Why Should a Christian Be Committed to Going to Church?
How important is “going to church” for the American population? According to recent statistics given by the Barna Group, not very important. In fact, among Millennials (those 30 and under) only 20% of the population think that church attendance is valuable. The Millennials who are leaving the church are doing so because they believe the church is irrelevant, hypocritical, and filled with moral failure.
It’s not just those outside of the church who have a hard time seeing the value of going to church either. What it means to be a “regular church attender” has changed for self-identified Christians.
Regular attenders used to be people who went to church three or more weekends each month—or even several times a week. Now people who show up once every four to six weeks consider themselves regular churchgoers. Many pastors and church leaders are accounting for sporadic attendance in their ministry planning.
The Barna Group went on to discover that those who are going to church in order to “get closer to God” are finding themselves unfulfilled. This may be a factor in why so many have stopped attending as frequently as they once did, or even altogether. “Adults are aware of their very real spiritual needs, yet they are increasingly dissatisfied with the church’s attempt to meet those spiritual needs and are turning elsewhere.”
What’s the problem?
In trying to appeal to the culture that’s slipping through their pews, many churches have made themselves useless to the people they wish to pursue. What they offer the world is not irreplaceable. It can be found in coffee shops, “conversations”, and concerts (often the coffee and the music outside the church are better anyway!). The people who leave church, or only go sporadically, are not convinced that they need what happens in the church when we gather together. This is because, in the words of Alexander Schmemann, “In church today, we so often find we meet only the same old world, not Christ and His Kingdom. We do not realize that we never get anywhere because we never leave any place behind us.” (For the Life of the World, 28). We have so domesticated worship that people can get it on their couches at home.
We need to recover a sense of the heavenliness of worship. According to the Bible, when we gather together for corporate worship, we gather to “taste the heavenly gift”. The supernatural powers of the age to come (the heavenly state) are breaking into this present age and making us partakers of God Himself (Hebrews 6:4). We are coming to “the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the general assembly and the church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel.” (Hebrews 12:22-24). The church is the place of heavenly communion with the Body and Blood of Christ (1 Corinthians 10:16), and Christ Himself is in our midst every time we gather! (Revelation 2:1).
The question of whether or not one should go to church is eclipsed by the absurdity of not going. If the church is where Jesus promises to be, and to meet with His people, if it’s the place where our hearts are lifted up to heaven to commune with Jesus, then where on earth would we rather be? If we can once again begin to believe what the Bible says about worship, we will see that there is nothing more divine, more exciting, or more necessary for us as Christians. Divine because through it we are being transformed, exciting because heaven is breaking in on us, and necessary because we cannot get Christ’s Body and Blood at home, or in a coffee shop.