A friend of mine (who will remain anonymous) asked me the other day “Has going to church really helped you?”
I wanted to address on my blog where I can give my friend a more well-rounded answer. I hope my friend is not offended by my doing so. My friend (and everyone else) should also bear in mind that this is the opinion of a man who’s only been in a real relationship with Jesus for roughly four months. Take this response with as much of a grain of salt as your diet will allow.
I responded that “Giving Jesus control of my heart soul and life as my Lord has helped in everything.”
I answered as I did because the act of going to church in and of itself doesn’t mean anything unless you a) confess Jesus as your Lord and Savior and ask Him to forgive your sins and have a living, working relationship with him or b) are seeking Jesus and want to know more about who He is.
It’s a sad fact that not everyone is there for those purposes. How many people go to church just because it’s just something they’ve done every weekend? How many people are in the pews on Saturday night or Sunday morning because they want to improve their social standing? How many go to worship because they want to keep up appearances? How many are there not because they want the Master but because they want what’s on the Master’s table and thus are attempting to play some quid pro quo game with our Lord.
Not that I am sitting in judgment of people like those mentioned above. I’ve done some variation of all of these in my life. But I can say the Lord doesn’t care for it.
“And so the Lord says, ‘These people say they are mine. They honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. And their worship of me is nothing but man-made rules learned by rote.'” (Isaiah 29:13)
Going to church in and of itself does nothing for me if I don’t have Jesus as King of my life. As the writer of Hebrews put it “And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6)
In His famous encounter with the Samaritan woman in John 4, the Lord Jesus told the woman (just before revealing to her that He was the Messiah): “For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:24)
From our correspondence, it sounds to me like my dear friend is seeking our Lord with an honest and true heart. That is the thing that makes going to church a profitable and necessary experience. As you all know, I go to Hope City Church in Waterloo, Iowa. It is a wonderful, biblically sound church that has benefitted my spiritual journey in many ways in my brief time there. But the reason it’s put so much into me is that I go there with a heart to seek Jesus, learn about all of his ways and seek godly community with my brothers and sisters. If I didn’t have that, Hope City would be just another stop on my winding spiritual journey. It would be just another church and Pastor Q’s sermons would be just another guy talking.
I hope my friend understands that I am in no way minimizing the importance of going to church. My friend has begun to attend service at a time when the question of why going to church is important is being asked more than ever. I can’t count how many times in various circles I have heard a variation of the following: “I don’t need to go to a building to have a relationship with my God.”
I will be the last person to condemn people who say that to Hell. But I will say in no uncertain terms that I have come to reject the notion of “Lone Wolf Christianity.” I see no place in scripture that endorses this idea. In fact, I will go further in stating my adamant belief that the “Lone Wolf” idea is downright destructive and unbiblical. I pray that my friend does not succumb to such thoughts, especially given the fact that my friend appears to be seeking the Lord for all the right reasons.
I would like to point out to my friend, and anyone else that might be reading this, a very small case for the importance of going to church.
Have a peek at Acts 2. After listening to Simon Peter’s stirring speech at Pentecost, the people came together to form a community.
Look at what the Apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians:
“Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth.” (Ephesians 4:11-14)
Those of us who are believers and those of us who are seeking after the Lord need to be in a church which preaches the Word of God. They were put here to teach us in order to lead us to Christ and then to help us grow in Christ.
The author of Hebrews writes “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)
If we are to be godly people, we need godly people in our lives. We need Christian friends who will love us, encourage us in our walk with Jesus, and tell it to us like it is when they perceive we are struggling and/or desperately need someone to tell us “no” in those times in our lives when we desperately need to hear it.
Each of us has gifts that we are called to put into a community of faith, as Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 12. If we do life alone, we can’t give them to others.
Finally, as Paul wrote to the church in Rome: “We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other,” (Romans 12:5)
I am leaving out tons of other verses, I know. But this should give my friend the idea.
Church will only help if you desire our Lord or at the very least desire to know more about Him. If you are seeking after the Lord, asking for Him, and knocking on the door requesting to know more about Him, then God will use His church to help you learn, grow, and help you.
Church has helped me because I went in with a heart that desires Jesus.
I hope that answers my friends’ question. And I hope my friend keeps seeking the Lord, attending church, reading the Word, and praying.