Happy Little Family: The importance of regular church attendance

Welcome to this, the eleventh episode of Recovering Faith. Today’s episode is about the importance of a church family, and by that I don't mean having a church going family but rather a new family consisting of other members of your congregation. However, having a church going family is also a good thing.

When the subject of church or religion comes up, Many people say they don’t feel the need to attend church because they worship God at home, but when asked about the specifics it is quickly apparent that none of their activities are worship, or at least not worship of God.

When asked what they do on a typical Sunday, or even a specific Sunday, people will usually say they went fishing, golfing, worked on the house or the yard or watched some sporting event on the television. While none of those things are bad, they are not worship, or at least not worship of God. It has been said that whatever we freely give the most of our time to is what we worship, so perhaps it would be a good area for all of us to evaluate.
There are a lot of things that are not inherently bad but can become idols when they take us away from God. I lived in Nebraska for a while and everyone there elevated the Husker sports, especially football, to a religious elevation. In fact, some people placed the Husker football far above God. On the radio I heard a pastor say that some people have made football their idol and I thought, “Well, he just gored their sacred cow and now they might ride him out on a rail.”

Jonah 2:8 says, “Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them.”

When we make something our idol we willingly give up the love of God, which is everything, for something that is worthless. Almost anything can be an idol from some object we own such as a car to our political views.

Some people don’t want to go to church because they simply don’t like people, and I can sometimes understand that because people can be pretty horrible, but people can kind, caring and supportive as well. On the movie Jubal one of the characters said, “Sometimes it is giving the Good Lord the worst to say he created man,” which is a sentiment that many people share and the news seams obsessed with only showing the bad things that happen while completely ignoring the kind and noble deeds that are done.

In 1 John 4:20 we read, “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.”

We simply can’t love God without loving other people. Sometimes we act like we are completely self sufficient in this life, but that is never the case; we always need other people. There is a famous poem by the pastor John Donne that speaks to this.

No man is an island, Entire of itself, Every man is a piece of the continent, A part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less. As well as if a promontory were. As well as if a manor of thy friend's Or of thine own were: Any man's death diminishes me, Because I am involved in mankind, And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee. -John Donne

In a recent NBC article called In good company: Why we need other people to be happy, it says that being around other people makes us healthier, makes our brains work better,  gives us a sense of purpose and belonging, helps us to grow and helps us to be grateful (1).

I have a brother in-law who says he only goes to church to pray because he doesn’t want to talk to anyone or involve anyone else in his worship of God, but for all the good it does he might as well stay home. We can pray anywhere and there is no real reason to go to a church to pray and it certainly doesn’t increase the likelihood that God will answer our prayers. The reason to go to church is to interact with the fellow believers, to worship together and to grow each other’s faith.

A lot of people say that they are closer to God in nature than they ever are in a church. Henry David Thoreau famously said, “I find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time. To be in company, even with the best, is soon wearisome and dissipating. I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.” But I would wager that most of the time when people are alone in nature they are not praying or thinking about God at all.

A lot of people have said to me they don’t go to church because they don’t get anything out of it, and when they do I am temped to ask they what they have contributed to church as you don’t get anything out of something if you don’t put anything into it. I do sometimes politely ask people if they have contributed to church or put any effort into it other than attending and they typically admit that they haven’t. If you were to compare church attendance to growing a garden, a person could not complain about not getting anything out of the garden or even be surprised at its lack of yield when they never weeded it, never fertilized it, never watered it and never even planted any seeds. It is often, truthfully, said that you reap what you sow, well if you sow nothing you reap nothing. Relationships are no different, whether it be with people or with God.

A while back there was a video that went viral on the internet where a young man was standing in front of a church and doing some sort of slam poetry about why he loves Jesus but hate the church, or as he said, “I love Jesus but hate religion.” While I can understand his sentiment and agree with some of the points he made, I have to say that I strongly disagree with some of it as well. First off, the church is the people not the building. The church is no more the building than the police station is the police.

Jesus and religion are not fundamentally different either, and in fact, religion, by definition is the worship of a divine being, so we can’t love God and hate religion because the worship of God is by very definition a religion and God has commanded us to worship Him.

Another reason people don’t go because they don’t want to be held accountable for their actions. Some people are afraid that someone will ask how they are doing with their addiction or whatever hangup they have and they don’t want anyone to know about their problems, much less hold them accountable for them. Accountability is scary and off putting, but it is necessary for growth and when we have someone to hold us accountable we do better with our goals whether those goals are to loose weight or to give up a habit.

Some people don't go because they say there are so many imperfect people there, or that there are too many hypocrites. Imperfect people is the only variety of people you will find in church and the only variety that exists. Not going to church because of imperfect people is like not going to the hospital because of all the sick people.

