Why Go to Church?

Why Go to Church?

I remember a few Sunday evenings as a kid when I was mad at my dad and stewed all night because he made us go to church when I didn’t feel like it. I grew up in a denomination that held church services on Sunday mornings and evenings, in addition to Sunday school before church in the morning. We spent several hours in church every Sunday, week in and week out, with no children’s church or teen classes to offer diversion during the actual services. Yes, we even trudged five miles through snow blizzards to reach church each week. (All right, just kidding on that last sentence, but you get the picture.)

Today, I hear a lot about how younger people are leaving the church once they’re adults. I hear others say they don’t need to go to church to live for Christ in their lives. That church-going doesn’t a Christian make. And while they’re partly right, I see much in God’s Word about the vital role of the church in God’s work in the world, and in the unseen, and also in individuals.

I’ve been thinking about the book of Ephesians and a sermon my pastor gave a few  years ago. It focused on the third chapter of Paul’s letter to Christians in Ephesus, and it talks about the “mystery” Paul has been called by God to preach–a mystery not understood by previous generations, but now made known by the Holy Spirit:

This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus .                     ~Ephesians 3:6

The letter was written just a few decades after Jesus’ death and resurrection, and Paul had turned from persecuting Christians to becoming one and taking on the most active role of any apostle in preaching and teaching the early church that now, all people, Jew or non-Jew, could come freely to God and enter relationship with him through salvation in Jesus. Prior to Jesus, the Jews as God’s chosen people had been the focus of his relational love and promises. Now, after Christ’s’ death on the cross for everyone,  the way was opened for all to come freely to God. Paul talks elsewhere in the New Testament about how the Gentiles were “grafted in” as wild olive shoots and now could find their nourishing in the life of Christ.

It was God’s plan from the beginning, but only now in the years following Jesus’ life on earth did the Holy Spirit reveal “this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God.” (v. 9). And next comes mention of the church:

His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. ~Ephesians 3:10

It’s through the church in the world that God’s wisdom, his purposes, are being carried out both in the world and in the spiritual realms, my pastor stressed. To be where God is at work we need to be part of the church. Not simply attending, but seeking unity there with other believers, growing and maturing with each another as followers of Christ. Paul talks in the fourth and fifth chapters of Ephesians about living “worthy of the calling you have received” –this calling to be united as a church and as churches together in Christ.  Paul talks about how to live together as believers.

I have a couple memories of being grumpy in church, but I have many more of meeting God there with his people. It was in Sunday School as a 3- or 4- year-old that I began a relationship with Jesus. There I memorized Scripture for years, heard Bible stories, studied creeds and catechisms, was first encouraged to read through the Bible, learned how to spend daily time with God, thrilled at the meaning of words in hymns I was singing, and it was at church that I first felt a love for God  that, at times, made me feel I would burst.

Paul used the word together a lot in 3:6 above. I think that’s key. Being together is important. It’s where God has chosen to work and unfold his plans. We need to be together. We need to be in the church and in relationship, together, with Christ. It’s where we all belong.

“Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:25

Have you joined your life together with a church near you? How has God met you through the church or how might your life be different if you take the step of  joining with a church family? Could this Living in the Word family help you to find a life-giving Christian church near you?

[Thank you to Flickr/LeonardJohnMatthews for the use of your photo!]

Take a few moments this week to read chapters 3, 4, and 5 in Ephesians, or read all six chapters!

 

 

 

 

 

Share this with your friends! (https://simplesharebuttons NULL.com)Share on FacebookEmail this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+

Submit a Comment