To be honest with you, I’ve tried to write this post multiple times now. I sit down to write and I think “Okay, I feel the Spirit moving me…I’m having a lot of thoughts…it’s time to start writing.” And then I get overwhelmed, frustrated, overthink the whole thing, and end up scrapping about 70% of what I wrote.
The problem is, church is a difficult thing to write about; there are so many avenues to explore, it’s difficult for me to map out a quest for myself, and then stick to the designated route. Church is possibly one of the most fascinating, and yet conflicted area of any religion – especially Christianity. So often I hear “I like Jesus, but I can’t stand Christians.” “I like the idea of God, but I don’t like church.” Or, the one that hurts my heart the most, “I’m a Christian but I don’t get along with other Christians. I’m just not meant to be in a church.” Most thought-provoking of all, “I like being in churches – I don’t like church.”
I’ve gone back and forth writing multiple drafts of this post and here’s what I’ve concluded: I can’t tell you why you should go to church.
Just like I can’t convince you why you should choose Jesus, it is not within my power to convince you to go to church.
Which is good for me because I don’t want to talk anyone into going to church.
What I am going to do, however, is tell you why I’m in church.
Before I start, I have to give this small preface: I am not the world’s most faithful church attendee at this time. In the last year and a half since my sister’s death I’ve had ebbs and flows with my physical church attendance. I’ll address that on a more personal level as we go along with this post, but I felt that it was an important note to make at the beginning, at the risk of being called a hypocrite “you wrote an entire post telling people why you go to church? You spent five months never showing your face!”
Yup. I did. Which is why it’s so important to me that I write about Church.
I hear a lot about what the church is; the body of Christ, a public building where people come together to worship, fellow believers coming together to build one another up in love, and to do good in the community. The option is generally out there: “So, if you want to be a part of that, you should come. We also have donuts and coffee and stuff. It’s cool.”
Yeah, I really don’t like describing my experience at church as “cool”. Especially since we usually use the word “cool” when describing something that is, in fact, moderately lame.
Without further ado, here are seven reasons why I go to church:
Numero Uno: I like being around other Christians. I like being around other Christians because in them, I have found fellow warrior-servants that are on similar paths through life that I am.
Everyone is unique and it is incredibly unlikely that I will ever meet someone that is walking the exact same path that I am, but there are others struggling with the same things that I am. Sin is not terribly selective about who’s heart it takes residence within. Pride finds its way into high school girls and middle aged men alike. Discontentedness settles over the eyes of middle school boys and young mothers the same way. When I go to church, I am surrounded by brothers and sisters that have walked through life’s issues that might be nothing like my own, but their burdens of doubt, anger, discouragement, frustration, etc. are all the same. I find others that have been challenged in their faith and learned lessons that they can share with me. When I am at church, I find myself standing in an armory beset by those that are fighting the same battles that I am.
Numero Dos: “For where two or three gather in my name, there I am in the midst.” (Matthew 18:20) This is one of my favorite verses about the church. Jesus Himself is giving a very direct promise to the disciples in this verse, where He tells them that whenever believers gather together, He is there. His spirit is among them. This re-highlights that church is not a building, but a congregation of believers. But more than that, this promise is filled with power: church is important because it is where Jesus’s presence is the most prominent. Because I am a believer, the Holy Spirit is within me no matter where I go or what I do. But when I am with fellow believers, I believe that this power becomes focused. When people that are filled with the holy spirit come together, how can something not change? When people that love and serve God are all standing in the same room, how can we walk by and remain completely unimpacted?
