Do You Know Why You Go To Church?
What is the local church?
Not physically so much, but what is the point? I asked this question for years ever since I started going consistently of my own volition in my senior year of high-school. I really only went because I had friends there, and occasionally I’d hear an interesting point about some passage in Scripture or a funny story, but I mostly just went because it was just what you did as a Christian. This didn’t translate well into my early college days, which most people who know me can attest to. I was a regular attendee at Bedside Baptist and a lover of sermons pertaining to the Dreams of Daniel. I went to a Christian college which meant I didn’t need to go to church to find that close community anymore. I had my floor! What else did I possibly need?
There was a few underlying issues in my approach already.
The biggest one I see now is: Why is my attending church so strangely focused on myself and what I get out of it?
Secondly: I had no actual concept of what the church was doing outside of my own personal development. Church was there for my own progress, and if I was already getting that, then why would I need to go?
Thirdly: Similar to the last point, I had absolutely no idea what sort of impact the church was meant to have on the world.
So what is the purpose of the church then? Following is a hopefully an accurate yet concise description of what the church is, and why it changed my views and my reasons for going to church.
First, as with all things, a good understanding of Jesus is necessary.
When Jesus was resurrected he was considered a first fruit of what was to come, the first of the harvest (1 Cor 15:23). He was the beginning of the new creation that God was ushering in. Throughout Jesus’ ministry he also healed sickness and raised the dead giving people a taste of what was to come, but wasn’t yet here. Now as his body, we are to continue on his ministry: preach the Gospel, heal the sick, care for the poor, look after the fatherless, attend to the widow, and visit those in prison (Matt. 23:31-46).
In short we’re supposed to, as Christian disciples, be the people who prepare the world for the coming of the new creation, which will happen when Jesus returns. So, what does that look like?
Pretty much like Jesus’ life did. As a group of believers, we’re supposed to go out and care for those in need and in misery, especially those within the church walls. We’re supposed to be a living example of what the age to come is going to be like! That’s the beautiful thing about the church; we get to live, in part, like we’re in the age to come now. That’s why we get to be a part of a local church, coming together and doing things like collecting clothes to give to those who need it, collecting food for the hungry, build houses for the homeless, and everything else churches have found to do.
But churchgoers often have an overlooked or misunderstood purpose: fellowship. And not just when there’s that uncomfortable five minutes of “turn around and greet your neighbor!” I’m talking about the kind of fellowship that happens when someone takes you out to lunch after church to get to know you, and eventually develops a deep and meaningful relationship with you all because Jesus brought you together.
For example: I eventually started getting lunch every Friday with one of the leaders in my small group after I’d been involved for a little while and let’s be real, I wasn’t going to turn down free food at this point (thanks John). As time went on, it became less and less of a meeting of sorts, and it became more of grabbing lunch with a good friend. Even more so it was someone I knew I could go to with questions, ridiculous or difficult. It was someone I could confide in and someone that could steer me in the right direction. Before I knew it, it was someone who would be discipling me and giving me direction. And if you’re my age, you know the feeling of realizing you don’t know anything.
The church is both something you pour into and something that pours into you. It’s the body that comes together to go out and prepare the world for the new age while also being the group that comes together in order to experience the coming age now. It’s both the agent that ushers in the new age, and is the taste of that age as well.
At the end of this I realized the question, “Why should I go to church?” wasn’t even the right question.
If the church is the Body of Christ and is the agent that God uses to usher in the new age, then it would seem rather strange to profess Jesus as Lord and at the same time not be in the body.
There are plenty of questions to ask regarding church: What beliefs am I looking for in a church? What sort of structure? What sort of emphasis? Am I looking to serve in some particular ministry?
And if you don’t have any particular questions to ask: Just go. That’s completely fine if you, like myself, had absolutely no idea what you have to offer. Just go! Find someone to go with, maybe a friend, or pick a church nearby where you live and just start going! The best thing about finding a church is being able to rest in the fact that God is faithful, and he will surely lead you to the church he wants you in. You aren’t called to know exactly where you should be, just to keep walking where the lamp at your feet guides you to.
I showed up at my church and didn’t really have much going on for the better part of two years. It wasn’t until recently somebody grabbed me to do slides, and then to be trained for sound.
If you show up willing to serve, God will open up ways for you to be a part of the body. All you have to do is show up and present yourself, God can handle the rest.