This Sunday I had to miss church. It is the second Sunday I have missed because I have been sick. Recovering now, but I so hate to miss church. Somehow the week is just not the same when I have not been able to meet with my church family and join in praise of God and hear His word.
Many times I have heard the statement “You don’t have to go to church to be a Christian.” And the one I love is “Going to church does not make you a Christian any more than sitting in a garage makes you a car.”
While I agree with those statements and sadly realize that many people think going to church makes them a Christian without any real commitment to the Lord or any attempt to follow His word, I question why we would say that.
Of course, there are many who cannot go to church because of health issues or work issues. With the Covid-19 this past year many of us could not go to church because our churches were closed. But I have to wonder why anyone who calls themself Christian and can go to church would choose not to.
Oh I know. There are many stories of people who have been hurt by the church. Members who were judgmental, personal rejection, people who acted one way in church on Sunday and lived differently the rest of the week and the list goes on and on.
I have been hurt – badly hurt – more than once by church people.
So why do I still go to church?
- First, because I believe the church was God’s plan for spreading the Good News.
In Matthew’s gospel we are told that Jesus declared “you are Peter (which means rock) and upon this rock I will build my church.” I know different denominations disagree on exactly what that meant for Peter, but putting our differences aside, I think we can see that Jesus had plans to use men to build the church. Notice that He did not say “build the church” but rather “build my church.
However, in today’s world the definition of “church” has lost its original meaning.
Look in a dictionary and you will find “church” explained this way:
- A building for public Christian worship.
- The public worship of God or a religious service in such a building
- The whole body of Christian believers; Christendom.
- Any division of this body professing the same creed and acknowledging the same ecclesiastical authority; a Christian denomination.
But the word “church” is not actually in the original manuscripts of the Bible. The word that was used (and was translated into church) was “Ekklesia.” In the time of the Greek Empire the word was used to describe the assembly of free citizens to discuss, debate and express their thoughts on the community, the government. Many say it was the beginning of a democratic society.
This word is a compound word. “Ek” means “out of.” “Kaleo” mean “to call.” So the church is supposed to be people who have received the call of God and the outcome of their answer to that call.
Simply put, ekklesia means community.
Just before He went to the cross, Jesus prayed to the Father for this community. In that prayer He said,
I ask not only on behalf of these (that’s the disciples), but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word (that’s us), that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:20-23)
- Most of the New Testament is addressed not to an individual, but to a community of believers. Many of the Psalms talk about praising “in the congregation” or “in the sanctuary” indicating there was a place for worshipping God with others. The Revelation given to John was for the seven churches. When Jesus left His disciples His instruction was to gather together in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit came. The book of Acts shows that they were in a group praying together – in unity – when the Holy Spirit came. Later as Peter preached a powerful sermon we are told that “the Lord added daily to the church such as should be saved”. As people came to faith in Jesus Christ it followed that they were to be a part of this community of believers.
- In the Apostle Paul’s writing he referred to the church as a body. He talked about we all are a part of that body. The body is made up of many different parts – but if we remove a part from the body, that part will die. And although the body may go on living, it will not be as good as it had been before. From that illustration I understand that to remove myself from my church family has a great danger that I will spiritually begin to die. And even if I am so strong, so spiritual, have such a great knowledge of the Word of God that I would be fine without being a part of a community of believers, that is all the more reason for me to attend. The church needs me just as I need the church.
- The example of Jesus when He was on earth. Luke’s Gospel tells us that “And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day.”
- To set an example for my children and grandchildren. In our society today our youth are being hit with false ideas and dangerous teachings. While the church is not supposed to be the only place our children learn of God (in fact the Bible is clear that main responsibility belongs in the home with the parents), faithful attendance sends a message to our children. It tells them belonging to a community of believers is important.
