|Photo by Deb Spoons|
I've heard these statements and have really pondered the question: What's so important about church?
Well, John's sermon yesterday gave me an answer that I feel makes sense. Yesterday was Pentecost, the Sunday we remember when the Holy Spirit was poured out on Jesus' followers awaiting the promised gift. John spoke of three things we receive when we accept Jesus and are given the Holy Spirit: Peace, Joy, and Mission. It was when he spoke about our mission in this world that I truly began to understand the importance of church.
The original word for Holy Spirit is BREATH. God breathed on the disciples and they were filled with the Holy Spirit, just as God breathed on Adam and gave him life. This breath of the Holy Spirit is special, because it gives us purpose and can give us passion.
Psalm 150, the last psalm listed, speaks of the purpose and mission of those who have the breath of God.
Praise the LORD.
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens. Praise him for his acts of power;
praise him for his surpassing greatness. Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
praise him with the harp and lyre, praise him with timbrel and dancing,
praise him with the strings and pipe, praise him with the clash of cymbals,
praise him with resounding cymbals. let everything that has breath praise the LORD.
Praise the LORD.
It is a mission of the church...the universal church, the church world-wide...to praise the Lord. We praise the Lord with our lives because He has given us breath...not only physical life, but life life in His Spirit.
The church is a group of believers who gather together to worship God. To praise Him. To love Him. To honor Him. If our mission as Spirit-filled believers is to praise the Lord, then we need to join together as believers worldwide to praise God and lift up His name. There is great power in the collective worship of God.
But I don't get anything out of church! Church is not for your pleasure. Church is a place to collectively worship the one true God. It is a place to further the mission of God. Worship requires you to consciously think through the words of the songs sung, the prayers said, the scripture read, and the sermon preached. It requires you to come prepared to give...not receive. Don't get me wrong, you will receive great things when you truly worship God as He deserves. But receiving something is not the purpose of coming to church.
I'll go to church when I start my family. If the parents are not sold on the mission of God before they have kids, then their kids won't capture that mission of God. Parents need to have their own relationship with God and be sold out for Him before they can train their children to love Him. It is not the church's job to train up a child in God's love...it is the parent's job. The church can - and does - teach, but it just reinforces what is taught at home.
I feel God more out in nature than I do within the walls of a church. Yes, there is something about being out in nature that draws us to God. It is because we are truly recognizing and seeing God's work around us. It is because we are focused on His creation and recognizing the gift that it is. But we can do the same thing at church. So often we go to church, wondering if we will get anything out of the service. We go through the motions. But we aren't actively participating. We aren't truly meaning the words of the songs we sing. We aren't truly agreeing to the words spoken in prayer. We aren't truly paying attention to God's words spoken through the sermon. There is power in the collective worship of God's people. We can experience His powerful presence when we truly worship in spirit and truth.
Church is not only a place to worship God. It is a place to be encouraged by other Spirit-filled believers. There are times when I am struggling with something in my life and someone in church will come up and ask about me...and sometimes even KNOW what I am struggling about. That is the Spirit loving on me and encouraging me...through a fellow believer. I wouldn't get that encouragement...either from the church member or from God...had I not been in attendance. Church is not just an institution...it is a family.
Church attendance is not a requirement. We don't need another thing on our "guilt list", for sure. But church attendance is an outgrowth of our heart. We spend time and energy on what is important to us. We make time for what we love the most. What is most important in your life? (Disclaimer here: There are times when we just cannot make it to church. In today's economic times, sometimes we have to work on Sundays. There is no shame in that. What I am saying here is that worshiping God is more important that shopping, catching up on sleep, and watching TV.)
This is certainly not a complete list of reasons for the importance of church. What would you add to my list?