Numero Tres: I have a busy life. I’m currently working on making it more of a habit to rest and be still – both physically and mentally; more about that later – but habits are difficult to break. Full time student, working for my family’s manufacturing company, building my writing portfolio, piloting an artist ministry for a church near my college campus, and the ridiculous amount of cups of coffee I consume with friends, my calendar stays booked solid most of the time. (Not including all of the fun adult-ing things that I get to do…my car is more than overdue for an oil change right now…ouch.) But when I get to church, all of the noise that fills my head gets quiet. Not by magic, but by intention. I pull into the parking lot and as I walk into the building I intentionally lay all of that at God’s feet and decide this is my time to be handing Him my problems, enjoying other believers, praying for one another, and leaving my heart open for how God wants to speak to me through the message about to be delivered. Sure, I can do this whenever I really decide to, but on the weeks that I don’t bring myself to church (#fivemonthhiatusbyGrace) I really don’t set aside a whole lot of quality time that I spend with God. I don’t really spend a lot of time in prayer for other believers. I let it slip and I don’t worry about it. The result is, my heart grows weary from carrying my burdens. I get worn out by the noise in my head.
Numero Quatro: Along with getting busy and discouraged, when I’m not in church I completely lose sight of my entire purpose/destination here on earth. One of the biggest noises that screams in my ears is “you need to do more to be happy.” I need to be involved serving more ministries. I need to work harder in school to make better grades. I need to make better grades so I can get a better job someday to make more money someday. I need to put in more hours at work so I can make more money now. I need to have more friends and do more and more interesting things so I can be happy. It’s a chain-of-thought that continuously tears me down. But when I step into church and spend time with my family members in Christ, I am reminded that this is not my home. When I spend most of my time in the world, I forget that I am not a citizen of the world. When I make time to be in church, I remember that I’m actually a citizen of Heaven.
Numero Cinco: I listen to a lot of podcasts and read a lot of books that other Christians have written. (I’m thinking that a post listing some of my favorite podcasts and books on different topics will be in order for future reference.) The words of Charles Stanley, Francis Chan, Mo Isom, Nancy DeMoss and Charles Spurgeon often find their way into my mind throughout the week. But all of them are supplemental to solid, weekly teaching. I can listen to 20-30 minute sound bytes from pastors all week but it will never outshine the full experience of sitting and listening to a live teaching. Believe me, I’ve tried. During my “church hiatus” I would try to convince myself that “I’ll just listen to some Bethel worship and read a chapter or two from Crazy Love and be fine.” A metaphor to describe what I was doing would be, if you were an athlete, training daily and burning muscle, calories and fat, but refusing to eat real meals with proteins and vegetables and grains…but instead supplementing with vitamins. It don’t work like that, hon.
Numero Seis: It is important to note that in this next item, the need for a solid, Bible-teaching church is imperative. The childhood Sunday school song speaks truth: “Read your Bible, pray every day, and you’ll grow – grow – grow.” I will not grow and become a stronger Christian if I don’t go to church. When you are in church, you’re listening to teachers speak timeless truths from the WORD OF GOD. WHAT?! Yeah. And it’s awesome. A pop-culture adage I see floating around social media is “I don’t go to church. I am the church.” You can’t pit “Going to church” and “Being the church” against one another. In the Bible, “Church” never refers to one person, but a congregation. To take from a thought provoking article on this very topic from Think Eternity website “If we are truly ‘the church’ then we will surely get together with other believers regularly.”
Numero Siete: I go to church because God said so. It’s much more than that, but even if I didn’t have six other reasons – that honestly branch into many, many more reasons – I would still go because God said so. In Hebrews 10:24-25 it says “And let us consider how we may spur one another toward love and good, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as the Day approaches.” (Author note: “the Day” is referring to the return of Christ.) As Christians, we are called to meet with other Christians regularly to encourage one another in love and good. God is saying don’t let yourself become complacent. Don’t be like everyone else that says “I’m a Christian that doesn’t need church.” Be a Christian that takes God’s words seriously and puts them into action.
Final thoughts: My favorite verse referring to church comes from Ephesians: “So Christ Himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip His people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the full measure of the fullness of Christ.” (4:11-13) Before Jesus, we didn’t have The Church. Because of Jesus we now have apostles, prophets, evangelist, pastors and teachers that are here to equip fellow Christians – so the body of Christ can be built. Isn’t that incredible? When I skip church, I am missing out on specific, tailor-made gifts that God has created for his believers on earth.