Saturday, May 31, 2008

What's the big deal about church?

I've been thinking about an issue for a while and my cousin-in-law's blog entry on why she doesn't go to church brought it to mind again. I know a good handful of Christians who aren't currently active in a church. Some have never been, some have been but have slipped out of the routine, and some have made a choice to step out of church. Of the last group, some of those are in small groups, or home churches and others are not. Quite a variety here.

This topic makes me question why my family is in a church weekly. Let me point out I am not judging anyone for making a different decision than we've made. Each family has to pray and make this call on their own, it's not up to me to dictate it. I'm simply sharing why church is important to me, even though it seems scripture is not crystal clear on the topic.

I don't go to church to secure my salvation. The two don't jive together. You're either saved or not and you either go to church or not, two different issues. Being saved has nothing to do with our actions (which would be works and Paul said clearly it's not about works) or the pastor's actions (like him baptizing us or whatever-baptism is the act of obedience that shows the condition of our heart, it doesn't save us), it's about the condition of our heart. Are we trusting Jesus as our only route to heaven? That's another post, though...

I go to church to worship in truth and to learn more about the Bible. I go to exercise my gifts and talents God has given me, to encourage others, and to lean on the support of others.

Corporate worship does something great to my soul. There's a church or two a lot closer that we'd enjoy but the worship is so opposite our style that we would really have trouble getting our hearts into it. I worship at home too, but there's nothing quite the same as singing to our Lord with a couple hundred other believers, all in one accord.

My pastor is one of the smartest men I know. I get something from almost every sermon. There was a series of sermons he did related to politics that Shane and I discussed for days. We weren't sure we agreed with it all, but boy did it stretch us! Listening together to our pastor adds strength to our marriage. One sermon a few months ago really drew Shane in, while other sermons speak to me more. It's interesting to compare notes on what God is teaching us individually and as a couple.

We get to know people we would have otherwise never met. There are a lot of women who are further in their walks with the Lord than I am. They gracefully demonstrate their gifts to the body as they love and serve. I get to absorb this as we work together on a project related to church. What a blessing to "sit" under the women who have so much to share!

I can use the gifts the Lord's given me anywhere, but what better way to regularly exercise and practice them than to fellow believers in my church? We are called to build up other Christians, and I find church to be the best place to start!

It's easiest to tithe on a regular basis if I am in church. When we miss the Sunday after payday, it's harder for me to make sure I get that tithe in the plate two weeks later. It gives us a place and a regular schedule for our giving.

Another reason I love being in church is that Shane can let his guy-guard down. Our society expects so much from men that God doesn't. In church, men can be tender, can be the leaders they're supposed to be (or they can learn under other great models), they can tear up, be weak and vulnerable, and they can freely worship their God. Especially because of Shane's field of work, he needs a place like this.

People in our church can plant seeds in me or my family. When we started the PRC, Doug, our pastor (then) was the fuel behind it. God called us, Doug coached us. I'm sure God could have pulled it off another way, but without Doug, I'm not sure the center would be here. In the same vein, Ash has a Sunday School teacher who is absolutely precious. They have a great bond and Ash learns from her in different ways than she learns from me. Even when Ash is grown up, I know she'll have a tender place in her heart for Mrs. Sherry.

Finally, to challenge my dear cousin-in-law (and many others who feel this way)-with her permission, may I suggest that the hypocrite argument holds no water? If we went to church to become perfect; if there were a special device at the front doors that would take our sinful habits away, then we could be upset with the people who come in the back door (missing the device) and continue to mess up. Unless you are also sin free as a Christian (I only know of One!), then how can you (or I) complain that a fellow church goer still sins? After all the church is not a social club for perfect people, it's a hospital for the wounded.

We don't go to church to compare our lives to each other, we go to come before the Lord, compare our lives to his standards, repent and worship! All fall short, remember-I am part of all.

I grew up in a house that had the attitude that you don't have to be in church to go to heaven. That is perfectly true. However, as an adult it left me weak and unknowing as a Christian. When the pastor would say, "We all know what happened to Jonah." I'd think, "Well, I don't..." and I'd feel ashamed. If I had been brought to church, I wouldn't have been behind.

My final point is this: If I were to pray and ask God, "God, if I find a good, solid, Bible believing church that follows you and worships in truth, should I go?" what would he likely say? Would he say, "No, please be comfortable and stay in bed, just watch that TV preacher." or maybe, "No, there's no need for you to hang out with hypocrites." Thanks for letting me pick on your statement Jennifer, you're a good sport :)

9 comments:

Supermom2JakeAndEmmy said...

I did want to clarify something:
"Finally, to challenge my dear cousin-in-law (and many others who feel this way)-with her permission, may I suggest that the hypocrite arguement holds no water? If we went to church to become perfect; if there were a special device at the front doors that would take our sinful habits away, then we could be upset with the people who come in the back door (missing the device) and continue to mess up. Unless you are also sin free as a Christian (I only know of One!), then how can you (or I) complain that a fellow church goer still sins? After all the church is not a social club for perfect people, it's a hospital for the wounded."