Jesus came for those who are sick and those who don’t have their lives together because if we were perfect of had it all together than we wouldn’t need Jesus. Luke 5:31-32 says, ‘Jesus answered them, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.  I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

A lot of time we find in people what we are looking for, whether it be good or bad. I like to tell the story of an old man sitting on a park bench on the edge of town. A car stopped and rolled down the window so the driver could ask the old man a question. The driver of the car had just moved to town and wanted to know how what sort of people lived in town so the old man asked him what type of people were in his last town.

The man in the car went on and on about how horrible the people were in his last town and the man even went so far as to describe them as backbiters, gossipers and thrives. The old man sighed sadly and told the driver that he could expect the same in his new town.

Later another car pulls up and rolls down the window and the conversation goes much the same, but when the old man asks what type of people were in the driver’s last town the answer was completely different. The young man in the car said that the people in his last town were descent and God fearing people who would give you the shirt of their backs if you needed it. The old man smiled and happily told the other man that he could expect to find the same here in this town.

Paul the Apostle in one of his letters told the people not to give up on meeting together because some of them had stopped regularly meeting with one another to worship. Even then, so soon after the death and resurrection of Christ people stopped worshipping Him for things people had done or had failed to do.

Hebrews 10:25 “not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

Some people say they don’t hate all religion, they only hate “organized” religion. It is extremely clear from reading the Bible that God organized religion and Jesus organized His church and placed Peter at the head of it. God certainly doesn’t have anything against organized religion, and in fact Christianity is an organized religion that was instituted by God Himself. Sure, the people running the churches today are not perfect, but it is not perfection that gets one into heaven, it is faith in Jesus Christ. Meeting together builds and strengthens faith.

Another reason to prefer organized religion is anything not organized is always chaos and sometimes even rapidly spirals to anarchy. Without exception, every event I have ever attended that was not organized turned into chaos and when people realized what a mess it was a few people with conflicting ideas would simultaneously attempt to take charge and then factions would ensue, kind of like Lord of the Flies.

A lot of people, even though they usually don’t typically admit it, don't attend church because they are not ready to fully commit to God. Some people view their relationship with God as an open relationship where they can come and go as they please and don’t think God should mind when they leave Him for a while to spend time with the little g gods, but He does care greatly. God is not interested in an open relationship and wants us all to Himself.

There are a lot of reasons people have for being unwilling to fully commit to God, and while a lot of people are not to the point where they consider it an open relationship and are more like the spouse who doesn’t exactly cheat but doesn’t put any effort into the relationship either. I think a big reason why some people are not willing to fully commit to God is that they are afraid of what would be required of them, and some people are just lazy or selfish. A lot of people don’t go to church because they are not willing to give up an hour per week, and are certainly not willing to make a lifestyle change that they know they would feel compelled to do if they committed to God. Basically, other things are more important to them then God and they use things as excuses for not going to church when the simple truth is their relationship with God isn’t the most important thing to them.

Jesus loved the church and gave His life for it. When Paul spoke of the church and its relationship to God he compared it to a marriage where God is the husband and the church was the bride. When speaking to husbands Paul told them to treat their brides the way Jesus treats the Church.

Ephesians 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her

A lot of people will point to the time when Jesus ran the money changers out of the temple as evidence that Jesus was agains organized religion, but that is not the case at all. Jesus wasn’t against the church and he wasn’t against organized religion, he was against the corrupt leaders who had changed and perverted the religion from what God created it as for selfish gain. When Jesus ran then out he didn’t say that the religion was bad, he said they had turned His Father’s house into a den of thieves.

The Jewish leaders of the time were like stewards who refused to give up their temporary appointment when the king arrived, like the steward of Gondor in The Lord of the Rings. In times past the kingdom of men had a king who reigned in the kingdom of Gondor and ruled the kingdoms of men, but eventually the line of kings failed and a steward was appointed to rule in his stead until a true king could be found. It is said the rule was turned over to lesser men. Denethor II, son of Ecthelion II, the steward of Gondor had no intention of giving up his position of power when Aragorn, the true king, returned.

In one scene there were a group of men who had previously failed to serve the king of Gondor when they had made an oath and they were cursed to have no peace until they fulfilled their oath. When Aragorn attempted to hold them to their oath they said that only the true King of Gondor could command them so he said, holding up his sword, (It plays out a little differently in the book, but the end result is the same), “I am Aragorn son of Arathorn, and am called Elessar, the Elfstone, Dúnadan, the heir of Isildur Elendil's son of Gondor. Here is the sword that was broken and is forged again! "

The criminals and traitors were willing to submit to the true king but the steward was not. The traitors were able to regain their honor by helping to free the kingdom of men from oppression, tyranny and extermination and were released from their curse. Denethor, however, set himself on fire in an effort to burn himself alive with his last remaining son but ultimately jumped off the cliff on fire leaving his so to survive him. There was no honor for Denethor.

