(Photo: Dan Delzell)
If you identify yourself as a Christian, then I assume it really matters to you whether or not Jesus wants you to attend church. After all, He is your King….not just your advisor….or your buddy….but your Lord….and your God. Right?
We live in a day where many professing believers are being tempted to ditch the whole "church thing." In some cases, it's because they had a bad experience in a church. That is understandable….because it happens. Just as divorce takes place in marriages, pain is also experienced in certain church situations. So what's the solution? Should you dump church…or instead, get connected to one where you will grow?
Well….let's think about why Jesus instituted His church in the first place. He knew better than anyone how weak His followers can become….and how much we need the strength and wisdom of the Scriptures, and the friendships and encouragement of other believers. Hence, the New Testament church was instituted.
If you go way back to the Garden of Eden, you find God instituting the family. Remember all that "it is not good for man to be alone" stuff. (see Genesis 2:18) Well, it's true. We need one another. We need family. And we as Christians need a church family, whether we realize it or not.
Think of it this way. If there were four children between the ages of 5 and 11….and if they could either live on the streets, and attempt to survive….or instead, have a home with loving parents and the safety and security of that environment….which option would be best? It's not even a close call is it? Likewise, it is not even a close call in the Bible when a believer considers whether or not to be actively involved in a Christian church.
Now if I am smarter than God….and if I convince myself that I am the only Christian on the planet who doesn't really need a church….well then, I must be very unique. Just me. I am the only one who can do it on my own. Yeah right.
Here is what the New Testament church did from its very inception. "They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer." (Acts 2:42) If you don't realize how badly you need each one of those things, then you don't understand the New Testament….and you don't understand spiritual growth.
I am not trying to be critical of you my friend. I just want to help you see whether or not you "get it" yet about God's church. Many don't get it yet….but even that understanding is part of the growth which all Christians need in order to fully develop in their relationship with Christ. None of us start out our life with Christ as mature believers. We must grow into it if we hope to get there.
I remember one time as a child when I became upset about something that had happened at home. I remember telling my parents, "I am going to go over and live at Marty Figge's home." (Marty and I were attending the same elementary school.) I got about as far as the front door when I realized….this is going nowhere. That's not my home….I live here. What am I doing?
Maybe you have had a similar experience with a church. You became upset about something….and you left. Some people who leave a church never end up in another church….they remain spiritually homeless. And many of them quickly begin to lose whatever spiritual vitality they had been experiencing.
We can all tell ourselves "it won't happen to me," but that is often not how it plays out. When Christians attempt to remain strong in the Lord outside of His family gatherings, it usually doesn't work. That's because Jesus instituted His church for many important reasons, and not one of us is smarter than Jesus.
And so "yes," Jesus cares deeply about whether or not His followers attend church. But it's not just a matter of "attending church." It's really about belonging to a fellowship of believers….where you are fed….and you grow….and you serve….and you are encouraged….and you encourage others….and you pray with each other….and celebrate the Lord's Supper together....and you experience God's power and grace.
What's that? You thought the church was there primarily to meet your needs? Well who did you think was going to help do that? It takes people to care for other people. It takes you to be a blessing to others. Have you come to understand yet how important your place is in the family?
Some Christians "young in the Lord" still have a "consumer mentality" about church, "What's in it for me?" But just watch…as you grow in the Lord, you will begin to concentrate on…"Who can I bless? Who can I serve? What gifts has the Lord given me to help others know Him and grow in Him?"
Have you reached that point yet in your walk with Christ, or do you still just tend to think that the church is primarily there to meet your needs? That's the life of a child…and while we thank the Lord for children, we also recognize that children need to grow into mature adults. It's that way in the family….and it's that way in the Lord's church.
So if you are a believer…now you know…and it's no longer a matter of "if" I attend church…but rather, which fellowship of believers is my Lord leading me to serve? Jesus came to earth to suffer and die for me, and for my salvation. How could I have been so narrow-minded as I clung to my consumer mentality about His church? It's time for all of God's children to reject that spiritually immature and naive mindset, don't you think?