Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. – (Acts 20:28, NASB)
In this modern day and age, there are so many different types of churches and denominations that the actual Word of God can get lost very quickly. We are in a day where churches do everything to interest newcomers: some have espresso carts in the lobby, some have full musical performances for their “worship” services, and others just try to entice you with friendly faces and special programs.
Isn’t Church Just a Big Hangout Spot?
When I first started this blog, I didn’t actually go to church. My family attended church when I was much younger, and I attended private school for kindergarten into 1st grade but, not long after that, we stopped everything. I do recall attending church (or at least, sunday school and AWANA) with my neighbor when they babysat me, and I didn’t like it at all. When I got older, I knew that the Bible said that I should go to church, but I held a great distrust of many churches for the type of material that they teach. My favorite “church” was really just a conference of speakers, elderly men, that was almost antiquated in its simplicity.
Why would that have been my favorite? I trusted what they were preaching. I don’t like churches that do not proclaim the Word of God. I don’t like churches who partially portray the Word of God. I don’t like churches who sugar coat what they are saying to make it pleasing to the ears.
So, perhaps it is out of a general distrust, perhaps it is secretly underwritten by a dose of pride, and perhaps it is just out of a lack of availability that I hadn’t found a church that I actually wanted to attend. But more so, apart from the actual biblical command to go to church, I didn’t see a reason for it. One of the churches I briefly attended prayed before the offering, as most do, and the whole prayer sounded like a plea for donations. Right or wrong, this led me to think, “If you truly trust God to provide, why are you begging your congregation for money?”
This brings me to a few days ago, when I was sitting in church during the graduation service. Not the graduation where diplomas are handed out, but a special service congratulating the high school and college graduates and giving a special prayer for their lives going forward.
At that moment, it dawned on me that I finally understood what church is for.
Now, anyone should immediately know that church is for coming together, honoring God, worshipping Him, and fellowshipping with other believers. That part never alluded me.
Then, what more is there? – You may be asking.
I had an entirely wrong attitude about church, as I think many other Christians or would-be Christians (let alone, atheists and agnostics) have. Many people, myself included, viewed church almost as this place where you go and put on a front for other believers.
It’s the place for people who call themselves Christian to go hang out and gossip with and about other people who call themselves Christian (or not). They pass around the offering plate, maybe they do some social programs, a few youth group activities, and perhaps the pastor lives in a nice house.
All the while, I was missing the fact that this is not what church is all about. Not even close. And it definitely isn’t about “becoming the best you”, “diversity” or “tolerance”. Before you shake your fist at me or write an angry comment, it’s not to say that none of those things have a place within any given church, but that’s simply not what the church is for.
My dad and I went to an organ restoration concert at a church we’d never gone to before that is part of a denomination whose churches we never attend, but we didn’t really know a whole lot about either. Needless to say, I don’t feel inclined to know any more than what I learned that day.
Amidst the beautiful organ music, played by accomplished organist Dan Miller, they sang a few hymns. One or two of them were well known, classic hymns such as Holy Holy Holy, and I was fine with that. Towards the end though, the songs started becoming about diversity, acceptance, and even singing multiple times about the organ itself. There’s nothing inherently wrong with true diversity, true acceptance, true tolerance, or the instrument that all this music was being played on. But apart from the fact that this was not about true diversity, acceptance, love, or tolerance, we were supposed to be singing worship songs! Why on earth would we want to worship any of these social issues, regardless what you believe about them?
The True Purpose of Church
A while back, I was listening to the radio and there was a woman’s program on, and she was talking about a woman who had brought concerns to her about not having time to minister. Basically, the woman’s predicament was this –
“I have to be a wife to my husband and a mother to my children, I just don’t have the time to go out and minister to people and be a good witness as I’m called to be. What do I do?”
The woman hosting the show gently advised that the woman was already being a witness for God, through being a good wife and mother. Remember, as we’ve talked about before, everything not done in faith, is sin. Doing something in faith doesn’t automatically make it good, but doing something not in faith automatically makes it sinful. Hence, why we need Christ in the first place!
In essence, as long as the woman with the dilemma was being the best wife and mother she could be, by the grace of God, depending on Him, and raising up her children to know and love God, she was being a witness for Him.
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters,Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters – (Colossians 3:23, NIV)
OK, but what does that have to do with church?
Do you remember how Jesus said, “the Sabbath is for man”? Well, church is for man too, to the glory of God the Father.
Are you still with me?
A Community of Believers Worshipping Jesus
I realized, while sitting there at the graduation service, that the church body wasn’t just a group of people from the same city as me who liked taking time out of their Sunday to sing some songs and hear a guy speak.
That isn’t to say that no one who attends church is attending for those simple reasons, but it’s not the true, core meaning.
Church is about a community of believers, worshipping Christ together, and supporting one another in faith and in life. It was when it hit me that we were sitting here, having a separate graduation service from the one their school held for them, to congratulate all these kids and pray for their future.
- Someone had taken the time out to write up interview questions for each of these kids.
- Someone had taken the time out to make record each of these kids walking around and partaking in their favorite activities.
- Someone had taken the time out to edit each of those videos to make them professional-looking.
- Someone had taken time out to make a separate flyer to hand out with the bulletin.
- Someone had taken the time and money to purchase books to give as gifts to each of the graduates.
- Someone had taken the time out to compose a prayer for these graduates and write up a few words to say to each of them personally.
- And lastly, the whole congregation was together as a church family to watch the videos, hear the words, pray the prayers, and congratulate each of these kids.
A whole separate graduation program for the church body to show their support for these kids!
It wasn’t necessary – they already had or would have a graduation ceremony from their school. They were the kids of one of the parents, but they weren’t my kids, or the pastor’s kids, or the kids of the other deacons, or the kids of the music director. . . Really, outside of church I didn’t know any of them. The majority of the church was not technically related in any way.
Yet, we were all sitting together, in support of them.
Although, biologically, I have no relation whatsoever, they are brothers and sisters in Christ. They are children of brothers and sisters in Christ. The whole church body is related through Christ.
Working Together for God’s Glory
As a church family, as a church body, as a church congregation, we are like our own separate community. We are a community of believers, working together to support other believers. We are working as the hands and feet of Christ. We are loving each other in Christ. As the body of believers, we make up the bride of Christ.
In an almost twisted way, it’s kind of like what people envision “real” communism or socialism to be. We are supposed to pay in (tithe) because it’s all God’s money anyways, and the church uses it to redistribute the wealth to those in need and pay the pastoral staff for their services.
It’s not communism or socialism because, first and foremost, no one is forced to give up their wealth or possessions. Biblical tithing can only be done as a willful act of faith based on the promise that God will provide for your needs. Biblical tithing is also a minimum of 10% whereas communism or socialism would forcibly take whatever percentage they chose up to 100% with the promise that the government would then provide for your needs, which generally results in poverty for all.
The Real Reason for Church
Church is where all the believers commune together to benefit and support each other as a community, to the glory of God the Father. We learn about Christ together, we worship Him together, and we support and love (including holding accountable) each other because of faith in Him. God is glorified when we do that.
If you are skeptical towards attending church, or have attended church before and were turned off by the experience, I would urge you to pray and try again. Seek out a church that puts Jesus Christ first and foremost. Pray for guidance in finding that church. God didn’t give us the gift of the church body so we could get free coffee. God didn’t give us the gift of the church body so that we could listen to fun music, or learn new skills in church that we didn’t have an opportunity to learn elsewhere. We have the gift of the church body so that we can work synonomously together as the bride of Christ to ultimately become one with Him.