I was investigating a blog of a pastor who is a graduate of my college alma matter, and I checked out a post that talked about the importance of church attendance for Christians. He listed several reason why people might attend church and several reasons why people might leave, and didn’t cast any judgment on their biblical validity.
His list of reasons why people would attend church were the following:
2. Social network/friends.
3. Centering (slowing down and taking time to be with God)
4. Freedom from the “bondage in their lives” (I’m guessing as to what this means, though I think I get the drift).
5. Satisfying hunger for God and experiencing worship.
6. Moral re-orientation/moral assurance.
His list of reasons why people would leave the church was the following.
3. Fear of conflict/encountering enemies.
5. Pride in their maturity (people think they no longer learn anything in church)
6. Pain and fear of repetition of painful experiences.
7. Lack of desired care/entertainment.
8. Frustration with politics.
9. Fear of the opinions/judgment of others.
I responded to his post by suggesting that he didn’t include any of the reasons why I go to church and I found that strange and confusing.
So why do I go to church? Here’s a dozen reasons:
1. I want to please Christ and he’s commanded me to not forsake the church (Heb. 10:24-25).
2. It’s the only place where I can fulfill all the “one another” commands in scripture (Mark 9:50; John 13:14, 13:34-35, 15:12 & 17; Romans 12:10 & 16, 13:8, 14:13, 15:5 & 7, 16:16; 1 Corinthians 6:7, 11:33, 12:25, 16:20; 2 Corinthians 13:11-12; Galatians 5:13, 5:26, 6:1-2; Ephesians 4:2, 4:25, 4:32, 5:19 & 21; Colossians 3:9 & 13 & 16; 1 Thessalonians 3:2, 4:9, 4:18, 5:11 & 15; Hebrews 3:13, 10:24-25; James 4:11, 5:9 & 16; 1 Peter 1:22, 4:8-10, 5:5 & 14; 1 John 3:11 & 23, 4:7, 4:11-12; 2 John 1:5.)
To try to fulfill all these commands outside of the church, is impossible. To ignore them is to choose to willfully sin.
3. I love fellow believers and want to be with them for no other reason than simply for fellowship. Fellowship is NOT catching up on the latest news, singing songs in a common building, or even just praying together.
4. I’m part of the body of Christ and it is actually painful to be away from the body all week (see reason #3).
5. The church is where I sit under the teaching of the word of God and I actually desire that, I need that, and it’s part of my spiritual growth and health to be regularly exposed to the exposition of the word of God (1 Timothy 4:11-16). The word dwells in me more thoroughly when I sit under it’s right instruction.
6. I need to regularly face the terror of communion in order to force me to deal with outstanding sin in my life and keep short accounts with God (1 Corinthians 11:27-30).
7. I desire to serve in the church and that’s the proper domain for my extra -curricular labors (Acts 6:1-6; 1 Corinthians 16:15-18; Ephesians 4:10-12)
8. I know I need to be protected from false teachers and I’m NOT the one who protects myself; God has places structures in my life (which involves the church and it’s leadership) in order to guard me from false teaching and I need to submit to those structures and the people who work within them (Titus 1:9-11; 1 Peter 5:5-9).
9. The church has been given the ordinance of discipline for the care of the wayward members (Matthew 18:15-20; 1 Corinthians 5:1-13) and if I remove myself from the church, I also remove myself from God’s appointed system of watching over me when my soul desires to stray from the Lord.
10. I go to church because the brothers and sisters around me are the ones who confirm the positive changes in my life that I doubt (i.e. the presence of love in my life that I don’t see), and they’re the ones who give me reason for assurance of my salvation and help me silence my doubting heart (1 John 3:11-24).
11. I go to church because I need to learn to submit to Christ, and I get practice when I learn to submit to the leadership above me unto which God has commanded my submission (Hebrews 13:7 & 17; 1 Peter 5:5). One of the most basic habits that a Christian must cultivate is one of submission to the Lord and his word, and the church offers me a caring and safe place to learn to submit because submission is a worthy end goal in itself. Even if I have a mediocre pastor (and I definitely have had mediocre pastors in the past) or go to an imperfect church, I need to learn to submit to those that the Lord had placed over me because it’s good for my heart.
12. I go to church because that’s where I find examples of Christian maturity to imitate in the elders who are above me (1 Corinthians 11:1; 2 Thessalonians 3:6-9; Hebrews 13:7). It’s one thing to read my bible and learn doctrine and practice; it’s completely different to see doctrine and practice manifest in the lives of believers who are more mature than I am.
To sum it up:
I go to church because I don’t want to go to Hell.
I could think of another dozen reasons, but that’s at least a start.
Can you think of any reasons for attending church that I missed? Just looking back over the post, I realized that I’d already forgotten one:
13. The church is full of fellow believers who are difficult to love and church is where I learn to love the brethren! (Romans 12:15, 14:15; 2 Corinthians 13:11; Galatians 5:13; 1 Thessalonians 4:9; 1 Peter 1:22, 2:17; 2 Peter 1:7; 1 John 2:10, 3:10-17, 4:20-21). You cannot and should not try to escape fellow believers who are difficult to love; God has placed them in your life so that you can practice patience, love, selflessness, etc.
Until Next Time,
Lyndon “The Armchair Ecclesiologist” Unger
Update – I have a pastor friend who blogs here and is scared of posting comments on blogs, so he did a drive-by on Facebook and he reminded me of something I forgot; the ordinances. Sadly, he didn’t clarify what he meant (and his Facebook comment was a total of 4 words), so I’m assuming this is what he means:
14. I go to church because the church has been given the divine charge to observe and administer the seven ordinances: Christening, Confirmation, Holy Eucharist, Confession, Extreme Unction, Holy Orders and Matrimony. Maybe he didn’t mean those ordinances, and I don’t actually go to church because my church administers those ordinances, but seeing that he didn’t clarify what he was saying, I’ll just assume that is what he meant.
Update to update – I have now received clarification that my pastor friend is some form of Protestant. That clarifies a bunch and I stand corrected. He meant the two ordinances, not seven. So then #14 would be:
14. I go to church because the church has been entrusted with the dual ordinances of Baptism (Matthew 28:19; Acts 19:1-7; Romans 6:3-11; 1 Peter 3:18-22) and the Lord’s Supper (Luke 22:14-20; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26), with participation in each not being optional for growing Christians . Though neither administers grace nor ensures any sort of security in salvation, both are commanded for believers and necessary for growth into maturity; Baptism as a public identification with and commitment to Christ and the church, and the Lord’s Supper as a continual proclamation of the death of Christ and a continual reminder of dealing with outstanding sin and keeping short accounts with God (see reason #6). As the church regularly partakes in these 2 ordinances, the gospel is both illustrated and applied in the church.