It’s become really popular to say “We don’t go to church, we are the church.”
I very much agree with the last half of that sentence. Of course we are the church. The church is, has been, and always will be people. Not buildings, not creeds, not denominations, not institutions.
The church is people. We are it.
But I disagree with the first half of that saying as much as I agree with the last half.
Church is also something I go to. Not a place, but a gathering. Something that affects, even anchors the priorities and rhythms of my life.
The going to matters just as much as the being. In fact, each makes the other better. I can’t imagine how the being part of my faith would stay strong if the going started to fade. And I wouldn’t want to keep going if it wasn’t helping me do better at the being. Each follows the other.
Going and being are not in conflict. It’s misleading and unhelpful to pit them against each other.
The Being Needs The Going
If we’re serious about being the church, it should make us passionate about the essential need to go. To do one without the other is to take neither very seriously.
Going to church without being the church? That’s empty at best, and often a hypocritical power-play.
Being the church without going to church? The lack of going will always undermine the value of being.
This is true no matter how mature or immature your faith may be.
- Seekers need to go to church to ask questions and hear instruction.
- Immature believers need it to gain maturity and strength.
- Mature believers need it because guiding others in their faith is an essential part of our faith.
As a (relatively) mature believer I know now, more than ever, that I need to go to church. Here are 10 reasons that are resonating with me lately.
1. To Obey God’s Commands To Gather
So many of Christ’s commands to the church cannot be met if we’re not meeting together. From communion, to water baptism, to mutual prayer and more, the “going to” is essential.
2. To Re-Focus On God In Worship
Something extraordinary happens when individual members of Christ’s body gather to worship him.
I can and do worship Jesus in all places and times, but the gathering of the body helps me focus more on Christ and less on myself. That matters. A lot.
3. To Connect With A Local Body
Singing together matters. Praying together matters. Working, learning, talking, and dreaming together. All of it matters.
4. To Serve The Body Of Christ
Love and service require proximity. Yes, we can do a lot of good things remotely and I’m grateful for online options for those who cannot gather in person.
But there are some forms of service to one another that simply cannot be done unless we’re in the same room together.
5. To Learn and Grow In Faith
The gathered church challenges me. They push me. They irritate me. They bless me.
They force me to live and cooperate with people I would otherwise avoid. I need that. They need that. We need that.
6. To Regulate My Life Rhythms
Missing church messes with my week. It affects my body, soul, and spirit in negative ways.
Connecting with a local body at least one out of every seven days provides a rhythm of life that I need.
7. To Practice Sabbath
Sabbath has two essential elements. Three, actually. Rest and worship are the first two. Without worship, it’s just a day off. Without rest, it can quickly become legalistic and exhausting.
The third element? Consistency. Observing it on a weekly basis. When we know we will gather according to a regular schedule, it blends worship and rest together in healthy ways.
8. To Stay Grounded Spiritually
Left on my own, I would spend far too much time reading, writing and online – alone.
Soon, I would be living a one-note spirituality. All inside my own head, not connected to the real-life world around me. Taking flights of fancy on my own ideas that feel right, even grand, but that have no real-world value or connection.
Being with God’s people grounds me, my life and my thoughts into the real world, real people, and their real needs.
9. To De-individualize My Faith
Worship is both a personal and public activity. But a serious look at the Bible shows that the public aspect of worship is spoken of far more often than the private, personal aspect.
It’s not that public expressions supersede privately-held faith, but the prevalence of worship gatherings shows that the communal, relational expressions of faith are central, not marginal.
In much of the western church, we’ve individualized our faith to a degree that is unhealthy. We need to move from “me” to “we”.
10. To Honor The Persecuted Church
For 2,000 years and counting, Christians have faced persecution. This is easy to forget if you live (as I do) in a place where we’re not just free to worship, but where Christianity is the dominant religious expression. (Yes, it still is.)
When you look at the past and current state of Christian persecution, you’ll see that Christians are seldom persecuted for what they believe. It’s hard, if not impossible, to regulate someone’s interior life. Almost all Christian persecution has been based on outlawing two things: gathering to worship and sharing our faith with others.
Most persecuted Christians could be believers without any recrimination if they just did one thing – kept it to themselves. But they go to church, even at the risk of persecution and death, because they know Christians need to gather.
When I go to church I honor those who risked their lives – and those who still risk their lives – for the right to gather.
What’s Not On The List?
That’s not an exhaustive list, but it’s a good enough start to make me think long and hard before I ever consider not going to church on a weekly basis (even if that means attending virtually for reasons of distance, illness and so on.)
Anything I Missed?
Well, those are some ideas I’ve thought of recently. Did I miss any? Let me know in the comments or on social media.
In my next article, 9 Bad Reasons To Go To Church, I’ll take a look at few common myths about church attendance that are not adequate reasons to go – and that won’t sustain anyone’s faith, no matter how much they attend.
(Photo by adrianna geo | Unsplash)