It’s Monday Grace!
Why do people go to church?
Well, let’s set aside some of the wrong reasons. Some go to make business contacts. Others go to church so people will think they are good and trustworthy. Some go to church just because they always have and their family always did. Those are wrong reasons in my mind.
So, why do faithful and sincere people go to church?
If you were to ask people to give a personal response to that, I think most would answer with some version of “to get better.” In other words, most people go to church to be stimulated and challenged to perform at a higher level. One man told me years ago that if he left a church service without feeling bad about himself he would consider that church service lacking. He expected to feel judged, condemned, and remonstrated. Many attend church to learn steps toward righteousness. Do this and that, and God will bless you. Stay away from this and that, and God will not punish you.
No wonder people sit as far toward the back as possible. No wonder they fold their arms as though daring the preacher to challenge something in their lives. No wonder their kids focus on their phones during the service. Most of us don’t enjoy being scolded, even if it is supposed to make us better.
Several years ago, my family had an opportunity to look for a church home. (That means I was out of a job.) We learned a lot about how most people think about going to church. We attended several churches. In one, we heard all about their building program. In another, we heard how progressive they were. In yet another, we were confronted with narrow doctrine designed to make us like them. And then there was the one where the preacher told stories about himself for almost an hour.
Finally, we sat down together to talk about what we really wanted in a church. A church where Jesus was real and active. That was our desire. Jesus was not just an idea to keep people in line or move them to service. He was Someone who was real in our daily lives and in the life of the church. We found that in a very large charismatic church across town. We were not charismatics and never really became tongues-speakers, but Jesus was real there. We prayed as though He listened and cared.
Why was that important? Because a church that is not centered on Jesus as a living and loving Lord has nothing to offer people. And, sadly, that describes a lot of churches. We needed that reality.
A lot of people find the church to be a source of pain. Comparisons, judgments, expectations, demands. That defines church for many. Others add things like betrayal, abuse, and rejection. None of that comes from Jesus.
I don’t believe you have to go to church to be a Christian. Nor do I believe that people will become better by attending church. But I do still believe Christians can gather in the presence of the Lord to experience and share His love.
Sometimes our ideas and traditions keep us from seeing what God offers to us. There may be a church near you where the people (and the preacher) just want to walk with Jesus and encourage each other along the way. If there is such a church, check it out. You can hold your doctrines without judging others or expecting all believers to be the same. You might find some sincere love and welcome.
Don’t give up on the people of God. Some of them will love you. Be wise and careful. Watch for signs of legalism and comparisons. Watch for self or institutional focus. Don’t hesitate to wipe the dust off your feet and leave. But, if the Lord is calling you to gather with His people, don’t be afraid. You might be surprised at where He leads you.