Ah yes. Hear that collective groan? “To church, or not to church,” that is the question among believers. Many of us are sick and tired of the way churches have become bloated institutions driven by the agendas of a handful of people. Many of us have been seriously wounded, neglected and rejected. Many of us, old and young alike, remark, “I just don’t see the point.”
I do not deny these stark accusations. And yet, I still go to church. Here’s why.
1) My Jesus-loving friend invited me to church where I eventually came to know Jesus for myself.
Chuck and I reluctantly steeped in the word of God for more than a year as we went to church week after week. I didn’t like the pastor. I didn’t like the people. I came because “I liked the music.” I left most Sundays mad and disgruntled only to return the next week. You see, the Holy Spirit bread-crumbed me into the kingdom, one step at a time. He interrupted my schedule on Sunday morning which previously had been time to sleep off Saturday night’s party. He riled and ruffled me as I sat in sermon after sermon, flipping through a book I did not know. “Why are all these people carrying Bibles?” I would ask Chuck. Finally, as the scales fell from my eyes and I saw the Truth and the Bible became my weapon, my friend, my mentor.
That all happened in the rhythm of church. And even though my salvation encounter with God was not the formal altar call, it was the weeks of watching others respond to Jesus that kept stirring a hunger in my own soul.
2) Church has been medicine for my soul and wisdom for my life.
I have not been in the same church all my life. God has moved me as He taught me. One church schooled me in the Word. Another unlocked the Holy Spirit and worship. The next church tutored me in the supernatural life. But as I look back over the nearly 24 years, I see God’s hand healing me, revealing me, even carrying me.
In my early days, too young in the Lord to feed myself, church fed me. It corrected and instructed me. My spiritual mothers and fathers were discovered through church. God honored my effort to show up by giving me “just what I needed for that moment.” In my darkest days, coming together with other believers reminded me that I was not alone in the journey. We were all there because we needed something greater than ourselves. In my later years, even after I became the teacher, I still go to church.
You see, I understand now more than ever, that church is not about me. But it is for me. I have intense times with the Lord on my own. However, church is a rhythm where I bring my heart and you bring your heart and we stand together for one unifying purpose: To Seek Jesus.
When I see you there and you see me there, we validate the God journey. We are not crazy. This does matter. You matter. God matters.
3) The church routine is a gift to my spirit and to my family.
Recently my friend was despairing that church was “just routine,” as if devoid of meaning. God gave me a word in the moment that blessed both of us. Much of our health and well being is founded on routine. Eating, sleeping, even going to the bathroom, these are very habitual activities. I doubt we remember what we ate a year ago, even six months ago. However, we know that we ate. Our bodies were nourished and strengthened to carry on for the next day.
Church can be an extremely healthy routine for your spirit. We feed our soul after a week of all kinds of onslaught. It truly can be just a couple of hours to “rest.” To catch our breath, renew our hope, remember Whose we are.
My family also benefits from church. It’s a challenge some Sunday’s for sure. And Yes. We do sometimes hiss at each other leaving church. But I declare with my actions that “whether you believe it or not, understand it or not, or like it or not, giving this time to be with God and His people is important.” Our family has a different, better target to aim at because we go to church together.
4) Going to church breaks me out of my comfort zones.
I stand side by side, raise my hands, and worship the Living God with people I would never talk to if it weren’t for Jesus. I see people from all walks of life, every need, sickness, and hurt imaginable, but also every gift and spiritual deposit imaginable. It humbles me. These are my brothers and sisters I never knew I had. God loves them just like he loves me. And He is up to something in this holy gathering.
We truly are like “iron sharpening iron” because we all have such different God stories. I have learned so much about God by being with His people. Not just in small group, which is sweet and sacred, but being with His assembly.
If you look at scripture, there is a lot of gathering together. There is strength in numbers.
5) Finally, going to church changes me and I change the church.
I hear a lot people say, “I don’t need church.” But the church needs you. I have God stuff you need. You have God stuff I need. Church is this beautiful place for us to bump into each other and watch that God stuff pour out. Yep, it is messy. Very messy and even ugly. But I reckon that my mess and ugly didn’t keep Jesus from loving me. So I don’t want mess and ugly to keep me from loving the rest of His family.
Whether we like it or not, we are all a part of one Body. Not a denomination or preacher phenom. We are one body with one Head, and He is Christ.
I know church can be a scary or toxic place. But it can also be a resting place of the Holy Spirit. May we not despise the thing that Christ is coming for…Us, His church.