Why Do We Go to Church?

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Recently James K. A. Smith discussed the “good life” and the implication for Christian living at the Wisdom Forum. Halfway through this dialogue he made a striking comment,

People come to church and have no clue why. They sing a few songs, listen to a sermon, and go back to their lives without any change. The problem is that they have no understanding as to why they are doing what they are doing.

I am still chewing on these words, and I am overwhelmed for resolution.

If the common church attender comes to “worship” on Sunday but does not know why, then we have a problem. Why, then, should you go to church? To be more theologically accurate, why should you gather with the church — since the church is not the building down the street, but the group of believers?

How will we change this misconception of our time together? We have a purpose, not just as a body, but as individuals too. Do they know that? Now that I have a Master’s of Divinity in Christian Studies, you might assume that I have all the answers. However, I need to be reminded of why we gather as much as anyone.

The diversity of the local church should mirror heaven to a dying, lost and sinful world.

So Why Do We Gather as the Church?

We “church” to glorify God. We gather around God. Romans 12:1 commands us to present our bodies as living sacrifices to God. This lifestyle propels communal witnessing (1 Peter 2:9), repenting (Acts 2:38), worshipping (Psalm 150; Ephesians 5:19) and teaching (Colossians 3:16). We gather because we are one body, drawn together by God to be a people of God who live for God. We testify to God’s greatness. We disciple others through life together. We serve, teach and encourage, not just one another, but the world at large.

We do not ultimately come together for Sunday worship service to experience an emotional response that brings joy to us as consumers, though many Westerners gather for this very reason. Rather, we gather because God has united us. We gather because we live life together in being effective witnesses to our local communities. We gather because the diversity of the local church should mirror heaven to a dying, lost and sinful world. Christians are made to gather.

So again, I restate the issue at hand. Do believers and weekly church attenders really know this? Even if you think your church members know this, you may want to re-educate them because there might be blind-spots in your pews. Thankfully, everyone in the church has a purpose.

Purpose-Driven Lifestyle for the Church?

Inevitably, some people will say that they don’t need church because they can listen to a podcast or watch it online. Others see church as a good thing, but they don’t make time for it. In either situation, people don’t see how gathering as a church matters for them as individuals. Unfortunately, many are not aware that the people are the church.

Focusing on this issue, Ephesians 4:16 offers wisdom. Everyone is “knit together, supporting one another, in order to grow the body in building up in love” by properly fulfilling their roles. If every individual person has a purpose, which then comes to fruition by obedience, then the body grows. People come together as a church, community outreach begins, discipleship succeeds, life lived together compels the advancement of the gospel. The people of God grow as individuals because of active engagement in the community of believers.

Christ, being the head of the church, gives Christians a solid foundation and leader to follow and imitate daily. In John 17, Christ prayed for future believers to be united as he was united with the Father. We gather so that we can be like Christ. We gather because we get to enjoy this relationship with God.

We gather because God has united us.

Divide between the Pew and the Pulpit?

Everyone has a purpose in the local church, both corporately and individually. Therefore, there should be no divide between the Pew and the Pulpit. In fact, the strengths and weaknesses of the members of the local church are intentional, even complementary. Everyone has something that the other does not have, and we are stronger together than we are apart. This is a beautiful truth.

We need to look at every person in our congregations as a vital member of the family. I am lacking where you may be strong. Your strengths challenge me to grow and address my weaknesses, and vice versa. Our vocations and personalities help showcase the beauty of the diversity of the Bride of Christ. Praise God that everyone is different, but may we not forget the need for those differences. God has set Christ as the head of the church as the body of believers gather as a community of God’s chosen people. This calls for all walks of life, regardless of background or educational training. Therefore, there need not be a divide in the body, but a celebration that all have been gathered into one flock for God’s glory.

So when we gather, celebrate God. Because we gather for him, not ourselves. God uses our differences to propel the gospel around the world through our diversity. Next time we meet, let us worship together and be joyful for the active work of the Lord. It is not about us. It is about him.

We gather because of God.

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Nicholas Dawson

Nicholas Dawson received his M.Div. at Southeastern Seminary, where he also serves as a Classroom Technician in Media Services and as a Teaching Assistant for Old Testament Studies. He and his wife live in Wake Forest, NC.

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