Has anyone ever asked you this question? I've been asked where I go to church many times. I've not been asked why I go to church as much. I've asked others where and why they go to church. I must admit, there's been times when the answer to why someone goes to church has shocked me.
People have a lot of reasons for doing what they do. Most of them are selfish. The world basically lives for self. As Christians, we have a higher calling. We are to live for Jesus. That's why it surprises me when I ask Christians of various denominations why they go to church, and I get selfish answers. Aren't we supposed to be looking to Christ and not self? I guess it's that old Romans 7 flesh getting in the way.
So, WHY do you go to church? The Christian 101 answer is "because God said to." OK, I obviously get that, but I really don't think there's that many people going to church just because God said to. Why do you go to church? What's your reason? What's your motivation? What's deep down in your heart that compels you to go to church? If something better came along, would you still go? What's the attraction about church anyways?
"The programs are good."
"The pastor is so down-to-earth and friendly. He really cares."
"My friends and/or family are there."
"The praise music is so uplifting."
"We have a beautiful building. We are blessed"
"There's lots of people my age, and at the same stage in life I'm at."
"They really minister to my needs."
These are not bad reasons to go to church, but they are all selfish. What if there were no programs? What if the pastor was quiet, not outgoing, and not the personality type you think he should be? What if you're family thought you were crazy to go to a church like that? What if there were no musical instruments? What if the building was old, run-down, and had no air conditioning? What if you didn't even have a building, and you met in a person's house or at a community centre? What if there was no one your age? What if you felt like your needs weren't being met? Would you still go? I think if most of us were honest, we'd say "probably not." See, our motivation for going to church is selfish. It's MY needs, MY friends, music I like, a pastor I like.
WAIT!!! Where does God fit into this picture? Isn't being a Christian supposed to be about Jesus?
I mentioned in my last post that church has changed in the 21st century. I think one of the biggest tragedies in the church today, is that it has become people-oriented instead of God-oriented. Think about it. We're all about getting people into the church, satisfying people, making people feel comfortable, giving people something to look forward too, meeting the needs of people. People, people, people! Don't get me wrong, we need to reach out to people! But, we've become so focused, so consumed with reaching people we've forgotten about God. Just look at the church today, and it's so obvious. When we forget about God, we start to rationalize ways of doing things that would not be pleasing to God (check out this link if you care to. I'll warn you, it's shocking!). That's because now the motivation is people, instead of a holy, almighty God. When people are the focus it makes sense to reach people in ways that attract them. Rock concerts, movie nights, wrestling matches, sporting events, backyard parties, and the list could go on. Using any and all means makes sense, because it's about reaching people, and the more people that are reached, the better we're doing, and people like this stuff.
Maybe more people are being reached, but reached to what and for what? Are they being reached to repent of their sins and put their faith in Christ? Are they being reached to put Jesus Christ first in their lives? Are they being reached to live holy, clean, godly lives? Are they being reached to spread the gospel of salvation to others? OR, are they being reached to just "come-to-church-because-we'll-accept-you-the-way-you-are"? Are they being reached to enjoy the latest concert, music performance, movie night, or high profile speaker?
So, WHY do you go to church? Do you have a selfish reason for going? Maybe your answer is "because God said to." That's a really good answer, if it's coming from the heart. What do you look for in a church? Programs, music, heart-warming sermons, friends, community? Is your priority at church feeling good, encouraged, and satisfied? What if the pastor said something that upset you? What if he preached against something you like to do? Would you get angry and leave? Would you stay? Have you ever searched and studied the Scripture to find out what church is supposed to be about? I think Acts 2:42 sums it up pretty well.
And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.
That's it. That's what church is supposed to be. There's a lot of stuff going on in church today that's missing from this verse. I wonder if we got back to the basics of church, forgot all the flashy lights, shows, and gimmicks, if we would be reaching our world more effectively for Christ? Our churches would probably be smaller. People wouldn't be there just for the show. Smaller churches are often viewed us unsuccessful, or not receiving God's blessing. But, if people are there just for the show, are they really being reached? If people are in church for selfish reasons, is that success? If people are the focus, is God glorified?
Church is important. Christians need to be in church. Our priority should be God's house. Personally, I love church. I love hearing God's Word preached. I love singing hymns. I am encouraged by church. I am uplifted. I am challenged to do more for Christ. I am reminded to pray. Church should first and foremost be about glorifying God. So, we must all ask ourselves, what glorifies God? More people? A bigger show? Fancy lighting? Witty sermon titles?
I like these verses where the Psalmist describes God's house. Let's remember it's HIS church, which means it needs to be done HIS way.
For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness. Psalm 84:10
Those that be planted in the house of the LORD shall flourish in the courts of our God. (Psalm 92:13).