Why We Should Go to Church

I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints. Ephesians 1:17-18

It can be easy to just give it all up and fall back into the world. There is so much conflict and disillusionment there that sometimes I am surprised that more people do not drop out. Statistics from The Francis A. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership Development, as well as Barna Research reported recently that perhaps 50% of people who go to a church are not even Christians. I first heard of this statistic when I was in seminary, and even from my “hero,” J. Vernon McGee, whom I would visit as often as possible. He often said he believed a strong percentage of people in the church were not Christians at all! At first, I did not believe it; but, after years of pastoral experience and looking at the research, I now know this to be very possible.

The early church (that is, the period in Christian history right after our Lord’s ascension up until the 4th century when Christianity became legal) went through a period of wide growth and geographic expansion, even in the face of extreme persecution. The Bible describes many instances of spectacular growth, starting at Pentecost. But, most people came to faith through a slow process. Justin Martyr, a man who exhibited extraordinary faith and was persecuted and killed for it (and became the word we use for experiencing persecution-martyr) did not come to the Lord by a sudden, emotional experience, but a long, slow process as most people did at that time. He says he first heard about the faith from an elderly stranger who engaged him in a philosophical conversation, common in that day. But, this elderly man planted a seed that grew over time. In addition, Justin Martyr saw the faith by observing Christians and was stirred by what he saw.

Most of the early Christians went through a several-year process where they were discipled, instructed, and encouraged before they were even baptized or received the Lord’s Supper. This was called “Catechumen,” where we get our word catechism. Today, in most churches, we have a tamer process of confirmation, membership, and so forth. Others may receive Christ at an evangelistic event and just proceed through a short membership class. The difference is that without a process where a person new to the faith can be properly instructed and discipled, he or she may not take a deeper ownership of the faith and become totally transformed by it. By not taking total ownership, one would be unable to know about our Lord and how He can transform our minds as well as our emotions. In the face of persecution and even death, a deeper ownership of the faith enabled those early Christians to thrive and grow and worship Him more.

Our American society has spent 50 years planted in front of the television, including me. I can’t miss “Star Trek” or the History Channel. We have created for ourselves a culture dependent on instant stimulation and gratification. Our temperament has been focused on the quick fix and instant results. A generation ago, the average person could spend his or her whole career at one job. Now we get offended if we do not get a promotion every year, and we change jobs every few years. We become restless; the TV generation has become shallow and “turned off” by church because it is boring to them.

We are a society that focuses on rejection and failure, and that focus paralyzes us from achieving our full potential. It is probably because the TV has replaced our spiritual life, shortened our attention span, and left us with questions and objections that turn to emptiness. A friend in the entertainment industry told me that the average TV program has over 20 different images every minute. So, when you watch a half-hour “sit-com,” your eyes will receive over 600 images. When we read a book, we receive one image. We are addicted to stimulation; most people want more and thus, it is hard for us to settle down.

In our church life, we can have the same expectations in communities with dozens to hundreds of churches from which to choose. So, the average Christian may hop and shop around for months or even years, and never get fully involved or use his or her gifts as one is called to do. Then, the boredom may win out, and he/she gives up. We have lost the sense of adventure and wonder that we used to have. We may see the apostles as “amazed,” “frightened,” “overjoyed,” “tired,” and “saddened,” but we never see the apostles or anyone else in the Bible as bored. God wants us filled with meaning and purpose; “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10). We are to go to church so we can participate meaningfully and purposefully with our gifts and abilities.

We need to be drawn to the church for a deeper reason than the promise of good child-care or entertainment or even eternal life-deeper than to find excitement and escape from our boredom.

Events intended to attract people to the church are essential, but we must have discipleship and equipping methods too. We must have a passion that comes from the very core of who we are as human beings-Christian beings who have surrendered to the person, work, truth, and character of Christ. If not, we will be unable to survive the pressures of life and the persecution we may receive. Without this, the early Christians would never have grown or been able to show courage in the face of persecution. This tiny sect of Christianity would have never survived a generation, let alone two thousand years.

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