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Last week, I broke down some recent Pew Research data on the values of American Christians. One of the most notable statistics from that study is this: 35% of American Christians believe “attending religious services” is essential to being a “Christian.” This is problematic for a number of reasons. But, while it is vital to attend a local church in order to fully participate in the blessings that come along with being part of the body of Christ, our hearts must be right as we consider worshiping with the local church.
Throughout history, Christians have found all sorts of problematic reasons to not attend church, but we’ve also devised some silly reasons to attend church, too. Below are three bad reasons to go to church. If you go to church for one of these three reasons, you’ll be disappointed, or your church will be annoyed:
Scripture is pretty clear: unless you’re an orphan, widow, sojourner, or other such down-trodden person, the local church doesn’t exist to serve you.
Like some sort of spiritual Starbucks, too often we expect the local church to cater to our wants and “needs” down to the details of our double-pump, non-fat caramel latté orders.
The local church does not exist to serve you. You exist to glorify God, serving in the local church.
If you’ve never been to church, or perhaps you grew up in church, but you haven’t been since you’ve moved out of your parents’ house, you must know that the leaders of the local church want you to feel welcome, but that’s not why they’re there.
This is incredibly important for young people to understand: the local church is your family; it is not a group of friends. You don’t get to just leave the local church when the music changes to something you don’t like, or the children’s ministry is kinda hokey. We must hold our local churches to a high standard of biblical ministry, but if you’re looking to attend a church that will fulfill your every want, one of two things is going to happen: 1) you’re going to be disappointed at the lack of perfect churches, or 2) you’re going to make an idol of your “perfect church.”
A church that uplifts its people more than it uplifts its Savior is bound to die.
Find a group of people who love Jesus more than they love you, and worship with them.
Christians who rightly teach the Scriptures will remind their churches about the brokenness and utter hopelessness of mankind. As you consider attending church, don’t look for churches that tell you how awesome you are. They’re lying to you in hopes that you’ll stick around.
Going to church to boost your self-esteem makes the worship experience about you more than Jesus.
This is not to say going to church should make you feel horrible—though, it will at times, when the Holy Spirit is convicting you of sin. Find a church that reminds you of your brokenness but doesn’t leave you to wallow in it.
A church that reminds people of their death in sin must remind them of their life in Christ.
Find a group of people who humbly admit their sin and need for Jesus, and worship with them.
Luck is a figment of your imagination, so going to church to get luck on your side is about as helpful as praying that God would remind Santa to stop by your house this year. God doesn’t do business in the realm of superstition, so don’t expect to exchange your weekly church attendance or monthly Bible reading for a job promotion or a lottery win.
The fascination with “luck” seems to me to be more prominent among Gen Xers and Boomers—really anyone over the age of 34-35. I don’t hear many of my friends or peers talking about “luck” too much—they usually talk more about how “the universe” is or is not against them (another topic for another time).
Going to church will not make God love you more or cause his face to shine upon you in any sort of advantageous way.
A church that points you to your Savior will loosen your grip on the fantasy of “luck.”
Find a group of people who cause you to love God more than you love his blessings, and worship with them.
Ultimately, it comes down to this:
Your church attendance needs to be motivated by your love for God, your love for others, and the denial of yourself.