Why We Go to Church

Church is about you. And everyone else.

Everyone goes to church for different reasons. Some go simply because they love church, or at least, their church. Others go because they feel like they have to out of respect to family, friends, or the Bible. But most people go for specific reasons: a particular style of worship, a favorite method of preaching, a robust children's ministry--the list goes on.

Those are the things that draw us, keep us, or make us want to look elsewhere. Which is odd because none of them have anything to do with church. Sure, they've come to define common church experience but all of them can be found outside of church and none of them are necessary to making one. They're just some the things that contemporary churches do.

That's why many people are leaving brick and mortar churches. If those things are all that make a church a church, then there's no need to miss the game every Sunday when that same content is available on-demand online. You can stream entire worship albums, download sermon podcasts, and read from any translation of the Bible all from your phone. Analog church, it would seem, is obsolete.

This is the part where I'm supposed to tell you that church isn't about you or what you get out of it; it's about God and serving him. That's why Hebrews tells us to not forsake gathering together, right?


Not only is it untrue, it's a clever reinforcement of the very elements that it chastises us for consuming. It's like saying that worship style and children's ministry aren't why we should go to church, but serving in those ministries is. And while that should be the spirit we have when we attend, serving God means serving people, not programs.

That's not to say that working in the nursery doesn't qualify as serving God. It just means that God's pleasure in us isn't determined by the number of times our name is on a sign-up sheet. Nursery is only one of many contemporary church conventions that likely didn't exist two-thousand years ago. Obviously, the first-century wasn't hindered from serving God without it or a ten-piece worship team. Their service to him was accomplished through the same thing that ours should: care and concern for others.

That can include things like child care, but it also includes so much more. Think about that verse in Hebrews again. If all of those various elements--child care, worship, preaching--could all be found outside of church including a genuine heart to serve others, why bother meeting together? Why should we go to a church when we can simply do church in our own communities?

Because the church is our relationship with Jesus. Attending a church is our opportunity to participate in the lives of the whole body. And serving in a church means serving both the physical and emotional needs of others.

It's easy to show up, be available and willing, and help wherever we can. But it's harder to do this when we're all so different.

Some people weep at the mere mention of Jesus' name. Others of us appear dead inside because of our stone-faced indifference during worship. Some people hide from the news because it's so depressing. Others of us express bitter sorrow and anger at inequity and injustice. None of us are exactly alike nor were we meant to be. Yet we are meant to come together and be one like Jesus and the father.

That doesn't mean that we have to feel as others do. When Paul told us to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn, he wasn't telling us to fake it. He was telling us to identify with our brothers and sisters--to affirm their feelings and empathize with them.

If you have kids, you do this without thinking. Most of us wouldn't care if someone took a dirty straw out of our hands, but my daughter once completely melted down over that. My wife and I didn't scoff at her immaturity over something so inconsequential; we consoled her because, even though we didn't care about the straw, we cared that she cared.

We can't feel as others do but we can choose to feel for what they feel. I will likely never feel warm and fuzzy about Jesus while singing "How Great is Our God", but my worship pastor does and I can choose to rejoice over the joy that he's feeling.

Sometimes being the church just means being there and letting your presence be an endorsement. Sometimes doing church means letting the voices of others speak to what you can't and vise versa. Sometimes going to church is as simple as showing solidarity.

Photo credit: naydeeyah / Foter / CC BY