1 Corinthians 12:31b (NAS)

And I show you a still more excellent way.
1Corinthians 12:31b (NAS)

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Do I really have to go to church?

"Do I really have to go to church?" she said.  "Me and God are OK.  I don't have to go to church to go to heaven.  I just can't go to church now.  All I do is cry and the people all look down on me and judge me because of all that's going on with my family."  I was speechless, taken aback, because I love to go to church; can't imagine why anyone would not want to go. 

Do you remember the children's song, I Was Glad When They Said Unto Me, Let Us Go Unto the House of the Lord.  Well, that song is me.  I'm ready to go to church on Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night or any other time if there was a reason to go.  In fact, I'm miserable if I don't get to go to church.  Just ask my family; whenever I'm late for church, I suddenly become a speed demon when driving to church.  I may even reach the speed limit. 

But her question made me wonder, just why do we go to church?  Here are a few of the reasons I came up with, to explain why I go to church.

  • Jesus went to church.  (Luke 4:16) "And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up; and as was his custom, he entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read".  Jesus went to church or synagogue, and to the temple in Jerusalem several times a year.  Remember the time his parents lost him when they went to the Jerusalem, and where did they find him?  Why he was in the temple discussing scripture with the Rabbis.  He told his anxious parents that they should have known that he had to be in His Father's house.
  • God commanded it.  (Exodus 20:8)  "Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy."  God himself observed the Sabbath by resting on the 7th day after creation.  I believe he created our bodies and souls, in such a way that we can be renewed or rejuvenated if we will observe a Sabbath rest.  Granted you don't have to go to church to rest,  you can do that at home or anywhere.  But going to church is one way we "keep it holy".
  • We go to  church to offer sacrifices.  (Exodus 34:22-23)  "And you shall celebrate the Feast of Weeks, that is the first fruits of the wheat harvest, and the Feast of Ingathering at the turn of the year.  Three times a year, all your males are to appear before the Lord God, the God of Israel."  We no longer offer sacrifices during our worship, but we sacrifice in other ways, by giving of our time, talents, and resources.  We are to offer our bodies as living sacrifices the apostle Paul said in Romans 12.  I believe that would include our service to God and others.
  • We go to church to worship God.  (Psalm 95:6)  "Come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our maker."  This is the part of church that I so look forward to;  to focus on him, to sing to him, to thank him, to offer my life in submission to him.  I believe that this is the true worship that Jesus was speaking of when he told the woman at the well that true worshipers were those who worship in spirit and in truth.  (John 4:23-24)
  • We go to church to study the Bible.  (2Timothy 3:15)  "And that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus,"  At church we study God's word in age appropriate classes, from childhood to senior adult; there's something for everyone.  Through the years, I have been in some wonderful Sunday School classes.  I have been grounded in my faith by the consistent, weekly times of Bible study. 
  • We go to church to fellowship with other believers.  The church is the body of Christ and made up of many members.  (1Corinthians 12:14) But we are one body in Christ.  Which means that we are in this thing called life together.  We need each other, to share the burden, to hold us accountable, and to encourage us.  God placed us in the body with other believers to help us.

Craig Groeschel has written a book called The Christian Atheist.  In his book he makes the point that some Christians  say that they believe in God, but live as though they don't believe that he has forgiven them for instance, or that he can change them.  He devotes one chapter of his book to the fact that some Christians believe in God but not the church.  He says in Chapter 12 that God is not calling us to go to church,  but he is calling us to be the Church, the hope of the world.  Since Jesus lives in believers, we represent him to the world. 

I have been the beneficiary of many blessings as a result of going to church.  It's sad when an individual, because of shame or guilt or fear, decides not to go to church.  To do so, is to miss out on the joys of going to church.

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