In an article I read called The Surprising Benefits of Going to Church (2) it gave ten benefits or reasons why we should go to church and I will give a brief synopsis of each reason. The first reason the article gives is that attending church connects us with God. The article says that when we go to church it is making time for God and when we go to a physical place designed for the worship of God it helps us to be in the frame of mind to connect to God.

The second reason the article gives is that church attendance gives us the chance to reflect on gratitude and can help us to see our trials and hardships in a new light and as learning experiences and can help us to realize what we do have and to be grateful for it.

The third reason the article gives is that church connects us socially and gives us a chance to make friends, and it is easier to make friends with people we share the same world view with.

The fourth reason the article gives to go to church is that it helps those of us who are married to connect with his or her spouse and to have a better relationship. The article said, “Not everyone is on the same page as his or her spouse when it comes to faith. However, couples who attend church together report higher levels of happiness and satisfaction within their marriage.” The article then goes on to give some support for that statement.

Anther reason given is that church attendance helps us to feel reverence by giving us a place of worship and peace. Going to church gives us plenty of opportunities to give back by serving others, it helps us to find the lessons in our trials, it helps us to forgive others and it fills our hearts with song.

The final reason given in the article is that going to church gives us deeper meaning in our lives. When we feel like we should skip church because we already have enough stress in our lives is a sign that we need church more than ever.

In addition to the reasons listed in the articles some other reasons we should attend church are we have someone to one accountable to, whether it is with a sin we are struggling with, a diet we are on, our spiritual goals, or anything else. Sometimes accountability is scary but it helps us to grow.

When we go to church we have support in our trials, and even when there is nothing anyone can do to make it better we know there are people who care and are there for us. Life is a lot more difficult when we go through it alone, and company can make the journey easier and more enjoyable, not to mention more worthwhile.

I am not sure how many of you have ever had a camp fire, but when you have a bunch of logs burning together and then separate them they start to burn out, but when they are rejoined they burn strong. We are kind of like those logs in the fire and when we are on our own we don’t do well, but together we are stronger. We grow more together than we ever can on our own.

In Genesis 2:18 the Lord says that “it is not good for man to be alone” and science agrees with that statement. In a studies on the affects of solitary confinement (3) the subjects are anxious, recover more slowly from illness or injury, loose social skills and sometimes even hallucinate.

The church is never an individual but a group but rather a body of believers. In the Bible it says that  “Where 2 or 3 are gathered in My name I will be also,” and not where one is gathered I will be also.

A church is not a building any more than the police department is the police. The church is the congregation, the people, not the building. In the writings of Paul it says that God gave himself for the church, and there is nothing in the Bible that would even indicate that Jesus has any special love for any building.  If church were just a building than the saying, “the unchurched” would make no sense.

Ephesians 1: 22-23 “And God placed all things under his (meaning Jesus’) feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.”
Romans 16:5 “Greet also the church that meets at their house.

Greet my dear friend Epenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in the province of Asia.”
From the verse above it is clear that the church, the thing that meets, is the people and not the physical location and it is also clear that it is a group of people and not a person or family staying and “worshipping” at their house.
Showing up at the service once it has started and slipping out unnoticed during the closing prayer or song so you don’t have to interact with anyone is not proper church attendance and it does not give the opportunity for a family or for growth. The point of going to church isn’t jus to hear the message, it is also to interact with other believers. If all you are going to do is listen to the message than you might as well have stayed home and listened to a podcast.

I have brother in-law who says he goes to church to pray but doesn’t interact with other people. For all the good it does he might as well have stayed home because God will not hear his prayers any more because he was at church or any less if her were at home. The church building isn’t some magical building that amplifies our prayers, but for all the reasons I already listed above, it would be good for my brother in-law to go to church and to interact with the people.

If you have a church but stopped going, it would be a superb idea to start going again. If you regularly go to church but keep to your comfort zone and don’t socialize with anyone you should talk to people you don’t typically talk to, and who knows, you may just make their day or them yours. If you don’t have a church home now is a good time to find one and if you do have a church home but are not fully engaged there is no better time than now to get involved in a home group or Bible study.
Articles cited

https://www.nbcnews.com/better/health/good-company-why-we-need-other-people-be-happy-ncna836106
https://www.livingwellspendingless.com/2016/12/02/the-surprising-benefits-of-going-to-church/
https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/article/what-does-solitary-confinement-do-to-your-mind/
https://www.gotquestions.org/church-family.html

 

Why I Joined (and left) the LDS Church, AKA Mormon

Why I Joined (and left) the LDS Church, AKA Mormon

I Will Show Him How Much He Must Suffer For My Name