Do you attend church regularly? If so, why?
Have you even thought about the reasons lately?
No, I’m not trying to convince you to stay home. As I wrote in my previous article, 10 Good Reasons To Go To Church, I’m convinced that church attendance is a vital part of a believer’s life (in person if you can, online when you can’t).
But there are several common reasons people go to church that I deliberately chose not to put on that list because it is possible to go to church for the wrong reasons.
So in this article I’m looking at a few common ideas about church attendance that are not adequate reasons to go, because they won’t sustain anyone’s faith, no matter how good the church is, or how often they attend.
1. To Get God To Love Me
God doesn’t love me any more when I go to church, or love me any less if I stay at home.
I don’t go to church to get God to love me. I go because I love him. And I need to be with others to worship him together.
2. To Earn Points For Heaven
There’s a lot of bad theology that leads too many people to think that God is keeping church attendance records, and that St. Peter will pull out a huge ledger when we get to the Pearly Gates. (That sentence also expressed a lot of bad theology about heaven. But that’s for another time).
Here’s the truth about getting into heaven. There are no church attendance points, there’s just grace.
This is the flipside of the previous point. If getting into heaven is a false carrot to get us to church, not going to hell is the false stick.
Certainly, when we’ve done something wrong, a healthy church should be the first place we want to run to for repentance, forgiveness and healing. But any church that uses guilt as a motivation to make you attend is one that you should not be going to – and not feeling guilty about it at all.
4. To Get My Own Way
It’s very easy to fall into the trap that the church exists for me. To serve my needs, my wants, and to do things the way I want them done. Pastors can fall into this trap as easily as members can.
So let’s be clear about this. The church exists to worship, honor and serve Jesus, not us. He’s the focus, not me. What Jesus wants is the only thing that matters.
5. To Be Seen
Status. It may seem like attending church to be noticed and to burnish one’s reputation in the community is a thing of the past, but it’s not. It hasn’t disappeared, it’s just morphed into something else.
Today, “being seen” is more about hanging out with friends and checking in on social media. Both of those can be helpful, but they’re not a good reason to go.
6. To Balance Out Unrepentant Sin
Repenting of sin is a great reason to go to church. But some people have the mistaken idea that church attendance will somehow put weight on the positive end of the scale to make up for the bad things I’ve done on the negative side.
Simply put, like the old insurance commercial used to say, “That’s not how it works! That’s not how any of this works!”
Going to church without any intent to change my behavior doesn’t fool God one bit. Better to stay at home. Better yet, show up and actually repent, receive forgiveness and walk out better equipped to live in a way that honors God every day.
7. To Hear A Great Sermon
I love a great sermon. I’ve heard a lot. I’ve preached a few.
But I can get great sermons on my phone without going to church. Plus, there are a lot of healthy churches with wonderful pastors who aren’t great preachers. That’s okay. The church is so much more than a flashy sermon.
Besides, if hearing a great sermon is the main reason to go to church, what happens when the preacher hits a rough spot or two? Which we all do.
Find a church where you can worship, serve and be discipled. If great preaching is an element of that, terrific! But don’t put too much weight there.
8. To Hear Great Music
Whether it’s the grand hymns, choirs and pipe organs of traditional churches, or the kickin’ worship team in a more casual church, the musical style or skill may motivate for a season, but it won’t sustain in the long run.
Certainly, worship is a reason to go to church. And singing is an important and scriptural aspect of worship. But high-quality music can’t be the reason to go. Just like a focus on the preaching eventually becomes a focus on the preacher, a focus on the music soon becomes a focus on the musicians. And that never ends well. For anyone.
Keep the focus on Jesus.
9. To Maintain The Building
Really? People go to church for this?
Sadly, yes. There are some people who have such an attachment to their church building – usually one with a long history and beautiful architecture – that the building becomes a central aspect of their church’s identity.
The church isn’t a building. You’re no closer to God inside the building than outside it.
Buildings, from grand cathedrals to little white chapels to big-box megachurches, are tools. They should help us advance Christ’s kingdom, not become our point of attention. When they do, they become idols.
10. Force Of Habit
We all have good habits, and church attendance should be one of them.
But if the only reason you go is out of habit, and not because you want to grow in commitment to Jesus, you may be in the same condition as the Ephesian church in Revelation 2:4 that had “lost their first love.”
The solution to church as a habit isn’t to stop the habit, but to remember the better reasons to go and reestablish them into your life again.
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.
Click here to read my previous article, 10 Good Reasons To Go To Church.
(Photo by Adi Goldstein | Unsplash)