.” (Missional Church, ed. Guder) Church isn’t about a building full of activities. It is about a body of people doing all they can to proclaim the authority of God and the good news of Christ to everyone they can. To be part of this mission, you must belong to the group! Imagine a Lone Ranger Christian leading a friend to salvation in Christ. Would he say, “Congratulations; here’s a Bible; good luck”? I suppose that even the Lone Ranger would know that the new Christian needed to find a church home so he could develop and become part of the mission.
While church isn’t about buildings and activities, buildings and activities are practical outcomes of the mission. Groups of people united in purpose must have a place to meet. Within those meeting places programs must take place to equip Christians and to attract others to the Kingdom.
In a world of disconnection, church is a place to bond, to love, to dream. And on this profane, sacrilegious planet there are still some sacred places. For so many reasons, I still believe that my church is one such place.
e-mail Amy Reardon at email@example.com