Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Why Go to Church?

Why do we as Christians go to church?  Is it a duty we need to fulfill, and is God impressed just by our showing up? What does the Scripture teach?

Scripture does not command us to go to church, but not to forsake the assembling of our selves together (Hebrews 10:24,25; 3:13; Acts 2:46).  Now the point of this is to encourage one another and provoke one another to love and good deeds. The church is pictured as a body, and Christians are all part of that body (1 Corinthians 12:12-27; Romans 12:3-5; Ephesians 4:13-16).  God has also given us leaders and teachers to assist us (Ephesians 4:11-12; Hebrew 13:17; 1 Timothy 5:17).  The purpose for this is that believers should build up one another and grow strong in Christ together.  This is very clearly pictured as an reciprocal thing, that as we are built up we have an obligation to build others up (Romans 12:6-8; 1 Peter 4:10,11; 1 Corinthians 14:26).

The problem is that what is meant to serve a purpose, to build us up and give us an opportunity to build others up, can become simply a duty we fulfill as an end in itself.  This can result in people who feel they have entirely fulfilled their obligation simply by showing up every Sunday.  It also can lead to people who feel they need to show up every time the church door is open, even if the particular event is not really that helpful to them personally. God has some rather harsh things to say about those who go through the motions of worshiping Him without any substance or just to impress other people (Isaiah 66:1-3; Malachi 1:10; Matthew 6:1-18).

Now my purpose here is not to discourage people from going church, but to encourage us to make it something more than a form we go through.  Now it might be said we can worship God anywhere, and this is true (Psalms 34:1; 119:164; Acts 16:25).  But the point of assembling together is to be encouraged and instructed in the worship of God by others of the same faith.  And we need to face it, if we are unwilling to put aside some period of time in the week to learn to worship God, how likely is it we will do so when we get a flat tire on the freeway or the business deal we have worked so hard on falls through?  If a member of a sports team did not show up for practice,  if he knew none of the plays and very little about his teammates,  how likely is it he would be useful on the day of the game?  The church service is the practice session for the game of life.  If the Christian is not involved, he will have trouble worshiping God in the rest of life.  But if he shows up just to show up, it will not help him like it should.

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