I was sitting on my back deck talking to some friends when someone asked, “Why should I go to church? What is the point of it?” To my surprise no one had an answer including myself. We all know what church is suppose to be, a safe haven where we grow in our knowledge and love of God. It is a place of fellowship and community with a goal of nurturing the congregation and sharing our love of God to the world. But does that sound like your church?
Jesus said, “my house is to be a house of prayer,” does that sound like your church? Luke writes in the book of Acts, “So those who received His word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ preaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” Acts 2: 41, 42 Adding people to the church, studying the word of God, prayer and communal thanksgiving in the grace of God; does that sound like your church?
Let me ask another question, if your church should disappear off the face of the map would your community be any worse off because of it? What is the outreach of your church into the community? Do you have sessions when the church gathers and prays for the community and does your church teach and train members to use their spiritual gifts for the glory of God?
So many Christians that I have talked to over the years and through the emails I receive through this blog have given up on church because they can honestly answer, “NO” to the questions I’ve asked. We have turned our churches into irrelevant appendages for our own selfish wants. I know there are many people that can answer, “YES” to the above questions. What I am doing is painting with a broad brush and generalizing based on the reality that the majority of churches in North America are small and getting smaller.
We need to remember that the church isn’t a denomination or a building; it is us, “the called out” ones. We are responsible for the spiritual life of our fellowship. When we go to church each week, sit through the service, sing a few songs, shake a few hands and then go home to our “other life”, we have done nothing to promote the kingdom of God. Attending a worship service and truly worshiping is only one part of the reason that the community of believers exists. The church service is not about us who have made a decision for Christ; it is an opportunity to present a dynamic Jesus to our non-Christian friends. When we present a sloppy, indifferent service to our guests, we are saying we are indifferent to our relationship to God. Some church growth experts assert that the worship service is for the benefit of encouraging people to come back the next week. If they come back for a few weeks they will often times become involved in the life of the church. They will make friends, study the Bible, develop a prayer life and grow close to God. Let me ask you, how do you feel about your worship service? Are you fine with glitches, mistakes, indifferent sermons and people not following through on their commitments? Ask yourself, how many visitors come back week after week?
Look, I am not trying to discourage anyone in this post. I am, in fact, trying to be honest and encourage us all to put more time and effort into our worship of God. Some Christians think that they have a special message and somehow God is going to send people to the church and therefore they don’t have to put any thought or energy into ministry and worship. They would be wrong. Jesus sent the Apostles and disciples out into the community and they preached the gospel in the workplace. We as Christians have retreated behind our stained-glass windows and preach to each other and hope, somehow, someone new will show up.
I didn’t walk inside of a church for sixteen years. The church had become irrelevant to me even though I continued to believe in Christ and trust in Him for my salvation. For those of you who have stayed within the church over the last sixteen years, here are a few more questions for you to honestly contemplate. Has anything changed during those years? Have we a different approach towards reaching non-Christians? Do we still rely on nineteen-fifties style evangelism programs and expect modern, busy people to take every evening out of their schedule for weeks on end to attend a series on prophecy? Where are our creative thinkers who come up with novel, exciting, interesting and spiritual ways to reach our communities with the good news?
A friend of mine, after reading one of the posts from this blog, sat down with his wife and figured out how many people he knew in his little town who had become discouraged and given up on God. He could count around twenty-five people that he personally knew. Before we condemn those people for giving up on church, let’s ask a final question. Is it possible that the reason they stopped going to church isn’t because they were unspiritual, but that church had become nothing more than a ritual?
Folks, we are Christians committed to serving Christ and trusting in His grace for salvation. We are the Inn where Jesus brings the broken that He finds by the side of the road. He tells us to care for these people and love them. He gives us the down payment of the Holy Spirit and says when He returns He will bring us our reward. When Jesus returns is He going to find the Inn a vibrant hospital dispensing the medicine of the good news or is He going to find the Inn empty but for a few caretakers who look longingly out the windows for something to happen? I believe if we pray, open our doors and reach out, God will bless us. Yes, things may have to change within the walls of the church, and we may become uncomfortable with some of those changes, but if we are to be the body of Christ and missions is our dream, then what is stopping us?