Sunday, October 14, 2012


I received a mailing the other day, an advertisement, for “invite cards” to be used to invite people “back to God and church.”  The mailing asked this question—in large and bold type—“Why aren’t people going to church?”  It drew attention to an alarming statistic: “Right now, fewer than 20% of people in the United States regularly attend church.”  That’s a startling number, especially considering the fact that ~80% of Americans identify themselves to be “Christian.
Why go to church?  It’s a good question.  Many go out of a sense of obligation.  Parents, friends, or relatives exercise some degree of influence and a person is led to dutifully attend.  That was my situation when I was but an adolescent and my Mom took me and my siblings to the Catholic Church.  I myself had no desire to be there—I would have rather been fishing with my Dad—but I went because she made me.
Some go to church because they believe that going might somehow contribute to their salvation.  They have been led to mistakenly believe that salvation is by being a good person or doing good works.  “Good people go to heaven,” they assume, and going to church is a part of what makes a person a “good person.”  The religious cults operate according to this way of thinking.  But there are many professing Christians who think this way about church attendance as well.  But--as has been said--going to church doesn’t make a person a Christian anymore than going into a garage would make them a car.
In our day many churches have responded to this alarming trend of decreasing church attendance by attempting to make church exciting, cool, and fun.  They cite the need to be culturally relevant.  They cater their music to the lost and endeavor to make church both comfortable and non-demanding.  Christ-less and cross-less “self-help” messages substitute for the teaching of sound doctrine (Cf. 2 Timothy 4:3).  The person and work of Christ are de-emphasized in an attempt to gain a hearing with those who have little interest in such matters (Cf. 1 Corinthians 1:23).  Because so little attention is given to sound doctrine or edification these churches remain anemic and self-serving.  Rebel sinners are content to attend week after week apart from any conviction of sin.
The classic text on the matter of fellowshipping together is Hebrews 10:25 which reminds us to not be “forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some.”  A part of the answer to the question, “Why go to church?” is answered by the context of this verse.  The “assembling together” is for those who have made a “confession of hope” (Hebrews 10:23).  Of what confession is the verse speaking?  The obvious answer is the confession of hope which accompanies one’s faith in Christ as Lord and Savior.  The text is addressed to those who have already trusted in Christ for salvation. 
It has long been said that the church gathers for edification and scatters for evangelism.  This statement represents a Biblical perspective on the ministry of the local church.  The gathering of the believers on Sundays (or any other occasion) is primarily for the purpose of the edification (building up) of the church.  Though the church is commissioned to share the gospel, the primary purpose of the assembling together is not evangelistic.  That’s not to say that it can’t or won’t happen.  It is a good thing when an unsaved person finds his way to the assembly of believers and a great thing if he is saved as a result.  But evangelism happens not as a result of the cultural relevance of the church to the lost, but the God-relevance of the saved (Cf. 1 Corinthians 14:24-25 which speaks of the convicting influence on the unsaved of God’s presence amidst His people).  The church gathers for edification and scatters for evangelism.  The born-again believers who make up a local church constitute a team of missionaries, ambassadors for Christ, sent out to reach that particular community with the gospel.  Every believer in Christ lives amidst a unique group of family members, friends, neighbors, co-workers and/or classmates.  To the extent that the believer is growing and walking with Christ--and his understanding of and ability to share the gospel--he is sovereignly and strategically enabled and equipped to reach people that a church pastor or leaders could never reach.
All that being said--the question remains, “Why go to church?”  The question is not really that difficult to answer.  The worshipping church is appealing to those who have been born-again through faith in Christ--for those who have been loved by Jesus and who love Him in response (1 John 4:19)!  It is His church (Matthew 16:18).  He paid a high price for it and deems it beautiful (Cf. Acts 20:28; Ephesians 5:25-29).  Jesus loves His church—the Spirit-led believer is led to do the same.  The new believer is instinctively driven in love to fellowship with other like-minded believers (Cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:9).  And though it be true that the church is not now perfect (many professing believers excuse their non-attendance by finding fault with the church and/or its members)--the discerning believer sees things from God’s perspective.  He understands that God is at work, by His grace, to work a miraculous transformation in His people (Cf. Ephesians 5:25-27; Philippians 1:6)—which is to the praise of the glory of His grace (Cf. Ephesians 1:6).  The faults and idiosyncrasies of others represent God-given opportunities to learn to love others as Christ loves and thereby grow in Christlikeness.  “Speaking the truth in love we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ” (Ephesians 4:15).  The believer is Spirit-led to serve and use his or her gifts towards this end (Cf. Galatians 5:13; Romans 12:4-8).
Jesus, in His person and work, is to be the attraction in His church!  He was the attraction when you first trusted in Him for salvation (Cf. 2 Corinthians 4:6) and He is to be so today (Cf. 1 Peter 1:8).  He will be the attraction when you depart one day to the heavenlies where you will marvel at Him and praise Him, with all the redeemed, forever and ever (Cf. 2 Thessalonians 1:10; Revelation 5:9-10).  Why go to church?  Because you love Jesus and you want to worship HIM (Cf. Philippians 3:3), hear HIS Word (Cf. Colossians 3:16), love HIS people (Cf. 1 Peter 1:22), and be better equipped to share HIS gospel (Cf. Philippians 1:27, 2:16).  The gospel has the power to save church-avoiding, rebel-sinners and make them to be Christ-adoring, worship-loving saints (Cf. Romans 1:16; Colossians 1:13).  If you, as a believer, are not now driven to maintain regular fellowship with His saints by love for HIM, He has offered a remedy for that too: “But I have this against you, that you have left your first love.  Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first” (Revelation 2:5).  Going to church should not be a “have-to,” but a “want-to,” a “get-to” (Cf. John 14:15; 1 John 5:3).  It is not good enough to go to church simply because it is expected of you, God-pleasing worship of Christ demands more.
Why go to church?  Because you love Jesus!  There are other good reasons, but no other single reason is sufficient to stand on its own.  Spirit-led devotion to Christ will endure, where other motivations falter and fail (Cf. 2 Corinthians 11:3; Ephesians 6:24).  Love for Jesus is the same reason why you should do all that you do (Cf. John 14:15).  It is the right reason to WANT TO GO to church.
Pastor Jerry

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