I 100% agree with this statement. My argument was more about the fact of telling someone "don't do this or you will go to Hell", (which first off isn't true if you're a true believer and accept Christ 100%) and then turning around and doing it yourself. We are ALL sinners - we are born into sin as per the bible, but hypocrisy is something different altogether . . .
BTW, I LOVE that you "picked on" my statement. Feel free to pick on any that you like! :-)

Love you bunches!

Wendy said...

"My argument was more about the fact of telling someone "don't do this or you will go to Hell", (which first off isn't true if you're a true believer and accept Christ 100%)..."

Yep, I agree with this totally. Honestly, I've not had the experience of someone telling me not to do something b/c it'd send me to hell and then they do it themselves, but it's not something a good leader would do. I'd think a church change might be in order if this person was in leadership.

Thanks again Jennifer for being cool about this discussion :)

Supermom2JakeAndEmmy said...

BTW, for anyone that want's to read the post we're referring to here's the link to my blog:

http://supermomblues.blogspot.com/2008/05/why-i-dont-go-to-church.html

Enjoy!

Summer said...

First of all, you're eloquence makes me want to gag. I am so jealous of how well you express yourself in all settings, I mean, except for that one time at the screen printing place. Remember that? lol that was so funny. Anyway...

Going to church since I was in the womb has taught me, more than anything, that you cannot base who God is on people. People will absolutely fail you everytime, no matter how highly you esteem them or how deep of a relationship with the Lord you think they have. The minute you take your eyes off of Him and begin to look around, things get flakey. My church-going began as a have-to because momma said. Then it was a need-to, like I need to go because if I don't God (and momma) will get mad at me. Then I took a break from church for a while, and realized, after working on my relationship with Him that I wanted to go to church. I am like you Wendy; I love being in His presence singing and worshipping with others who love Him too. And I love a good sermon. Church, when I can focus and forget about myself and those around me, truly refreshes my spirit and, I have no doubt it fills God's heart with pride and satisfaction to see His children (mostly) in one accord. Can you imagine how ragingawesome Heaven will be when we are in perfect unity praising Him? So, to me, church is not a have-to or a need-to but I think for the most part, Christians should want to go to church.

Wendy said...

Uhh, thanks Summer for that nice reminder of my not-so-graceful moment. I had almost left that memory behind :)

Yeah, I want to be at church. Maybe other Christians who don't feel so good about it haven't found the right church? Or, maybe like you mentioned, their focus is off. I know someone who spends her entire time at church watching everyone and then comments on it all afterwards. I don't think she's getting blessed by the service, lol.

Supermom2JakeAndEmmy said...

Okay, Wendy, you're going to have to explain the screen-printing place incedent . . . LOL.

I am not opposed to church, in fact, singing in church used to be one of my greatest pleasures. To me, singing was my special moment between me and Christ. Some people raise their hands, some people speak in tounges, I sing. And I do believe that church is a great place to meet fellow Christians. But to me, I know I'm a sinner. That's the whole significance of our faith - Christ died because we are all sinners and that was the ONLY path to salvation. When (and if) Ronnie and I DO find a church, I don't want it to be based upon someone else's idea of what we are and aren't supposed to do. To be honest, if it's not "biblical" then it's all relative anyway, IMO. I think I would like to find a church that is more worship-based rather than sermon based, you know? Like I said, singing in church is one of my greatest pleasures in life, and I would love to find a place to do that again.

Wendy said...

Jennifer, I know what you mean by worship based. Our church had solid teaching, but the worship was what kept us there in the beginning. In the last 6 months or so, the pastor has gotten some kinda incredible boost and the preaching is also wonderful. It was fine before, but now it's more powerful than ever.

Our worship is so good (that's relative, too since it's the syle we like) that when I hear Jeff lead us in a song I've not heard before, then I hear it later on the radio, I prefer Jeff's voice & style more than the real artist's. I wish I had a CD of Jeff & our Praise Team, they're so good. So, I can relate to what you mean, for sure.

Oh, and the screen printing...well, you know after Ronnie got out of that business, we had to use the other guy. Shane dropped off an order and told the guy we wanted names (of staff of the PRC) on the shirts, but we didn't. When I saw the names, written in an off color in a boring/big font, I was almost livid and I didn't hide it. I didn't meant to be rude, I was just shocked since I didn't know that's what Shane ordered. I apologized but Summer said she's not sure they were impressed :( Ouch.

Wendy said...

Jennifer, you & Ronnie should try our church. The worship style is closer to Ron's old church (loud, full band with drums, a couple guitars, and so on), and the pastor is real. The kids program is out of sight. I've never seen a kids program so organized and efficiently run. It's in the same town Shane works in (please don't say town names here) but it's worth the drive. Email me if you're interested ;)

Supermom2JakeAndEmmy said...

I'd love it. My brother and sister in law actually go to the same church as ya'll, I think. I'll email you later about it. Ronnie says he doesn't want to drive that far. We have to work on him about this. What I REALLY want is for him and I to get involved with a praise team. He NEEDS to play again and I NEED to sing again - we both miss it so much. The other issue we have is the transportation thing. We can't get six people to church in a five passenger car, you know?