A reader sent me a message that has had me thinking for more than a month now. I have responded to his questions a little bit but it’s felt incomplete. When I mentioned the topic might become a blog post, he said he’d feel like a superstar if he made it in the blog! Well, I don’t know about all that, but I do want to have the conversation. He brought up several pieces in his original message and I’d like to address them one at a time. The first point is right below this paragraph, followed by a portion of the closing paragraph he wrote to me. In answering his questions one post at a time, I’m hoping to better clarify why I go to church.
Traci, I enjoyed the Lectio Divina post I just read. I was raised Catholic and much like you, felt that the church I went to was somehow superior. I went to a parochial school and we studied in school as well as in church. At some point in my adolescence, I strayed from church as a regular activity, as time passed I stopped going altogether….
Let me get to the point- I did not mean to ramble and I got totally off subject- I am wondering, do I need to go to church? I feel like if I do, it would only be because someone else wants me to. I guess I am just reaching out to you as someone whose opinion I respect. I know you are constantly pondering theological questions and looking for other viewpoints and I wanted to know what you thought. It's come up a few times lately and I have really been struggling with it.
If I strip my participation in church down to its rawest form, what do I find? This is the starting place, I believe. I attend church, first and foremost, because of what it gives me. I think I can honestly say that. My entire life, I’ve loved going to church. I’m pretty social, so the atmosphere suits me. I love hymns and the praise/worship songs. I’ve learned under some amazing preaching. I love my Bible. Does this make me a total oddball? Should the Christians who like to go to church be the only ones who go?
No! I think God wants us all at church (so much more on that later). Here are some words from Christ and from the writer of Hebrews that support my opinion.
I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. John 17:20-23
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25
The only way I know to be one & meet together is to physically gather on a regular basis.
What I find most interesting in recent years is that I no longer feel one church (or denomination) is superior. I have branched out and attended some new-to-me worship services, and I have an encounter with Jesus every time. Believe me, no one is more surprised by this than me. When I read that my friend had strayed from church as a regular activity, as time passed stopped going altogether, I didn’t judge him for skipping church. I wondered why no one ever checked in with him. Wasn’t it obvious his seat was empty? This wasn’t a casual attendee. He’d gone to church and school with the same church family his whole life. It doesn’t matter to me what church you go to, as long as they’re teaching from the Bible. What I’ve realized is that if we would do a better job of being the Church (universally, not individually), people would find it imperative to their faith walks. They would know fellowship and acceptance. They would want to be there!
Catholic or Baptist, Methodist or Lutheran, ___________ fill in the blank with your denomination, I think we can do a lot better at being the church. Stop critiquing and start encouraging. If you notice a gap in the ministries your church offers, God might have brought this to your attention because you’re the one to fill the gap. If you notice a seat is empty for several Sundays in a row, hunt that person down and find out where they’ve been! When new people visit your church, get out of your assigned seat and say hello.
Maybe if we did a better job at being the church, more people would have a desire to join us. I know this, and it’s part of my initial response to this reader, I think a Christian should want to be at church. Both the individuals and the church itself need to own their part in why someone wouldn’t want to be there.