June, 13, 2010
Why go to church?
Late night television brought us something that is a mainstay in our lives - the tongue in cheek top 10 list.
So here is my version of the top 10 reasons to go to church:
Ø 10 - They serve a quality grape juice for communion
Ø 9 - They sing the songs that I like
Ø 8 - There are plenty of singles for me to choose from
Ø 7 - The youth pastor is cute
Ø 6 - They have great potluck dinners
Ø 5 - They have barcaloungers instead of pews
Ø 4 - The worship leader is awesome
Ø 3 - They don't teach on tithing
Ø 2 - They have a late morning service so I can sleep in
Ø 1 - The pastor is my friend
I hope that there are other reasons to go to church and we will take some time today to explore the real reasons why we should want to go to church.
When I was growing up, Sundays were special for me.
On Sunday afternoon we would go to visit the grandparents. It was a good time for everyone. My grandparents appreciated the company, but especially they enjoyed their grandchildren. My cousins and I would have a good time as we got together to play and talk and just have fun. And it meant a lot to me personally because my grandparents always made each one of us feel special and it is nice to be noticed and to feel special.
I was thinking about those times at my grandparents houses on Sundays as I sat down to write the sermon for this week. In fact, as I reflected on the reasons why Sundays were so special to me as a child I realized that the same reasons are why it is important for us to go to church on Sunday.
I believe that in asking the question, "Why go to church," we can find three great reasons, and these three reasons happen to be part of the foundation on which we started this church.
I believe that we should go to church:
That is our first blank today - for God.
If you have your Bible with you today please turn to Hebrew chapter 10. I will remain in this one section of Scripture for today. Hebrews 10:22 states:
22let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. (Hebrews 10:22 - NIV)
One of the main reasons we go to church is for God. We need to take time from our busy lives to make time for God. It is at church that we have a chance to lay aside all the problems of our week and focus on spending time with God. It is in church that we are able to easily enter into His presence or as the writer of Hebrews said, we draw near to God.
Earlier I spoke about Sunday afternoons spent visiting my grandparents. My parents knew how much they wanted to see their grandkids and we really loved going to visit them too.
Sunday morning at church is our time to look forward to visiting with God, a God who wants to visit with us.
We can visit God anytime during the week, but on Sunday morning we put aside special time just for Him, just for our relationship.
One of the foundations of this church is worship. Worship is when we have a chance to be in God's presence. It is during worship that we spend time with God, to talk to Him, to listen to Him. Worship is more than just singing praise songs to God. The entire service on Sunday morning is a time of worship.
We sing songs to prepare our minds for our time together with God. During our time of singing we can put aside our worries and problems of everyday life and get ready to meet God and let Him work in our lives.
Our worship continues as we pray for each others needs and take communion together. We spend time listening to God's Word as we try to hear what He has to say to each of us for living our lives in a manner that is pleasing to God, helpful to others and that matures us as people and as Christians.
So we go to church for God. We also go to church:
When I was at my grandparents house on Sunday afternoons when I was younger I would get a chance to hang out with my cousins. We would spend time talking with each other and keeping each other up on what was happening in our lives. We would play games, sing some songs and just in general have a great time together.
When people come together to share life together we call it fellowship. Fellowship is the second foundation on which we built our church.
We come together in God's presence to worship together but we also come together to challenge each other to grow and to hold each other accountable in living out our faith in our everyday life.
We read in Hebrews:
23Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. (Hebrews 10:23 - NIV)
It is in fellowship that we not only get to share our friendship together but we share our faith with each other in order to build each other up. It is in fellowship that we remind each other that we are a people called together by God to live life together for God. We come together so that we can encourage each other in the promises of God for our lives.
When one of us begins to doubt what God has promised the rest of us are there to lend them strength and encourage them to keep on believing. When one of us falls, the others are there to remind them that God loves us unconditionally.
When we look at fellowship as being an important part of church we realize that not only is the church there for other but the church is there :
In going to my grandparents house it was good to see them and see the smiles on their faces as they watched their family gather around them. It was also good to spend time with my cousins as we lived life together and shared with each other.
But one other reason why I loved going to my grandparents house is because it made me feel special and gave me a sense of belonging.
We should feel the same way about attending church. It is in church that we are reminded that God loves us unconditionally. It is in church that we are reminded that as children of God we are children of the King and that makes us princes and princesses. We are special in God's eyes. The Bible tells us that we are "The apple of God's eye."
In fellowship we are supporting each other, but at the same time we support and encourage others we find that others are there for each of us as well. The writer of Hebrews continues with this line:
24And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. (Hebrews 10:24 - NIV)
Yes we spur each other on but each of us is also spurred on by the others. We challenge each other to love more completely and to do good deeds for the benefits of others. These are only a part of what church is about. Church is also about helping each person find their sense of purpose in God's plan for their lives.
It is in fellowship with others that we can be shown the areas we need to grow in. It is also in this same fellowship that we can hear direction from others. And it is in fellowship that we are reminded of the spiritual truths that are important to our spiritual growth.
Some of the ways we learn these things and remind each other of them is from our time of worship. Praise songs teach spiritual truths, they are not just good music.
We encourage each other and remind each other of spiritual truths and how special we are to God.
But it is mostly through hearing God's Word read aloud and explained to us that we really get a good sense of what these truths are and how they apply to our lives. And that is the third foundation of this church, Biblical teaching with practical application.
