Church Isn’t About You

Relevant Magazine posted an article today entitled “Why I Still Go to Church” written by a self-proclaimed “pragmatic believer”. As a devoted follower of Christ, I am obviously very much for the institution of church. I was excited to read a fellow believers reasons for embracing the church in a generation where so many millennials are giving up and leaving. I would encourage you to read the article and then seriously consider why YOU are part of a church and the reasons that ‘church’ exists.

In summary, the authors five reasons for attending church are:

  1. Shared spiritual practices enhance spiritual connection
  2. Church provides a safe and mature environment for spiritual and religious education
  3. Church reinforces social and civic accountability
  4. Church provides a spiritual framework for my kids
  5. Spiritual community feeds my soul

Those are certainly valid things churches can yield, right? But where is God in that? Where is worship? Where is God’s glory?

I am not attempting to write a theological defense of the church. I am not qualified. But I can read scripture. I believe scripture puts a higher importance on God’s glory than it does on our own satisfaction with the institution of ‘church’.

1 Peter 4:11 says

If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

Colossians 1:16 says

For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.

Isaiah 43:7 says

…everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.

God created us because He wanted to.. not because He ‘needs us’ (Acts 17:24-25)

Colossians 3:16 says

Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.

1 Corinthians 10:31 says

Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

In everything, we are to praise God for His goodness and in everything we do, whether big or small, we are to glorify Him.

John knew his purpose when he wrote in John 3:30

He must become greater; I must become less.

In all things, God is to get the glory. Church included.

Ephesians 2:19-22 says

Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

The church is to be a ‘place’ where the Holy Spirit lives – where God is present. We meet and gather to, first, worship God. Through our worship, through our receiving of salvation, through our observing of the sacraments, through our selfless sacrificing, through our tackling social issues, through our teaching children, through our community outreach, through everything that points to Christ’s finished work on the cross.. God is ultimately glorified.

God created us for Himself. Because God loved us, He chose to show mercy and save us from the eternal consequences of our sin. It’s all about Him.

Ephesians 2:8-9 says

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.

I believe the church (the body of believers) exists to, primarily, worship and “glorify God and enjoy Him forever” (Westminster Shorter Catechism) while also in a constant cycle of making disciples who make disciples in order to spread the Gospel to all the nations (Matthew 28:19). The church should be a place where sound Biblical Gospel preaching occurs, where worship and praise is given to our Creator, and where each member is serving each other and the church to the glory of God. Again, I don’t think the points in this article are wrong to “consider”, but I wish there was less of the church-CONSUMER attitude and more emphasis put on our responsibility on the individual member to glorify God in supporting and serving the “church”.

I appreciate the authors honesty and personal reflections and I agree with them in part. But I’m concerned with the amount of “I’s” in this article. This article is all about what the person can get OUT of church (rather than what they can put in, by God’s grace); a theory which I believe is neither Biblical nor healthy (nor practical).  I think the author missed the opportunity to explain our role in being a part of the working body of Christ while ensuring the primary purpose of church is the worship and glorification of God alone. The issue I have with this article is the lack of inclusion of God’s glory being the primary motivator of going to church. The five things the author stated are blessings of being part of a church but they are secondary.

C.S. Lewis said:

Put first things first and we get second things thrown in: put second things first and we lose both first and second things.”

When our lives are lived with God being the center – being put first – with everything else coming from and through Him, we naturally receive His blessings. We do get those good things from the church – when we put God’s glory first. When we seek our satisfaction in our consuming church blessings, we’re going to eventually come up disappointed. The church is made up of sinners – of imperfect people – we are going to be let down at some point. People will fail us. Church leadership will fail. We may not like the worship music. One weeks sermon may appear to have no practical significance to us. If our mentality is such that we’re living on the expectation of what the church can offer, when the church fails to meet our desires, we’re going to walk away like we would walk away from supporting a losing sports team and look for another team – only to be disappointed by that team. That’s a fact.

Church IS important. Being a member of a church, a body of believers, IS important.

As John Piper said

Not being in a church is not a New Testament option. To belong to Christ is to belong to a body of believers.

Matthew 12:30 says

Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.

Hebrews 10:24-25

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 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.

The writer of this article is watering down God’s institution of church by presenting it, primarily, as a place for consuming resources to better yourself, for socializing with like-minded individuals, or tackling social issues. We CAN and should do these things, but they are secondary to the first purpose of glorifying God in worship and serving others.

The marriage relationship is paralleled to the Church. A God-honoring and healthy marriage is grounded in unconditional, selfless, and sacrificial agape love. True love, empowered by God’s grace, neglects self and seeks the best for the other person. A healthy view of a church is members seeking to serve one-another, without specifically expecting anything in return. (Luke 6:20-49)

Although I disagree with the premise, I’m thankful for the article because it caused me to really pray and think about the reasons why I’ve gone to church.

As a child I went to church because my Mom took me.

As a teenager I went to church because my friends were there and it’s “what I had always done on Sunday”.

As a college student I didn’t go to church because I met my quota of “Godliness” by going to Campus Crusade meetings on campus and I wanted to sleep on Sunday rather than sit through an inapplicable church service.

As an adult I went to church more frequently because there was a part of me that knew it was important

When personal heartbreak struck I went to church because I went running to God

As a reborn Christian, I go to church on Saturday night and Sunday morning not out of obligation, guilt, or tradition. I don’t go, primarily, because I need to be around people… because I need to be lifted up… or because I want to be apart of ending human trafficking or another social issue.

I, a broken desert soul, primarily go to church to joyfully worship my creator who gave me a second chance at the cross… With a grateful heart, I go to church to join with the body of Christ, in community, to praise the God who who rains down his grace on me daily… I go to church to glorify the Father who is allowing me to be a part of the story of His kingdom. I go to church, humbly, asking for God’s forgiveness and strength.

Humbling myself, I expect God to do great things through His church. I want to be a part of that. So I find joy in serving in my church. I find peace and growth in receiving encouragement and teaching. I am encouraged when I hear of other peoples stories of God working in their lives. I am encouraged and in awe of people taking the Gospel outside of the church – to the streets – to the nations. There is no where else I would rather be than in church. I want to experience God, like I do in worship on Saturday night, all through the week. I want to just sit and listen to my Pastor on Sunday morning preach Biblical truths constantly.

The reality, though, is we weren’t called to live comfortably inside the safety of the church walls and around our like-minded church friends. We were called to take our faith out to the world – in word and deed – to the broken, hurting, poor, and needy. I worship God in church, I praise Him for what He has done and what He will do, and then I take my faith outside – praying that I can glorify Him.

Acts 17:28 says

For in him we live and move and have our being.

 

But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.
-2 Peter 3:18

I’m coming back to the heart of worship
and its all about You, its all about You, Jesus.
I’m sorry, Lord, for the thing I’ve made it
when its all about You, its all about You, Jesus.

I would encourage you to read “I Am a Church Member: Discovering the Attitude that Makes the Difference“, by Thomas Rainer, for a BIBLICAL perspective on what it means to be a part of the church.

I have to note, though, that many of Relevant Magazine’s articles are “thought pieces” that may not necessarily be backed up with sound doctrine. Given the reason for writing this response, I must preface by saying that Relevant often posts articles by everyday “bloggers”, with good intentions, but with no formal “spiritual” education (just like myself!). So as a responsible reader, I often have to read with acute discernment and test with scripture. Unfortunately, I believe this article is very damaging to the overall message of the church and, specifically, to immature believers who share the same ideas as the author as to why the church exists.