Take a moment to honestly ask yourself a question. Where is your favorite place to be? What popped into your mind first? Was it the mall or a shopping center? Was it a favorite bar, lounge, or other social spot? Maybe it’s the gym, golf course, or other sports related venue. Was it church? For many of us, the honest answer to that question is “No.” Does church at least make your top 3? Top 5? Sure, as Believers, most of us are committed to going to church. Many of us take on responsibilities, sing along with the songs, and fellowship with our fellow congregation members. We do what we feel is required of us. We treat church the same way we treat our jobs, and though we are thankful for our jobs, they probably weren’t the answer to the questions posed above either. Why do we look at church as something akin more to work than recreation? Our relationships with God and the mission given by him are serious business for sure, but should we approach going to the House of the Lord as an obligation or should our attitudes be something else? David certainly didn’t believe that going to church should be a grind.
I rejoice with those who said “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” – Psalm 122:1
Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked. – Psalm 84:10
Going to church shouldn’t be done because we believe we have to do it. We aren’t required to do it, at least not for salvation. Ironically, many people who don’t want to go to church use that reasoning to excuse their lack of attendance. “Church doesn’t save you,” some say. They are right. Believing that Jesus is Lord and that he died and was resurrected for us is what saves us. Your confession can be proclaimed anywhere. There is no designated site for giving your life to God. However, that is not a good reason not to go to the House of God. So, what is the truth?
Being fair, it must be noted that some of us understand that the Church is not a building, but, in truth the Body of Christ. Any place where the Lord’s people gather to commune with him can serve the purpose of church.
For where two or three gather in my name, there I am with them. – Matthew 18:20
If a group of God’s people want to assemble at the local coffee shop and dig into his Word and praise him, then they are effectively “having church.” Such gatherings certainly have merit. For one, not everyone at that coffee shop will be a Believer. Perhaps, seeing God’s people gathered and enjoying fellowship with the Lord and each other will raise a nonbeliever’s interest and set them on the path towards finding God. In the past, many churches began as gatherings at the homes of Believers. The church members would rotate between the homes of its members, and they would hold services dedicated to praising and learning about the Lord. Such a setup would certainly foster good relationships between the church members and demonstrate definitively that the homes of those church members welcomed the presence of the Lord. So do we really need a church building? Is attending such a venue really necessary? Yes, it is. We should be willing to fellowship with other Believers in public and at our homes, but those places aren’t the “House of God.” Can you really go to your local coffee shop and praise God without restriction? Are the average Believers really willing to dedicate their homes to God’s work 24/7/365?
Having a site dedicated to serving the Lord, where his people can learn about Him, praise Him, conduct His work, and ultimately seek Him without distraction is necessary. The sheer number of churches that exist everywhere are a testament that Believers understand the importance of God’s House. So, why is it that we don’t always enjoy attending the way we should? If you aren’t entering God’s house with joy, there are probably a couple things that need to change.
The first thing that may need to change is your outlook or attitude. At some point in all our lives, we went to school to learn and we went to a job to work. Even in the cases where we like our school or job, we don’t always like the obligation of having to labor, day in and day out. We treat going to church the same way, as an obligation that we have to fulfill 1, 2, 3, etc… times a week. We shouldn’t look at it like that. We should be treating the church more like our homes, where we have the pleasure of spending time with our parents, siblings, children, or other family members. Sure you may have chores or work around the house that you have to do, but does that make you enjoy being home any less? When you think about all the love and happiness your family brings you, don’t you enjoy serving them? The same should be true with God, your heavenly Father. He created you, protects you, and loves you. How can you know that and not want to spend time in his presence? Our problem is that we look at going to church as part of our weekly grind, when in reality, we should be looking at it as an escape from that grind. We can shed our worries about our financial woes, family troubles, sickness, or whatever else is weighing on us. For a few hours, we can concentrate on God and his glory knowing that when we have the right relationship with him and have faith in him, some way and somehow he will help us work through our other concerns. Jesus instructed us not to worry because God loves us (Matthew 6:25-34). Church is the best place to practice that instruction.
The second thing that may need to change is your church. The truth is that our problem with attending church is not always our fault. Sometimes we have bad experiences that deter us from attending. Some of us lose faith, not so much in God, but in his people and the concept of the Body of Christ. To some extent, this is understandable. Not every church is truly about God’s business, and not all that call themselves Christians truly follow Christ. However, conflict does not always arise because the people of the church are not truly of God. Humans are flawed, so every human enterprise will have its problems. Running a church is no different. Paul’s letters are a testament to this fact. 2 Corinthians 2:1-11 shows us an example of such a conflict within the church at Corinth that led to a conflict between the church and Paul. He was grieved by the conflict and, as a result, had to pass on an opportunity to visit the church. In the end, by leaning on God, they were able to work through the problem and much of the rest of the letter consists of Paul restoring his relationship with the people of that church. It should be the same with us. If a church is not of the Lord, we should leave it. However, if we just see the problems that appear amongst every family, we should look to the Lord for guidance and work through those problems. Overcoming adversity is often what brings a family closer, and the closer you become with your familymembers, the more you want to be among them.
The issue is not always conflict within or wrongdoing by a church. Sometimes a church is just not the right fit. The Bible gives plenty of instruction for how churches should be conducted from a moral standpoint, but it does not put much, if any, attention on style. I believe this was intentional. God understands that differences abound amongst Believers. As a result, the same mode of operation won’t work to serve or appeal to everyone. We have different tastes in music, style of dress, manner of speech, form of praise, etc… It would be nice if every church could serve anyone, but the truth is, things do not always work like that. For some Believers going to a particular church might seem like fitting a square peg into a round hole no matter how much everyone involved loves God. It’s not that the Believer is wrong or that the church is bad, simply that the church does not appeal to the needs of that particular Believer. That’s why the Body of Christ, like any other body, has multiple parts. It’s important that you find the part for you. Be careful, though, when searching for the church that best fits you. Let God guide you. Do not get caught in the cult of personality of a particular preacher or religious movement. Such things might seem to appeal to Believers on a spiritual level, but are often hollow and serve only to breed conflict or spread misinformation. Paul had to deal with this too. In 1 Corinthians 3, he had to address a church getting bogged down in loyalties towards certain leaders rather than concentrating on the message. No matter how good a preacher or pastor is, no church leader can get you into Heaven. That requires developing your own faith, and you should choose the church that puts you in the best position to do that. The right church will excite you about the prospect of serving God and give you the opportunity to do it. The right church will not only teach you about God but also instill a hunger in you to learn more on your own. The right church will not only be filled with praise for God, but also lead you to praise God. When it comes to our earthly dwellings, we don’t just look for houses; we look for homes. The right house for one person might not be home for another, but make no mistake, God has a place for everyone.
The Bible cautions us against giving up on attending church.
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another-and all the more as you see the Day approaching – Hebrews 10:24-24
Unfortunately, many of our spiritual journeys take us off the path to God and away from the church. God has ways of bringing back lost sheep, and, if we are willing, we can find our way back to the right path. Just remember that path likely passes right through a church of some kind. God is with you everywhere, but what better place is there to spend time in his presence than in His house and your very own spiritual home?