“I don’t need to go to church. I can worship God at home. I can talk to God in my room.”
One more time, I have heard this excuse from one of my kids. I have heard it from many people through the years. Because the 2nd and 3rd sentences are true, many draw the conclusion the first one is true. But it isn’t. And although I knew this instinctively and experientially, I have never really come up with a good argument on my own for why it isn’t true, until now.
But more on that later. In the past, I have responded with the usual lame answers, feeling my response was just as useless as theirs; partly because I knew it was falling on deaf ears (so I might as well have kept my mouth shut), and partly because I could argue against each of those answers myself. This would leave me asking myself, “Why do we really need to go to church?” I think this is a good question for regular church-goers to ask themselves on the good days, so when the frustrating days come with a million seemingly legitimate excuses for why we should skip, we aren’t left trying to brace ourselves against a three-legged stool with one leg missing.
What are some of the lame answers? (and by lame, I mean they lack meaning and conviction for the person to whom I was giving them. Each answer has legitimacy and truth. It just doesn’t have the same meaning to someone who doesn’t want to go. Fair enough?)
“You will miss a good sermon/service.” Their response: “I can turn on the TV/radio/Internet and maybe catch a better one…I probably won’t, but I could.” Because of the highly connected and media-driven world in which we live today, we can get a sermon, teaching, and worship music from some source 24 hours a day, 7 days per week. We could counter with, “But that’s like watching the game on TV versus being there LIVE! It’s so much better to experience it in person.” This is true, without a doubt. But to someone who doesn’t really care about the game, or the players, or the sport in general, it doesn’t matter. So our next response might try to tap into what they DO care about (hopefully) to motivate them.
“Just do it for me.” or, “If you really love _____ (fill in the blank: me, the kids, your mother, your job…), you’ll go.” How awful is that? Coercion and manipulation at its best…or worst! And yes, I’ve used it more times than I care to admit. Because honestly, we all do things we don’t want to do to make the people we love happy. The problem is, I don’t want my loved ones to worship and serve Jesus because it makes me happy. I want them to do it because they love Him and WANT to worship and serve Him. I think that’s what God wants, right? He wants us to be with Him because we want to be, because we love Him, because we recognize that being with Him is why He created us and will bring us our greatest joy.
But what does going to church have to do with that? I mean, we can and should love and worship God at home. We can and should serve Him in the world in our daily lives, not just at church.
I found the answer here: Therefore if you were raised with Christ, look for the things that are above where Christ is sitting at God’s right side. Think about the things above and not things on earth. You died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. So put to death the parts of your life that belong to the earth, such as sexual immorality, moral corruption, lust, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry). The wrath of God is coming upon disobedient people because of these things. You used to live this way, when you were alive to these things. But now set aside these things, such as anger, rage, malice, slander, and obscene language. Don’t lie to each other. Take off the old human nature with its practices and put on the new nature, which is renewed in knowledge by conforming to the image of the one who created it. Therefore, as God’s choice, holy and loved, put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Be tolerant with each other and, if someone has a complaint against anyone, forgive each other. As the Lord forgave you, so also forgive each other. And over all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. The peace of Christ must control your hearts—a peace into which you were called in one body. And be thankful people. The word of Christ must live in you richly. Teach and warn each other with all wisdom by singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Sing to God with gratitude in your hearts. Whatever you do, whether in speech or action, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus and give thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:1-3, 5-10, 12-17 CEB)
Do you get it? We are supposed to live differently. We aren’t supposed to keep doing things like the world does. And that is HARD! Not only is it natural for us to act selfishly, pridefully, lustful, greedy, angry, hateful, mouthy, gossipy, etc…, nearly everything around us in the world ENCOURAGES this attitude and behavior. You know as well as I do that what/who we spend our time around becomes our “normal.” We get brain-washed. And when we spend all our time immersed in worldly activities, entertainment, and pursuits, the world’s ways become normalized for us. This is demonstrated clearly in the youth with whom I work in the residential home. Their backgrounds of abuse, neglect, violence, criminality, etc…have made this stuff normal to them; and the media has perpetuated it. Now their lives are on a fast-track to continuing the cycle, at best, or to their destruction, at worst. They need a new normal, and most of them know it and want it. For them, it is life or death. But it’s so hard to leave a comfort zone, no matter how painful or destructive that comfort zone is. They need to be surrounded by a new community, a new family; one who is living the new nature of Christ. We all need that.
The truth is,
if when most of these kids go back to the environment (which includes “the streets”) from which they came, even with all the therapy, skills, and love we’ve given them, even if they’ve “put on the new nature of Christ” themselves, they will get eaten alive…if they are alone.
This is true for all of us. We can’t do it alone.
We. Need. Each. Other.
We are each only part of a Body. We need the other parts. In community we create the desired environment of love, forgiveness, humility, compassion, kindness, gentleness, patience, gratitude, etc… This environment becomes our new normal.
So the next time someone says to you, “I don’t need church,” maybe you can respond with something like, “I need my church family to help me live the life God has called me to live.” If they haven’t figured that out for themselves, though, it’s still falling on deaf ears. Or maybe they have another reason for not feeling connected.
What about you? What arguments have you used for or against why to go to church?