Most people think this comes from the pulpit, but each of us is given insight into God's Word as His Holy Spirit reveals it to each of us. If God gives someone an insight they should share it with others so that each of us is able to grow from the knowledge and wisdom that God gives to any one of us.
It is through worship, fellowship and Biblical teaching with a focus on application that we discover the truth that church is for God, it is for others and it is for each and every one of us.
Consider one of the great church traditions…….pot luck. Everyone brings a different dish – and the result is a smorgasbord of flavor and taste. And after we eat and share – what do we always do? Ask for recipes. How did you make it? How did you do it? What’s in that? Much the same in church, we all bring something to the table. We share and then we ask – how did you do it? What carried you through it? Can you tell me what went into it?
Life would be very boring if we only ate our own cooking or the same meal every day. That is why there are varieties of all kinds of restaurants and venues of food – because we are meant to experience different flavors and textures. Would we survive just eating our own cooking – and the same meal day after day? Yes, we would – but not very well.
Can we survive without going to church? Yes, we can, but we won’t grow, and we are missing opportunities to visit with one another and with God and experience what God has planned for us.
We would rely on just our own interpretation of what we read in the Bible – if we read the Bible at all. You know if you come to church – you will hear the Bible and you might have an ah-ha moment of clarity in something that might have been vague to you before.
Is it worth getting up for church on a Sunday? Is it worth it to spend the night laying on your coat on the sidewalk to get concert tickets? Is it worth it to work overtime so that you get something you really want? Is it worth it to spend time with your kids because tomorrow will be too busy and they will be grown?
Can you truly do your best when doing your homework if you have your favorite TV show on?
Can you find God in the noisy, distracted world that we live in?
Only you can answer those questions – and decide what your priorities are. God waits patiently for us to make time for him – and loves us either way. But as it is with every relationship – if time is not spent – the relationship suffers and may eventually die. Your relationship with God is THE most important relationship there is. It determines your destiny and your eternity. I can easily spend 2 hours watching the latest movie – but am a clock watcher when it comes to church – as are most people.
Church should not be a guilt trip or an obligation, it should be something to look forward to. We get the chance to sit at the feet of the Savior…….just be available to him and what he has to say. There are no expectations, no lines, no physical labor, no entry fee – just sit, talk and absorb with God and his people. At this church – after much research – we realized that we are fighting a battle out there – to get people to come to church. We listened to all the reasons why they won’t come – and tried to remove as many of the barriers as we could – and just rely on the basics and the non-negotiables. We removed any dress codes, seating arrangements, rituals, etc. so that we would not be distracted or use those things as an excuse. Come as you are – Jesus and us are just hanging out. Casual. Non-threatening.
Here are some excuses that I heard when I asked people why they don't go to church:
Ø I am at the bars late on Saturday night.
Ø It is my only day to sleep in.
Ø I'm too young to worry about spiritual things.
Ø I'm too old to change now.
Ø There are too many hypocrites in church.
Ø The service time is too early, also too late.
Ø I watch church on television, or I listen to it on the radio.
Ø I have nothing to wear.
Ø I don't like grape juice they should serve wine.
Ø I don't think wine is appropriate in a church.
Ø I'll go after I get my life in order.
Ø I work six days so the seventh day belongs to me.
Ø My wife goes and she can tell me anything I need to know.
Although some of these excuses may sound good to you, each of them is merely justification for why a person doesn't go to church. Too often churches try to help these people by making changes to the church. I love this article I found titled "No Excuses Sunday."
To make it possible for everyone to attend church this Sunday, we are going to have a special "No Excuse Sunday": Cots will be placed in the foyer for those who say, "Sunday is my only day to sleep in." There will be a special section with lounge chairs for those who feel that our pews are too hard. Eye drops will be available for those with tired eyes from watching TV late Saturday night. We will have steel helmets for those who say, "The roof would cave in if I ever came to church." Blankets will be furnished for those who think the church is too cold, and fans for those who say it is too hot. Scorecards will be available for those who wish to list the hypocrites present. Relatives and friends will be in attendance for those who can't go to church and cook dinner, too. We will distribute "Stamp Out Stewardship" buttons for those that feel the church is always asking for money. One section will be devoted to trees and grass for those who like to seek God in nature. Doctors and nurses will be in attendance for those who plan to be sick on Sunday. The sanctuary will be decorated with both Christmas poinsettias and Easter lilies for those who never have seen the church without them. We will provide hearing aids for those who can't hear the preacher and cotton wool for those who think he's too loud! Hope to see you there!
Really though, we should go to church because it is something that is good for God, good for others and good for ourselves. One last verse I want to look at today in Hebrews 10 and that is verse 25:
25Let 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 - NIV)
Erma Bombeck wrote about the important things in life. She wrote that we should burn those decorative candles, spend time playing on the floor with our children and grand children, open up that bottle of wine we have been saving for a special day and drink it while we can enjoy it. We don't want to come to the end of our lives with regrets over missing out on the little moments of life that make life great.
As I thought on her words I realized how awful it would be to come to the end of my life and realize that I never had time for God. I never made it to church as often as I should have where I could spend time in worship with God, time in fellowship with other travelers on the road of the Christian life and time being fed by God's Word so it could nourish me on my spiritual journey.
Let us make it a priority to continue to meet together each week for worship, fellowship and solid Biblical teaching with practical application so that we can be equipped to reach out to others and to support each other as we all continue to grow in our faith.