So Charlotte wrote a fantastic article on why we go to church when we don’t want to and I couldn’t help but be pulled into the conversation.
My husband and I come from very different theological backgrounds, and I mean VERY different. He was raised in the Dutch Reform sect and I was brought up in the Salvation Army, later becoming accustomed to a very progressive Alliance church.
Needless to say our differences played a significant role in our relationship, it created a platform for continuous conversation in order to ensure that we are on the same page when it comes to our beliefs. We didn’t have to agree, there is still a major disagreement that we have to date (predestination vs. choice), but we had to be able to understand where the other was coming from and respect their opinion. These differences also played a different SUPER SIGNIFICANT role in our personal walks with Christ when the time came that we were engaged… why’s that? Well, we had to decide on a home church. He came to my church and I went to his for a few Sundays, both of us vowing to enter each building with an unbiased opinion and open heart to see if God would call us there. I don’t know why we ever thought we could do that, I mean come on, there was a reason we were both so attached to these communities and why we both LOVED getting to church every Sunday. Doug was training to be a deacon and I worked at my church in Children and Youth Ministry… so there was no way on God’s green earth that we would be able to attend the other’s church without the inner thought of “Well, I’ll just get through this ridiculous service and then I’ll go on making my case for MY church”….
Neither of us had any intention of going the others church, as much as we wanted to believe we did. We were both planted with deep roots in churches that brought us out of where we were in life to a life where we would thirst for Christ day in and day out. It was clear to us after a few months that we would have to find a new church, to keep the playing field fair, no one would have the home court advantage. We were lucky enough to only have to try one church before finding a place where we fit, after six months of attendance and consideration. We prayed hard with heavy hearts for God to show us where he wanted us… not necessarily where WE wanted to be. This six month journey of ours outlined many important things that we needed to consider, as a couple, when finding a church. But what we discovered more so than what we “wanted” to see in a church is the things that we THOUGHT were important but turned out to be superficial. We ended up coming to the conclusion, three actually, that would change the way we looked at church altogether.
1. Church is not for us.
Newsflash. The moment you start going to church to simply fulfill your own needs, you’ve missed the point of church altogether.
Do we hear the word and grow from it? Hopefully.
Do we go to fellowship with other Christians? Naturally.
Do we drop our children off to hear the word of God? Obviously.
Do we feel the spirit in the music? Yes.
Is this the reason(s) we go to church? Absolutely NOT.
So what is the point of church? For the Lost to be Found.
If you are a Christian for more than 10 seconds your role is to no longer be served at church but to serve others as Christ did. My favorite example of this appears multiple times in the New Testament, Jesus would get down on his hands and feet and wash the feet of his disciples, and get this, at a home that wasn’t his! He went to other people’s HOMES to SERVE other people. We go to church to serve those who have yet to have found their relationship with Christ (whether you believe that He finds you or you choose Him).
2. Church style is preferential… not a necessity.
This was the biggest lesson for my husband and myself. As we tried each other’s churches initially we found ourselves nitpicking the things that we didn’t agree with. The music was too much of a production or there wasn’t enough thought or feeling put into the music. There is not enough structure or there is too much structure. The church is too big or the church is too small. I can’t believe people drink coffee in the sanctuary. If another person opens a candy wrapper during the sermon I will swat them. And on and on and on and on.
It came to a point where we were finding reasons to not go to church. It took us some time to truly realize the necessities when it came to finding a church for our family, and for us it was three things.
- Children’s Program: We needed a place where we could see our children flourish with opportunities to learn and serve God in their church
- Community Outreach: We needed to see a place where the gospel is being played out in the community, not just the building. Mostly we had to ask ourselves “If the church was removed from the community it was in… would anyone notice?” If the answer was yes, then the church is fulfilling its duty.
- Sound Biblical Teaching: With us this was difficult, since we both come from opposite ends of the spectrum in theological thinking. We had to remind ourselves that theology is not the definition of the Bible in its entirety but the opinion of people who have studied the Bible and have come up with an interpretation of the grey areas. So as long as the pastor was preaching sound and studied Biblical theories and that if there was a difference in theology that we would still be able to serve in the church… then we can work with that. It turns out that the church we currently attend is in the camp of predestination (God chooses us), which I am not in that camp. This being said, I’m not the only in the church that thinks this way, and the only “restrictions” I had because of my theological beliefs is that I’m not able to teach the theology class. Which I wouldn’t be able to teach in good conscience anyways. So, I’m a happy gal.
3. Church is not a building.
You can dress it up and put lights on it but a building does not make a church, people do. That’s right, people make the church. In Jesus’ day there was no such thing as “church” in the definition as we know it today. Church was an essentially a small group, meeting in someone’s home, sharing life together and teaching the gospel. There may or may not have been music, but if there was I promise nothing was amplified. There were no stained glass windows (in fact no windows at all), no special banners with motivational sayings on them. There were no expresso machines or coffee urns during the pre or post fellowship time. There children’s ministry was the parents modelling what it is like to be a Christ follower . Find people that you can walk with in your journey, people who will hold you accountable to your faith, and you have found the body of Christ. That is what church is, the body (or family as I like to call it) of Christ.
So now, how do I bring it back to “Why we go to church when we don’t want to?” Simple. When you see church as a mission field, a place to serve others, and a ground to which we live out what we are called to do… then there is no choice. You just go. Knowing that your presence, you volunteering your time, and your tithe to the church contributes to others finding Christ. HELLO?!?!? Did you hear that? Your attendance at church plays a part in the lost being found! Who knew you were an evangelist eh?
We go to church not because we need to… but because others need us to.
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