Why go to church?
Why do people stop going to church? I have struggled with church attendance for a number of reasons. The first was boredom. I knew that God was not boring, but my little Brethren church in England used to get people to preach who really didn’t seem to have the gift. If anything came up that gave me an excuse not to go to church, I tended to take that opportunity. I even went through a phase of attending church and going to sleep during the sermon. I remember my mother lovingly and tenderly hitting me one morning when I actually snored.
If we come with a consumer attitude to church we can feel let down easily. We expect church to meet our needs and cater to our whims. I have watched a YouTube clip that promises a wax for your car, tickets to the Super Bowl, or a pony if you attend MeChurch. Therein lies the rub. It’s not about you. Your very life is not your own, it has been bought at a price (1 Cor 6:20).
My attitude in my boring church changed when I became proactive. I gathered a group of teenagers around me and we snagged the keys to the church annex. We prayed with spiritual fervour that God would reveal to us ways in which we could make a difference for his sake. We saw ways that we could get involved. We suggested songs, we shared what God was doing in our lives and after a while some of us found ourselves preaching at the church (Col 3:16). We stopped attending church for what we could get out of it and attended church for what we were called by God to bring to him.
The Psalms clearly show that David was excited to come to the house of God. He says ‘better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere (Psalm 84:10).’ Can you imagine David filling a pew and mouthing the words to songs he didn’t care about? Worship is not even a synonym for singing. Worship is ‘worth-ship’. We gather out of a duty to shout, share, and sing about the worth of our God and his work. It is not essentially an emotional thing, though emotions can be involved. It is a relational decision. Our relationship is enhanced when we decide to share in praise to God and ascribe worship in as many ways as we can.
The writers of the New Testament were keen that people would not give up meeting together (Heb 10:25). Some had stopped gathering regularly. What kind of ‘church’ had they given up to their peril? Acts tells us that the early Christians were dedicated to ‘the apostle’s teaching and to the fellowship and to the breaking of bread and to prayer’ (Acts 2: 42). So firstly, the church needs to be a learning community. Some people think that they learn enough about God from nature and the world around them. It is great to learn about God outside of the church. We are called to love God with all of our mind after all. You need to attend church and find mature people to teach you. Secondly, the church needs to be a mutually encouraging community. A coal that is removed from the fire doesn’t burn long on its own. Thirdly, the church should be a community that remembers. That is why breaking bread is mentioned. By breaking bread we remember the grace poured out for us through Christ’s suffering and sacrifice. Fourthly the church needs to be a praying community growing in more meaningful conversation with God.
God designed you to be in a church. When you don’t actively participate in one you are ‘malfunctioning’. However, in the end it isn’t about you. It’s about him.