What’s So Important About Attending Church?
The Christian faith has so many aspects to it, that it makes it very difficult to handle all of them from the pulpit. Some aspects are better addressed in written form, because it allows us to sit back and reflect on what we read.
In the previous post we looked at Part 6 of an essay by Cooper Abrams on the topic: “What’s So Important About Attending church?”
Part 7 Attending Church to Get or Give?
Many professing Christians wrongly base their attendance on what they receive from attending. That idea is foreign to the Bible. It is the established thinking today, among most Christians, that going to church is a matter of finding a church that meets their perceived needs, and then joining it. Thus, their attitude toward the church is that it should minister to them, and they go to get what it has to offer. Again, there is no such teaching in the Scriptures. First, a believer goes to church to worship God. The church service is a sacred assembly to honor God and offer thanksgiving to Him for salvation and the blessings of life. He does not go to get, but to give worship, honor and praise to Almighty God. It is a time of being instructed in the paths of righteousness as the Word of God is taught.
Second, the Bible says that our goal in assembling ourselves together should be to strengthen our fellow believers: “From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love” (Eph 4:16). The word “edifying” means to build up, to promote Christian wisdom, affection, grace, virtue, holiness, and blessedness. The purpose of assembling together is that we be a blessing to each other. Many only go to church to get a blessing, rather than going to church to give a blessing to others. What a selfish and worldly motive that is.
Once I had a church member who I believed was under conviction because of their poor attendance. The member brought up the matter of church attendance and explained that they knew they should come to church to give, but they explained that they had needs too and often they were not met. I carefully tried to explain the “getting” came from the “giving.” It was in ministering to others that they would be ministering to themselves. Sadly, many professing Christians do not want it this way. They prefer to get the blessing without any effort on their part. Many think that coming to church is like going to the store. You go in, pay your money, and get the blessings of God. Those with that attitude will always be disappointed in their pastor, the teachers, and their church.
What a transformation our churches would see if each member dedicated himself to the “edifying” of others in the church? God says, “Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others” (Phil. 2:4). Surely, there would be less grumbling, backbiting, gossip, blaming others, and complaining, if each believer sought to lift up and encourage others to live for Christ. As they became concerned for the spiritual well being of their brothers and sisters in the Lord, they would hardly be trying to criticize those that they, in love, were trying to help!
Paul warned the church at Ephesus, that “grievous wolves” would enter into the church. He proclaimed that he had not failed to declare unto them all the counsel of God. In his closing words of encouragement to them, he said, “I have shewed you all things, how that so laboring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive” (See Acts 20:17 35). The Christian grows in the Lord, when he gives sacrificially to others. God’s preachers would need to spend little time trying to encourage people to come to church, if the membership came to church with the purpose of being a blessing to one another. In fact, they would eagerly wait in anticipation until the next appointed hour, so they could come and be of help to others.
Anyone who has ever led someone to the Lord knows the thrill and the utter joy in the Lord of seeing them receive Christ as their Savior! What a joy too, for a Sunday School teacher to teach the lesson they have worked on so hard and then, in time, see it bear fruit in the lives of their students. We all have our bad days. It is a part of life. There have been times I have come to church, maybe a little down hearted, and then have some saint of God say a few encouraging words. What a lift! Christians are in the world most of the week seeing the results of sin all around them. It is discouraging to see the Devil seemingly winning on every front. But what a soothing balm it is to be able to go to church and be with others who love the Lord. How refreshing to be with God’s people. Sadly, because of the unfaithfulness of it membership and uncaring selfish attitudes of it members, many churches are not places of rest and relief from the cares and toils of the world. I’m sure it grieves the Lord to see the church He died for so far removed from being what He wanted it to be (Acts 20:28).
Many churches members have accepted the selfish idea that the church is to serve them. This is the reason that many churches have turned their pulpits into stages from which the congregation is to be entertained, instead of where the Word of God is preached. Preachers have become entertainers instead of men of God who preach the whole counsel of the Word of God. The worship service has taken on the atmosphere of a rock concert, and God honoring hymns have been replaced by “contemporary Christian music” that entertains the assembled crowd.
Our generation, of church members, has become a generation of “church hoppers” going from one church to the other, seeking a better program, more entertaining music, a more dynamic preacher and a host of other “supposed” reasons for attending church. This ungodly idea has stemmed the modern “Christian Rock Music” which is an abomination to God. Entertainment centers calling themselves churches, have wooed many into their shows in the name of God. They hawk their false gospel with appealing phrases such as, “Something good is going to happen to you today.” Those that buy their appeal to the flesh are always, in time, left empty never finding the fulfillment of truly knowing God.
God says in the book of Hebrews: “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:22-25). God says come to my church to encourage, strengthen, console and comfort your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ! That is what it means to exhort, and that is God’s plan for us. How can a church be what God intended, when members come to be exhorted rather that to exhort?
The truth is that dead churches are produced by dead church members. Churches where God is not working are churches where the people, because of their unfaithfulness, are quenching the Holy Spirit and not allowing God to work. It has been said that no church will rise above the spirituality of its pastor. May I add that no pastor will ever get far, spiritually, without a faithful congregation standing beside him, supporting him, encouraging him, praying for him and loving him in Christ. Too often God’s preacher is blamed for the failure of the church he shepherds, when the real fault lies with the flock of rogue sheep he is trying to lead. The Bible teaches the nature that God puts in His sheep is the nature to follow and be led (John 10:4 5). Too many professing sheep, by their contrary natures, appear to be more like unruly and unmanageable goats.
[Next time we will God willing conclude with Part 8 of Cooper Abrams’s essay on the question: “What’s So Important About Attending Church?”]