This is my fourth and final response in the “Why I Go to Church” series. You can read the first post here, the second response here, and the third here. These articles are my response to a reader who reached out with some honest questions about the importance of church in a believer’s life. I broke his original email down into parts, responding to the various points.
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…
About a year ago, this all changed. I started seeing someone and it was quite evident that God had his hand in it. There was no other possible explanation. She re-started this conversation with God that I had been avoiding. I got sick one snowy day and read a Joel Osteen book. I watch Joyce Meyers every morning (when my internet works!) and I try my best to be the good Christian I was raised. All of these things just fell right into place and they continue to do so.
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 know that it is very important to some people's faith, but I do not feel that way. I lived next to a Methodist preacher who used to say that standing in church makes you a Christian like standing in the garage makes you a car…
First, let me address the quote from the Methodist preacher you lived next to for a time… “standing in church makes you a Christian like standing in the garage makes you a car.” My response - duh. I think we’ve all had enough judgment and legalism to know it’s not about “standing in a church.” I liken this to the people who say “I commune with God more in the woods.” Great, I find him there too.
Church is about the people, because faith isn't done alone. Absolutely, it’s also about worshiping Jesus, learning from God’s word and experiencing the holiness of God in a building. Being in a community with others grows us in the faith in ways we can’t do on our own - ministering to the hurting, singing with the saints, taking Communion, forgiving those in our congregation who hurt us, serving in some capacity. You can’t do any of these things alone in the woods, or in a garage pretending you’re a car.
I believe God is at work in our lives all the time. I hope things are still going well with you and this girl you’ve been seeing. I do not think it’s a coincidence you have “re-started this conversation with God that [you] had been avoiding." God pursues us. You are one of his and he wants a relationship with you - one that includes a local church. Joyce Meyer and Joel Osteen are OK introductions to the Christian faith (some would argue they lean towards prosperity teachings). I’d encourage you to read your Bible! We’re in an age where we have access to the Scripture as never before. Any translation you want at the touch of your fingertips on your phone. Free commentary apps. Nothing will whet your appetite for the things of God like being in his word every day.
Thank you for letting me share your questions with my readers. In four articles, we’ve considered what God had to say about us being a part of a local church (and how we can always do better at that), what we can learn from introverts who join us at church, how important it is to lament together, and now, why going to church doesn’t make you a Christian, but it helps you be a better one. I hope these thoughts have made you think. The Christian faith is a lifelong pursuit, and I am confident God will continue to make himself known to you. Any time you have things you’d like to discuss, let me know.