Facebook is a pretty good place to learn about a segment of the population. Of course, that segment consists of mainly your friends and family, but it’s still a good place to get a finger on the pulse of what people are thinking.
Recently, I posed two questions to my Facebook timeline:
- If you love Jesus and you go to church, why do you go?
- If you love Jesus and you don’t go to church, why not?
There were some good responses including:
- “I prefer to commune with fellow believers outside of church walls. Too many traditions of men dominate inside church walls.”
- “Sometimes I go to church to fellowship with others.. And learn the amazing lessons my pastor shares.”
- “Gathering with the saints isn’t an option, it’s a command, a necessity, a privilege, a joy.”
- “I think there are many reasons for a believer to ”go to“ church, but even better reasons for a believer to belong to and commit to the church. First of all, if my love for Jesus is authentic and true, it will be characterized by my love for other people, and particularly other believers. How can I love people that I don’t spend any time with? The answer is that I can’t, at least not very well. If I don’t love other Christians, I don’t obey Jesus. If I don’t obey Jesus, I really don’t love him.”
- “(I don’t go because of) Other people & the church ”cliques“ / politics.”
The most poignant response I received was sent to me by private message:
- “I will tell you why I don’t go to church. I don’t go to church because it really has nothing to do with Jesus. It is a wonderful social club that repudiates, judges, embraces, verifies, bolsters, sometimes even ignores the soul, spirit, and/or ego. Mere involvement and attendance, even acceptance is performance based. To quote pop culture ”ain’t nobody got time for that“. In the end, I’m not going to argue or be vilified over certain difference in the faith that is inevitable in community. However, I do maintain close brothers and sisters with whom I study, talk, learn, and grow with- and maintain accountability. I’m over having to perform to get acceptance by Jesus- I am over going to church.”
Is Christianity a Relationship?
Growing up, we were one of those families that were at the church any time the doors were open. Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night; it didn’t matter. If the church was meeting for something, we were there.
I asked my mom why we went to church so much, and she said because it’s what we’re supposed to do.
I’m pretty sure what she meant was, we’re Christians, and Christians go to church.
And that’s not a bad thing, but why do Christians go to church?
Inevitably, the reason most modern evangelicals settle on for going to church can be found in the book of Hebrews 10:25:
not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
The reason Christians go to church is to develop relationships with other believers and encourage each other.
Christians are a part of the body of Christ, and as such should recognize the need to fit into the body of believers. The church then, is where believers come together to encourage one another as members of Christ’s body.
As members of the body of Christ, Christians belong to each other. As it says in Romans 12:5:
so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.
It’s for the Christian’s own good that God wants them in fellowship with other believers. Though individuals, Christians still belong to one another.
Sound familiar? Does that sum up the reasons why you go to church?
Well what about when something happens and your relationship with the people is damaged in some way? What happens when you stop being encouraged by the church you attend?
It’s going to happen at some point, if it hasn’t happened already.
People are people whether they’re sinners or saints, so they’re going to fail you, they’re going to let you down and discourage you. What then?
Every single instance of a people not going to church anymore, the reasons can be summed up in two words: hurt and discouraged.
Satan Loves to Split Up the Flock
The sheep let down the sheep and so the hurt sheep sequester themselves off to another secluded part of the pasture, and Satan loves this.
He loves to split the sheep off from one another so that the flock is less fortified and more vulnerable, and like a wolf who relishes the anticipation of an easy meal, he sits back and watches the sheep get weaker and weaker and then he pounces and devours.
But prevention, unfortunately, is a terrible motivator. If you’ve been hurt by the church and have stopped going, you’re not going to start going out of fear of being devoured by the enemy.
Heck, the church feels like the enemy, filled with its cliques and hippocrits!
No, the truth is, while Hebrew 10:25 gives us a reason for going to church, it’s not the main reason a Christian needs to go to church.
But before I explain why Christians need to go to church we first need to look at what makes a person a Christian.
Sinners Need Jesus… Even Christians!
We are all born sinners, and this doesn’t just mean that we are all born with the capacity to commit sins, it means that we are born with the terminal condition of sin. We are born dead in our sin, and there is only one thing that can fix this: Jesus, the Son of God taking our sins away and giving us life by the power of his life, death, burial and resurrection.
A sinner is made a saint and his sins are forgiven when he receives Jesus.
So how does one receive Jesus? The term receive Jesus is heard all the time, but what does it mean to receive him? In order to be received, something first has to be offered, or given. In John 3:27, John the Baptist tells us: “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven.” Where is Jesus given?
Most modern evangelicals believe that receiving Jesus happens once in your life. Once and done, and it usually coincides with reciting a particular prayer at one point in your life, probably at youth camp. No matter how comfortable we’ve become with this manner of conversion, Christ has never promised to be in the presence of a particular prayer that you pray at one particular moment in time.
So where has he promised to be?
He has promised to be in his Word: John 8:31–32 …“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
He has promised to be in the Waters of Baptism: Acts 2:38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
He has promised to be in the words of Absolution: John 20:21–23 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”
He has promised to be in the Lord’s Supper: Matthew 26:26–28 Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the[a] covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.
We receive Jesus in our Baptism when his word attached to the water washes our sins away and gives us the Holy Spirit.
We receive Jesus when his Word is preached into our ears.
We receive Jesus when his word of absolution is proclaimed to us, forgiving us of our sin.
We receive Jesus when his body and blood is placed into our mouths for the forgiveness of our sins.
There is only one place where these things are faithfully administered, and that is at church.
Christians Need to Go to Church.
The reason Christians need to go to church is because that is where Jesus has promised to be. Does this mean that Jesus is not located other places? No, but does that really matter if Jesus is located other places when he has specifically told us where to find him?
Jesus comes only for sinners, and that includes Christians too. He comes to us through the means of grace administered by the church.
I’d like to propose that if you go to a place where other like-minded people gather merely to encourage one another and build relationships, but Jesus is never offered in that place via his Word and Sacraments, then you are not in a healthy church, no matter how much it calls itself different. And don’t be shocked by this either. In Revelation when Jesus is standing at the door and knocking, he isn’t knocking on the door of the hearts of sinners… he’s knocking on the door of the church… asking to be let back in (Revelation 3:19–21).
Find a church. Go to church. Receive Jesus. You need him.