Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Priority of Going to Church

Church. It's something I attempted to evade virtually every Sunday of my youth. I hated it. I found it to be terribly boring and a waste of my time. I try not to bash the Roman Catholic Church, but I was raised in it and it was B-O-R-I-N-G to say the least.

Today I find church to be one of the most important things in my life (I am saying this as a Christian, not as a pastor). Regardless of my vocation, I plan on spending just about every Sunday in church for the rest of my life. There are very few things that would keep me from church. I don't really even remember the last time I missed church. I know that I missed two weeks on my trip to Israel, but other than than I have been in church almost every Sunday for about the last 15 years (of course there were many times as a Navy SEAL where going to church wasn't an option).

What gives? Why the change in my life? These are hard questions. I don't know how well I will do answering them, but I feel guilty for not blogging recently so I will sort of shoot from the hip on this one. I feel like this is an important question to answer in light of the fact that so many people who profess Jesus as Lord rarely attend church on a regular basis. Here are some reasons why I think going to church is important.

1. The Bible commands it. I look to the Bible for instructions concerning this life. According to the passage below, I think God wants Christians to go to church on a regular basis.

"Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near" (Heb. 10:23-25 NASB).

2. According to the above verse, going to church helps you grow as a Christian through community. I am finding this point hard to express right now. Notice the part above that says, "consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds." Clearly going to church is more than just doing your time on Sunday to please God. Church is a place to fan the believer's flame for God and to equip the Christian into action (Eph. 4:11-13). I believe the growth of many Christians is being stifled by not attending church on a regular basis (i.e. once, or more, times per week).

Books could be written on point number two, but time precludes my ability to do this. Instead, I will conclude with some thoughts from my heart. As we go to church on a regular basis a number of very important things will take place:
  • I have developed deep friendships through being connected at church. There is a certain sort of relationship that occurs through the local church that cannot be replicated anywhere else--this is what the Bible means when it uses the term "fellowship."
  • I have grown in my understanding and application of the Bible in my life. This is the foundation of discipleship. I have grown in my walk with the Lord because I have been in church on a regular basis. I have also grown stronger in areas of weakness.
  • I have been given the opportunity to serve and and to function according to my place within the body. I say this as a Christian, not as a pastor. If you are a Christian, God has a place for you to serve (Eph. 2:10).
This list is not exhaustive. Not every church is created the same. We live in an era of consumerism where people are fickle and don't plug in and stick as God wants them, but a church should offer some basic elements:

1. Sound Bible teaching that is interesting, practical, and true to the text. I truly think this is the most important aspect of a church as it is in essence the rudder of the direction of the church. I think other areas can be corrected through solid Bible teaching and the leading of the Spirit.

2. The worship should be worshipful. I hesitate posting this point as I have come to learn as a pastor that the "worshipfullness of the worship" is directly linked to the condition of the heart. This being said, I want to attend a church that aids in my worship, through music, to the Lord.

3. The people should be loving. Now you can't judge a church based on one or two bad apples. This is a general statement concerning the pastor, leaders, and bulk of the people. Jesus said that the world will know people are followers of Him by their love (John 13:34-35). I don't think it is unreasonable to expect a church to be filled with loving people.

I am a rush right now. You got it...I am off to church for Bible study! If you are looking for a church, don't judge the church in one setting. I think it takes between 4-12 weeks to truly get to know the church. I would encourage you to talk to the pastor, talk to the people, plug yourself in, and ask God for wisdom.

I know I didn't hit everything in this post. How has church been a blessing to you?

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