If I’ve learned anything about going to church, it’s that there are plenty of reasons not to go.
I’ve visited enough churches all over the world to know that human nature is the same in Kuala Lumpur as it is in Kalamazoo. Since there are no perfect churches, see if you share my thoughts when I say:
1. I don’t go to church expecting to see a group of people consistently reflecting the attitudes and values of Christ.
I’ve seen enough of myself in church sanctuaries, meeting halls, and boardrooms to know that we all are at varying degrees of spiritual growth or regression. Some of us are like noisy newborns. Others are showing signs of spiritual senility. Most are somewhere in between, trying to figure out why we are acting like mere men and women rather than mature members of the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 3:3).
All of this would be disillusioning to me if I didn’t find that the New Testament depicts the first-century church in the same condition of imperfection (Revelation 2-3).
2. I don’t go to church expecting to hear music that will lift everyone to the same level of worship.
In theory, church music is a shared language of the soul rooted in the theology and anthems of heaven (Colossians 3:16; Revelation 5:11-14; Isaiah 51:11). In reality, however, the songs of the church are the down-to-earth sounds of changing generations that are united by Christ but divided by preferences as varied as bluegrass, country, or Bach. Because music is an art that resonates differently in all of us, we can’t all feel the same way about our songs of worship.
The idea of “worship wars” is probably a contradiction in terms. But from the first century until now, the music of the church has been an opportunity for the Lord’s people to show whether they are submitted to the Spirit of Christ and to one another in the process (Ephesians 5:18-21).
3. I don’t go to church expecting to see men and women consistently giving one another the mutual honor and consideration they deserve.
The curse of Genesis 3 describes our reality. Just as we still work to get weeds out of our yards, and just as we do what we can to reduce the pain of childbirth, so our challenge is to see the misuse of gender-based power and influence as a problem to be solved rather than as a right to be defended (Genesis 3:16-19).
We need to remember that the One who calls us together gave women more love and respect than they received in their own culture, not less (John 4:25-27).
4. I don’t go to church to feel morally superior to those who wouldn’t be caught dead in a house of worship.
The apostle Paul thought of himself as “the chief of sinners” years after he “saw the light” on the road to Damascus. Long after he discovered that there is no life outside of Christ, he urged those who joined him to remember where they had come from. He reminded them what they were still made of (Galatians 5:16-17), and how far they all had to go (Philippians 3:12-13).
The self-righteousness of church people was a concern, but no surprise, to the authors of the Bible. They wrote with transparency not only about the failures of the church (1 Corinthians 11:17), but also about its tendency to be morally proud (Romans 14:10; 1 Corinthians 4:3-5).
5. I don’t go to church looking for a perfect sermon with no errors in content or delivery.
I’ve walked with enough pastors along the way to know that no matter how thoroughly they prepare their messages, they almost always fall short of their own expectations, let alone the needs of their people. Many wake up Monday morning knowing they’re being measured by memories of the past and compared with the pastor of a bigger church on the other side of town.
The shortcomings we see in our church leaders can be a reminder to us that a pastor’s performance is not nearly as important as the perfection of the Savior and His Word that together we are called to honor.
Because unrealistic expectations are a formula for disillusionment, I’m convinced that we do far better when our motives are more in keeping with the original purpose of the church.
Why I want to go to church:
1. I want go to church not because I’m good, but because I’m not. I need to meet with others who realize that we all are like addicts in need of reminders that life is not found in another drink, another television program, or another hour at work. Life is found by seeing every circumstance as an opportunity to discover that God’s ways are better than our own.
2. I want to go to church to be counter-cultural in the best sense of the word. Because everyone is important in the eyes of Christ, there is no better place to go to reverse the short-sighted values of a materialistic culture. There is no place on the face of the earth that gives us more reason to affirm the value of every person than a body of people “called out” by the Lord of the universe to regard everyone as someone for whom Christ died (James 2:1-9).
3. I want to go to church to confess with others the life-changing truth that meeting together is not just about us. From the beginning, the church was established to be a place where the words of God are contemplated, where the Spirit of God is heard, where the goodness of God is confessed, and where the wisdom, power, and love of God are praised.
©2005 RBC Ministries