I Don’t Go to Church to Worship Jesus

Upside churchI can worship Jesus anywhere, at any time.

I don’t need a special building, a special day or a special time to do it. I don’t come into the presence of God when I enter a church building and I don’t leave his presence when the service is over.

Since the Day of Pentecost, all believers have the Holy Spirit living in us from the moment of salvation, so we carry his presence with us. This means that every act of my life, whether alone or in the company of others, can and should be an act of worship.

But I still go to church every weekend. And I would go every weekend, even if I wasn’t a pastor.

Why?

I don’t go to church to worship Jesus. I go to church to worship Jesus with other people. Because I need to worship Jesus in the company of others. We all do. 

I need to worship Jesus along with

  • People I know
  • People I don’t know
  • People who know me
  • People I share life with
  • People I share common beliefs with
  • People I disagree with
  • People who love me anyway
  • People I have to love anyway

 

Church Is Not a Solo Sport

Donald Miller is a writer I admire. He’s made a lot of waves lately with a couple blog posts stating that he doesn’t go to church very often because he feels like he gets more spiritual nourishment elsewhere. To be fair, his feelings are more nuanced than I can express in a paragraph, so I won’t say he’s wrong about this. But my spiritual experiences both inside and outside the church are very similar to his, yet I’ve come to the opposite conclusion. The more I grow in Christ, the more I need the church – and the more they need me.

I don’t always like the fact that I need others so much. To tell the truth, I don’t always like them. And they don’t always like me. But we do need each other.

There are times I wish “all I need is me and Jesus” was true. But it’s not. It never is.

It’s not church when I’m alone. No matter how special or holy the moment may be with just me and Jesus – and I, like Miller, have plenty of them – it’s only church when there’s at least one other believer experiencing it with me. That’s church. And church matters.

Yes, I know that going to a church service is no guarantee that a real church experience will actually happen. But I do know this. Not going to church guarantees that this vital element of our spiritual life will not happen.

The body of Christ can’t be a body if we’re not meeting, worshiping and ministering together.

 

The Nudge of a Healthy Small Church

This is yet another reason why I’m such a proponent of healthy Small Churches. Because of its size, a healthy Small Church nudges me into relationships I might not seek out in a bigger crowd. (Please note the critical word “healthy” in the previous and following sentences.)

It’s not that you can’t have close relationships in a bigger church. If you find your heart and spirit more nourished in a big church, that’s great. Most big churches got big because they worked very hard to foster those kinds of relationships. But if you go to a bigger church, you need to add an extra layer to your church experience by going to a small group.

In a healthy Small Church, those essential aspects of worshiping and fellowshipping together with people we know, happen during our weekend church experience. Plus, a Small Church places in me in a situation where I find myself hanging out and worshiping with people I probably wouldn’t seek out in a larger crowd. I need that extra nudge. A lot of us need it.

 

Face-to-Face Matters

None of us is strong enough to do this on our own. That’s why, when Jesus and the early church worshiped and ministered, the smallest unit they ever had was two people. Usually more.

Over two decades ago, Thomas Peters, who wrote the ground-breaking business book, In Search of Excellence, told business executives about the importance of flesh-and-blood meetings when he advised them to “fly across the country for a five-minute meeting.”

The reason? Being face-to-face matters. If it’s true in business, it’s even more true in church.

There are aspects of how we relate to each other and how we relate to God together that can only happen when I see your face, hug your neck and take notice of the subtle crack in your voice as you try not to cry when I ask how your kids are doing.

Small Churches have a unique opportunity to take advantage of this. Again, it’s not that we’re more friendly than our big church counterparts. But because we see a smaller set of faces week after week, we’re better able to know each other and be ready to catch those subtle hints.

There are too many lone wolf Christians and lone wolf pastors out there. In both big churches and small ones. And it’s not healthy.

We don’t just need Jesus. We need each other.

 

So what do you think? Why do you go to church?

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(Upside-Down Church photo from Thomas Quine • Flickr • Creative Commons license)

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15 thoughts on “I Don’t Go to Church to Worship Jesus”

  1. Meeting with others is important. I just don’t do it in the approved fashion(place & time). I meet to provoke and be provoked in order to keep a firm grip on my profession of belief.

