Why I Have To Go To Church

At my old home church, there was a woman famous for her love of “TV preachers.”

Some of those “TV preachers” were pretty good, well-regarded men of faith like Charles Stanley and Chuck Swindoll.  Others were local pastors who had their own public TV programs, and the rest were a grab bag of pastors from who-knows-where teaching who-knows-what.  She loved all of them.

And so, occasionally, when she didn’t quite feel like getting up and going to church on a Sunday morning, she’d announce, “I won’t be there Sunday morning, but I’ll be watching the good Word on the TV.”  Translation: here or there, preaching’s everywhere, and my house is a mite more comfortable than the pew.

The truth is, I suspect there are a lot of modern Christians who agree with her.  When I was in high school and college, from time to time, I was one of them.  Once one of my previous churches starting recording and posting its entire service online, beginning to end, I began to wonder: why not watch from comfort of my bed?

Because of fellowship, people will say.  You get fellowship in church you can’t get anywhere else.  Well, that was true for me…once.  In most modern churches, fellowship actually happens primarily in small groups, not in Sunday morning services.  The “fellowship” I receive on Sunday morning is a lot like the fellowship I imagine a lot of believers see everywhere: five to ten minutes of handshakes, hugs, introductions if necessary, and some quick how-are-you’s.  I can’t say I would feel crushed giving that up.

Well, but the preaching–  Is online.

But the tithing– Online.

The special music– Online.  Or I can listen to my own in the comfort of my home.

The truth is, there’s not much about the foundational elements of a church service that can’t be reconstituted elsewhere.  Your fellowship, your music, your preaching, your tithing: you can either put it together piecemeal from other sources, or you can experience it as a whole through another channel, or even digitally.

And yet these days I find that I have to go to church.  I need it.  I feel a little internal sigh of relief and calm when I settle down into the pew.   Why?  What is it that drives me to get up every Sunday and go when, fundamentally, I could watch the whole thing online and have no seeming net loss from the experience?

The answer is this: a mystery of God occurs in the church every Sunday morning.

This mystery does not reside in any one part of the service itself.  It is not in the music, or the preaching, or the brief fellowship, or the tithing, or the greeting, or the prayers, or any other aspect of the service.  It is part of all of these things, but not traceable to any of them individually.  And we can call this the mystery: God shows up while we are there, and He is with us when we’re there, and we sense His relationship to His church.

God is with us all the time, of course, everywhere we go.  But there is something remarkable that happens when his people gather as one body, in the flesh, to meet with Him.  God’s presence with His church when His church is gathered together for the sole purpose of worshiping Him is special, is different.  When we are there, gathered together, something happens – I can’t name the how or the why, only to say that it is not in the “externals” of a church service, and yet inhabits them – that resets perspective.  That reminds me of my place in the great church of Christ, of the relationship of the church to Christ, and of Christ’s deep and redeeming love for His church that He has chosen.

That’s why, even on Sundays where the “externals” fail – the sound system dies, the preaching isn’t great, the sermon doesn’t apply – I still walk away from the service feeling like I’ve had a cup of tea and a long bath.  I am comforted, soothed.  I am set right in my understanding of God’s relationship to His people.  I have inhabited briefly, with my very body, a brief place that is a little shadowing echo of the great relationship that one day will meet its entire fulfillment and glory in Christ.

It is an alchemy I cannot name or fully understand.  But it exists.  And  that’s why I have to go to church – I need that resetting of perspective, the contextualization of my place before God and in His people, the saturation of my life with what it means to be in the great church of all God’s people, to be a part of this community from ancient ages to the modern day.  I can’t get it from watching a sermon online or putting all the church “externals” into place and assuming I will have an equivalent experience.

To be honest, my house is a mite more comfortable than the pew.  But I can’t get what I need there.

So I go to church.  And I never regret it.

11 thoughts on “Why I Have To Go To Church

  1. Good points but another essential one is this – we need to come under spiritual authority. We need to be accountable and sharpen each other in God’s word.
    God established church authority to rebuke, correct and exhort. Hard to get that relaxing on our sofa. Good post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Certainly so, though again – at least in my experience and in my local area – a great deal of that seems more and more to be exercised on a practical level in small groups, rather than in services proper, especially in big churches!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Loved your post! I have a different perspective & would love to get your thoughts. 😊

    I was agoraphobic when Jesus ‘snapped me out of it’ as I like to say. I went to church my entire life, but it didn’t click, I suppose. I never realized we could have a RELATIONSHIP with God. Once I did, though, I watched every credible YouTube sermon I could find, and from there, I entered into a deep intimacy with God that could only be cultivated through the personal One on one we time spent together.

    During this time, I felt God tell me to sing – This was pretty out-there for me, since I was always an athlete.. my brother is the performer, haha. Anyways, I began searching for worship videos and my life changed dramatically. Jesus healed me and I’m doing things I never thought I would do, with goals I never thought I would have. Looooong story long (Lol), I am now a worship leader at our local church. I couldn’t bear the thought of anyone else going so long without knowing Jesus – certainly not in my home church.

    With all of the above being said, I agree, fellowship is essential. However, we have to remember there are people watching sermons from home who are 50x more engaged than people filling up the pews on Sunday (I speak from experience). Fellowship is important, after all, I don’t think you can truly encounter the love and the heart of God without then wanting to be around the people He have His life for. We have to be able to be filled at home with the door closed first and foremost. That’s just my heart for the church and for all believers.

    FYI, they’re no substitute, but I now utilize the online sermons, studies, and worship services as supplemental resources for Monday – Saturday 🙌

    Sorry this was so long-winded!

    Like

    1. I enjoyed your thoughts! I actually don’t think the fellowship, fundamentally, is what “makes church”: it can be replicated elsewhere (i.e. in small groups, as I mentioned, and loads of other venues). What “makes church” at least for me, and can’t be substituted for in online venues, is that particular mystery of the Spirit and the encounter, and the recontextualization is provides, that occurs there.

      But certainly online resources that churches offer are invaluable, and I have no doubt that people who choose to enjoy church that way are as engaged as some people who are bodily present!

      Liked by 1 person

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