“Why do I have to go to church?”
“I can do ‘church’ on my own.”
“I don’t get anything out of it.”
I’ve heard all of them. I used to say the last one in my weaker seasons.
I once had a friend tell me, “I can worship God anywhere. I can do church in a forest. I can do it alone.” In one sense, he was right. We can worship God on the highest mountain or the lowest pit. He is not confined to a church building, but God intended for us to have a community as Christians so we could help each other.
So what’s the point of “going to church” if I can worship God anywhere?
What if it is boring, inconvenient, or full of hypocrites?
What is “church”?
The church is not a place, it’s people. We are a people called out of darkness, called out of the world, and called to come together and glorify the Savior.
If you look up church in the dictionary, it will define “church” as a building. The Bible, however, contains a different meaning. “Church” as it is used in the New Testament is translated from the Greek, ekklesia, which literally means “called out” or “called forth.” The Greeks used it to describe an assembly of people.
In other words, we don’t “go to church,” we “gather with the church.”
Why do I have to worship with the church?
In the scriptures, Christians were not always able to assemble. Some were slaves. Some, like Paul, were often traveling to encourage and establish congregations, and could not make it to a local congregation for worship. Others found themselves imprisoned and praised the Lord from dark, lonely cells.
With all those examples, the argument for assembling with fellow Christians seems pretty slim, doesn’t it?
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 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 10.23-25)
When we meet together with fellow Christians, it is a time of pouring out. I pour out praise to my Creator, thanksgiving for my Savior, and encouragement to my brothers and sisters. Even if I—like the widow who helped Elijah—only have a few drops of “oil” in my heart, God can multiply my meager ration to serve others abundantly.
There will be times and circumstances when being with other Christians will be impossible. I can’t tell you how many services I’ve missed because I had a sick child to care for, but when that child was well, we were at the next available “assembly.” Remember those who are confined to nursing homes, hospitals, or their own homes and encourage them.
What if I’m not getting anything out of worship?
If you aren’t “getting anything out of worship” start asking what you can put in to it.
In serving, God provides the “filling” we long for. When seek encouragement through prayer, the Spirit will provide. There have been more than a few times I went to worship not “feeling it.” I was either combatting some sin of pride or selfishness, neglecting the study of the scriptures each day, or grappling with depression. Nearly every single time I would attend in spite of my feelings, I would be rebuked through a sermon, a song, or a point in bible class. Refreshing has always come through gentle hugs or the comfort of the scriptures. The Spirit works through us and through His Word. He will supply all we need and give us the opportunity to supply for the needs of others.
What if “the church” is full of hypocrites?
They act grumpy or aloof. They mess up. They fall asleep during worship. They say one thing and do another. They attend worship on Sunday and act like the world Monday through Saturday.
Am I one of “those” people?
What if I insert “I” into the above statements? If I honestly examine myself, would I be guilty of doing? We all mess up. At some point, we have said one thing and done something different. Unbeknownst to us, we may come across as unfeeling, uncaring, or unloving.
Even if you yourself aren’t a hypocrite, there could be some serious hypocrites in your congregation or people who “don’t seem to get it.”
If the church itself is discouraging to you, it’s time to start looking at how Christ loved people who “didn’t always get it” (like His disciples):
He prayed for them
He encouraged them
He rebuked them when necessary
He loved them always.
Am I praying for “those people” who discourage me, or do I roll my eyes and hope they’ll go somewhere else?
Am I encouraging my brothers and sisters or do I stand around waiting for someone to encourage me?
Am I willing to confront someone drowning in sinful behavior or do I turn a blind eye?
Am I loving my fellow Christians—regardless of the strength or weakness of their faith—the way Jesus loves me?
Remember, church is not a place, it’s people—and not just any “people.” We are a people called out of darkness, intended to shine Christ’s light. We are a people who should love God and our fellow Christians so much that going to worship Him is a joy and not a burden.
We are part of something special—don’t take it for granted.
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1 Peter 2:9-10)
Elihu Anderson is a surviving California native currently thriving in West Texas. When she isn’t writing for Elihu’s Corner, she is teaching, researching, walking, and book-worming with a cup of chai. Visit Elihu at elihuscorner.com