Why go to church? What is “church”? Are we really called to sit in a pew (or pew-chair) and listen to a sermon every week?
Let’s look first at what church is not:
Church ≠ Christianity
Going to church does not automatically make someone a Christian. It is not the equivalent of intimacy with God and it does not replace having a relationship with God. We already know this, but in subtle ways it sneaks into our thinking…
Someone might ask: Are you a Christian?
We answer: Yeah, I go to church.
Or: How’s your relationship with God been lately?
We reply: Oh, not good. I haven’t gone to church in a little while… I haven’t read my Bible lately…
Having a relationship with God makes you a disciple, not performing religious tasks. These things are usually good to do, but they don’t merit reward or blessing—this comes only through knowing Christ.
Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ (Matthew 7:21-23)
It’s easy to store up “points” for going to church. But true intimacy = being known, getting to know, spending time with. In the same way, we could store up facts/knowledge of a favourite celebrity or athlete, but never really have a relationship with him/her.
Church ≠ A notch on your belt (i.e., a deal with God, “I owe God”)
Church ≠ A religious pill (for example, taking communion to be right with God)
Church ≠ A ticket to heaven (“I’ve paid my dues; I’m good now”)
Church ≠ Repentance (“Now God and I are okay”)
Church ≠ Performance (“God owes me”)
Attitudes like “shopping for church” and being very critical of church services (there is a time to correct, but always with love) have created a church culture of consumers. We’ve removed the deeply personal redemptive story from the Bible and we’ve turned things like joy, peace, love into products to be purchased in church—these things can only come from a relationship with God.
So what is church?
Church = Holy + blameless
And you, who were once alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him. (Colossians 1:21-22)
Ephesians 5:27 adds to this: “without spot or wrinkle or any such thing…without blemish” (likewise, how husbands are to view their wives). Humans are imperfect, but Christ views individuals, and therefore, His church, as perfect.
We “do church” to serve individuals, not the church structure. The purpose of church is to:
- Serve others + administer God’s grace (1 Peter 4:10)
- Encourage + build up others (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
- Confess sins + pray for others (James 5:16)
- Learn patience + grow (Ephesians 4:2)
Church = Being discipled + discipling others (Jesus’ pattern of multiplication)
There is much we can say about church (apparently), but most importantly is walking in a new understanding of His love for us, according to 1 John 4:10—not trying to love Him, not measuring our love by how we feel, but knowing and walking in His love and this will naturally increase our ability to love.