In the fourth part of our series on how to live as a Christian, we’re looking at going to church. In many ways this is the simplest one: I mean, just turn up to church, right? Job done!
Find a good local church (if churches are registered with UTB you’ll be able to find on the Local page), and make sure you get there every week. This is important enough to change other commitments around – e.g. working patterns, family commitments, etc. Gathering together as a church is not an optional extra or a “nice-to-have” for Christians, it’s fundamental to what we are about.
In other words, the church isn’t some kind of social club we go to because we enjoy it – it’s actually a core part of who we are in Christ. Let me explain just a few of the reasons why it’s so important.
Four reasons why going to church is important
#1. We are commanded to love one another
We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.1 John 4:19-21
John says something which I think many people would find shocking: if you don’t love your brother and sister (that is, not just fellow human beings but especially Christians) then you can’t love God. Love for God should lead us to love one another more.
The reason is, God doesn’t just save a bunch of individuals with no connection to each other – God is building a whole new society which we call the church. The church is not simply a once-a-week event where people get together to worship God and meet each other: the church is what God is doing in the world. Yes, meeting together is only a part of what God is doing – but, it’s not less than that!
If you want to follow Jesus, if you want to love God more, that means loving other Christians. “End of”, as they say.
#2. The church needs you
There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.
Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.1 Corinthians 12:4-7
People often think about church as a nice place to go where we can socialise – a bit like a sports or a social club: it’s a nice, but optional, extra to life. That couldn’t be further from the truth.
The truth is that your church needs you. God has given you particular gifts, skills, experiences, wisdom, perspective – God has made you as a unique individual. And he didn’t just make you to be an individual on your own, but to be a part of a bigger whole: the church. God gives gifts, as we saw in the Bible verse above, “for the common good” – for the benefit of the whole church.
Everyone has different gifts: some are musicians, some are administrators, some are leaders, some are cleaners. Some people have the gift of hospitality, some the gift of encouragement… the thing is, your gifts are given for the benefits of others. You may think you have no gifts, but – trust me – you do, and you will discover what they are in the church.
It’s lovely to be needed, it’s something we all want – well, to paraphrase the famous wartime poster, “your church needs you”.
#3: You need church
And let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.Hebrews 10:24-25
One of the main purposes of meeting together as a church is to encourage one another, as this passage says. If we don’t, we might give up meeting together entirely – and we might give up on Christ entirely.
Sadly, as a pastor, I have seen numerous examples of this: someone stops going to church for what maybe perfectly understandable reasons – but unfortunately their faith falters as a result, and some even stop being Christians.
If you make the effort to go to church, it says something about your priorities: it says “However difficult it is, however many obstacles there may be, I am going to get to church today”. In fact I think this is often why God allows challenges to come when going to church – because overcoming those challenges means it’s a greater victory when we get there. This is both an encouragement to ourselves but also to other people, who see the effort it takes for you to get to church.
Don’t underestimate how much we need church to carry on as Christians.
#4: Going to church is good for you
During the course of my life I’ve been to thousands of church service. I don’t think I’ve ever left a service thinking well, what a waste of time. Making the effort to come to church is always beneficial and has always been a blessing to me.
Even social scientists are beginning to pick up on this and you’ll find a number of articles if you search for “Benefits of going to church”.
I won’t press this point, but take it from me: church is always worth it.
“Here’s one I made earlier…”
If you want more, here’s a video I did a while back about why it’s important to be in church regularly!