    1. You’re right that time and place don’t matter, David. Besides, one person’s “approved fashion” for meeting probably looks like heresy to someone else. We just need to get together consistently.

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  3. “People I have to love anyway”

    This is not directed at you Karl, from the tone of the rest of your article it’s obvious you are gracious and well meaning.

    I just don’t ever want to hear that phrase again.

    It’s one of those two-way word games that many Christians love to play: when you say person you “have to love anyway” it simultaneously portrays them as somehow falling short in some capacity, and you somehow becoming greater for finding the fortitude to overcome it and “love them anyway”.

    If you’re really going to connect with those folks at your Church your worldview must be no less than Romans 3:23. People know when you’re being condescending.

    1. I understand your concern, Davis. And I appreciate that you graciously gave me credit for having the right intent.

      I wrote it in the context of the bullet points that preceded it. “People I disagree with, People who love me anyway, People I have to love anyway.” The idea was that I love them and they love me in spite of our disagreements. So my having to love them anyway wasn’t in reference to their deficiencies or my supposed superiority. It was just about the fact that worshiping together puts us in a position where we’re nudged towards loving each other despite disagreements.

      Perhaps it would have been better to keep the words “have to” out of that last line, so it would read “People I love anyway.” Yeah, now that I see it, that would have been a better way to write it. Thanks for the heads-up. I’ll be more careful of that in the future.

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  6. I don’t go to my church because of one of the pastors who doesn’t preach from God’s Word. He instead forms a very angry opinion about our current culture and then rails against the Church and cherry picks verses to try and prove a point. Makes me too angry and I have to get up and leave.

  7. This blog post creates a false dichotomy. Either go to church, or you are isolating yourself from other Christians.
    I find that interesting because the post starts off completely on point – we don’t need the church to worship Jesus, etc.
    and if that is true for each of us (which it is), then why would we “need the church” to worship Jesus “with other people”? The logic completely breaks down.
    People who want to push for the importance of church attendance need to examine their reasoning, and understand that the discussion does not centre on whether to gather, but rather on how to gather.

    1. I appreciate your response, but ironically, you set up your own false dichotomy with your last statement when you wrote that the issue is not “whether to gather, but rather on how to gather”. Both of them matter. There can’t be much of a discussion about how we gather until we answer the “whether we gather” question first, right?

      As to your question about ‘why would we “need the church” to worship Jesus “with other people”’, I think the post explains that when it says “The body of Christ can’t be a body if we’re not meeting, worshiping and ministering together.” Or, to put it the way the Apostle Paul did, “The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” (1 Cor 12:21). When I don’t gather with other believers for worship, fellowship, discipleship, ministry and so on, isn’t that one body part telling the others “I don’t need you”?

      One last point. I didn’t write “we don’t need the church to worship Jesus, etc.” as you did. I said “I don’t go to church to worship Jesus.” Period. The “etc” you added, matters. I can worship alone. But I can’t do corporate worship, discipleship, ministry, fellowship and the other “etc.s” unless I’m gathering regularly with other believers.

      Thanks for the opportunity to bounce these ideas back-and-forth.

      1. Hi there, thanks for responding to my comment. I should clarify what I mean… The discussion about going to church or not going to church is not actually about whether or not we gather for worship, edification, teaching, and so on. Many of those who do not go to church or see the necessity of attending church would wholeheartedly agree that gathering together as believers is essential. You actually do not need to attend church services to worship Jesus with other believers. Up for debate is not WHETHER we should gather together for worship (both the christian churchgoer and the christian non-churchgoer take for granted that we ought to!). The question is HOW we should gather. Should we gather according to man’s wisdom or God’s? And it is in the asking and answering of this question that many a church goer has become a non church goer who still meets and worships and fellowships with and loves other believers.

  8. Personally, I’ve been out of church for quite awhile now, as I don’t feel welcome there and most of them are double standard (gossiping behind my back)! Even the pastor is kinda reluctant to say “hi” or asking about my condition. Better watch/ attend the church on TV, where I can grasp the core of the pastor’s sermon. Fellowship is important, but when I haven’t got the right church nearby, why bother???

    1. Finding the right church can be hard, but the bottom line is we need each other. Even when it’s hard, we need to spend time with other believers. It doesn’t have to be a typical church. Maybe there’s a house church near you?

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