Why I Go to Church
I have tried to list the following in some reasonable prioritized order but the priorities are difficult as all seem to be important. Why I go to church:
- Church is where I encounter God. It’s where I hear Him speak in His word and sacrament. It’s where I know I will find Him because He says in His word that wherever two or more are gathered in His name, there He will be as well.
- I go to church to confess my sins and hear the absolution (forgiveness) of my sins spoken back to me by our Pastor. We do this every Sunday and it’s pretty close to the first thing that we do.
- I go to church for the personal reassurance of forgiveness that is offered to me through the Lord’s Supper and the very tasting and seeing of my savior’s body and blood, shed for me, which is present in the elements.
- I go to church to give my offerings to God.
- I go to church to pray collectively with fellow believers.
- I go to church to sing praises to God, to worship Him and to honor Him.
- I go to church to state my beliefs through the use of creeds (Apostle’s, Nicene and Athanasian).
- I go to church to hear preaching; primarily focused on Christ’s work.
- I go to church to learn about God, His character, His acts, His attributes, to hear stories about His people and the earth’s history.
- I go to church to be with fellow believers that I share a unity of faith with. These are my closest friends.
My denomination and local church do an outstanding job of feeding my faith through the above list.
But what if an unchurched visitor has different expectations? What if they measured your church based on:
- Curb appeal
- Cleanliness of the church; including the smell
- Friendliness of the people; it is not a good thing if every head in the church turns around and looks at a visitor as they enter – especially if they enter late.
- Style of the music and the participation of the congregation as well as applicability and modernity of the preached message.
- The worship service can not and should not be boring. It can be lively or somber, energetic or remorseful, uplifting or introspective, bombastic or reverent – anything but boring – because God, His word, and His stories are not boring. Someone is doing something very wrong if your worship is being classified as boring. One piece of advice – avoid robotic worship planning where the only thing that changes from week-to-week is the hymn numbers and the only prayers that are used are pre-written by someone far removed from the local church.
- No outrageous signs or evidence of hypocrisy
- Quality of the coffee
- Ease of following the service
- Approachability of the Pastor (Pastors – make eye contact while preaching!)
- A feeling of being welcome; not ignored and not swarmed upon – either extreme can be bad.
- A helpful person in the pew.
- A few sincere hand shakes, “good mornings”, “have a nice day”, and “thanks for visiting with us today.”
- A children’s message during worship, and a general feeling of welcome to children, teens, young families, single people and the elderly; i.e. everyone.
- Avoid feelings or perceptions of exclusivity, including cliques and too many “churchy or old words” that only church-goers recognize.
- Visitors need to see an active body of believers and not just a one man show where the Pastor does it all.
I think that the church will die without the first list. The second list is also important; especially for reaching the unchurched. Many churches I know are very good at catering to the first list but sometimes lack in the second; as a result our churches are sometimes full of ageing, mature, strong Christians who are all saved but our growth always seem to be an issue. So our job is to find the right balance because relying solely at either extreme can limit the church’s efforts. This is not about dumbing down the service or becoming irreverent; it is about growing God’s kingdom here on earth and spreading that precious life-saving Gospel with those who need it most. The goal is for everyone to be saved; your seasoned members andvisitors (those new to the faith), so that in the end God’s kingdom grows. The key here is to do both lists without losing your connection to the Word of Life and also keeping the Word of God in the forefront of all activities. Stated differently, do not change your message for the sake of growth.
Some of you are thinking that we don’t need to work towards the second list – all we need to do is plant the seed we say; but to the weak, we must become weak. We need to plant the seed and to see that the gorund is fertile . That person in your church who shows up an hour before worship to get the coffee going – they realize that it’s about more than the coffee, they have a proper eternal perspective, they know that people are going to be reached with the life saving gospel message today. Your job is to win as many people as possible and to do whatever it takes to do so.
The Apostle Paul did.
Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. 1Cor 9:19-23
Finally, let’s stop picking on those churches that have “coffee and couches”, or those using contemporary music, or those using art in worship, or those who raise their arms in praise; let’s stop using the terms “happy-clappy” or “stand-up and sit-down” or “7/11” as these are all childlike and not becoming of Christians. Rather, let scripture be your guide. Let’s be more like Paul.