This community of believers is far from perfect. Why? Because it is made of people just like me – and I am certainly not perfect. I fear that we view church like a consumer. “The church doesn’t meet my needs.” Sorry, but the point of being a part of a community of believers is more than having your needs met. It is to also help meet the needs of others. The New Testament is full of calls for us to minister to others. While we can do that outside of church – and we should – I think it again speaks to the idea that Jesus had when He prayed to the Father that we would be one. Here are some of those “one anothers.”
“…Be at peace with each other.” (Mark 9:50)
“…Wash one another’s feet.” (John 13:14)
“…Love one another…” (John 13:34)
“…Love one another…” (John 13:34)
“…Love one another…” (John 13:35)
“…Love one another…” (John 15:12)
“…Love one another” (John 15:17)
“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love…” (Romans 12:10)
“…Honor one another above yourselves. (Romans 12:10)
“Live in harmony with one another…” (Romans 12:16)
“…Love one another…” (Romans 13:8)
“…Stop passing judgment on one another.” (Romans 14:13)
“Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you…” (Romans 15:7)
“…Instruct one another.” (Romans 15:14)
“Greet one another with a holy kiss…” (Romans 16:16)
“…When you come together to eat, wait for each other.” (I Cor. 11:33)
“…Have equal concern for each other.” (I Corinthians 12:25)
“…Greet one another with a holy kiss.” (I Corinthians 16:20)
“Greet one another with a holy kiss.” (II Corinthians 13:12)
“…Serve one another in love.” (Galatians 5:13)
“If you keep on biting and devouring each other…you will be destroyed by each other.” (Galatians 5:15)
“Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.” (Galatians 5:26)
“Carry each other’s burdens…” (Galatians 6:2)
“…Be patient, bearing with one another in love.” (Ephesians 4:2)
“Be kind and compassionate to one another…” (Ephesians 4:32)
“…Forgiving each other…” (Ephesians 4:32)
“Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.” (Ephesians 5:19)
“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5:21)
“…In humility consider others better than yourselves.” (Philippians
“Do not lie to each other…” (Colossians 3:9)
“Bear with each other…” (Colossians 3:13)
“…Forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.” (Colossians 3:13)
“Teach…[one another]” (Colossians 3:16)
“Admonish one another (Colossians 3:16)
“…Make your love increase and overflow for each other.” (I Thessalonians 3:12)
“…Love each other.” (I Thessalonians 4:9)
“…Encourage each other…”(I Thessalonians 4:18)
“…Encourage each other…” I Thessalonians 5:11)
“…Build each other up…” (I Thessalonians 5:11)
“Encourage one another daily…” Hebrews 3:13)
“…Spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” (Hebrews 10:24)
“…Encourage one another.” (Hebrews 10:25)
“…Do not slander one another.” (James 4:11)
“Don’t grumble against each other…” (James 5:9)
“Confess your sins to each other…” (James 5:16)
“…Pray for each other.” (James 5:16)
“…Love one another deeply, from the heart.” (I Peter 3:8)
“…Live in harmony with one another…” (I Peter 3:8)
“…Love each other deeply…” (I Peter 4:8)
“Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.” (I Peter 4:9)
“Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others…” (I Peter 4:10)
“…Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another…”(I Peter 5:5)
“Greet one another with a kiss of love.” (I Peter 5:14)
“…Love one another.” (I John 3:11)
“…Love one another.” (I John 3:23)
“…Love one another.” (I John 4:7)
“…Love one another.” (I John 4:11)
“…Love one another.” (I John 4:12)
“…Love one another.” (II John 5)
Final point is this verse in Ephesians:
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
If you have been hurt by the church, do not give up on it. Find another church. We have doctors/hairdressers/restaurants that we have difficulty with. We do not stop going to a doctor, getting our hair cut, or eating out. We just move on to find another one. I am not advocating moving around from church to church like a consumer. But if you have been hurt, the answer is not to ignore the plan of Jesus as we are told that Jesus not only loved the church – but gave Himself for it.
Ephesians 3:19 – “even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.”