I rejoiced with those who said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” – Psalm 122:1
That is a good question considering the times we live in.
We live in a culture of people who are used to getting what they want the way they want it, delivered in the form they want, in the mode they want, and in the method they want it. And that can include how we worship God.
People can watch or listen to the Northstar messages online. In fact, there are excellent messages on TV and online daily. All the best churches have podcasts that are readily accessible. And many message series can be downloaded or bought on DVDs. There are numerous Bible commentaries and books on every conceivable subject ready to be effortlessly downloaded to a computer, iPad, Kindle or smart phone. I can make a playlist of all my favorite songs played by the Northstar band to play at home before I listen to the message online. And I can even support the church by tithing online without ever leaving the couch.
I know what you are thinking. Northstar does many of those things. Yes, we do. There is nothing wrong with anything I just mentioned.
Truthfully, I cannot point to a verse in the Bible that says “thou shalt go to church.” In fact, you do not have to go church to be saved, in order to be loved by God, or forgiven of your sins. And as our church has grown larger, it is easy to rationalize that a church of over 2,000 people has plenty of volunteers willing to pour their energies and interests into Northstar. I am one person, or one family that won’t make any appreciable difference if I am not physically in the service. So why do I need to attend church?
My answer to that question will not be a deep, exegetical interpretation. In fact, it will be the opposite. If you really think about it, it just makes so much sense once you become a Christian to attend church. Let me explain what I mean by that.
It’a a little like telling a new bride that she doesn’t have to live with her husband. When you get married it implies a certain relationship. Becoming a Christian implies a relationship with God and it also implies some sort of relationship between you and a church community of other Christians.
The book of Acts has an account of the early days of the church. The very first Christians didn’t have to be told that they should start meeting in churches once they became Christians. That was just a natural impulse for someone who has experienced God’s forgiveness and grace. The early Christians wanted to be with other people who loved God in the same way. They wanted to hear teaching about God so they can know Him better. They wanted to praise God and pray to God with other people, and to love those other people as an expression of their love for God. Every one of us who are followers of Jesus have the same impulses and the same needs that can only be truly fulfilled in a community of believers.
Not going to church seems so counter intuitive because so much of the Christian life is meant to be lived out in a community, in a church. The Bible tells us that God gives each one of His people that are Christians gifts from His Spirit, special gifts to be used to build up the church, and to help edify other Christians. It would seem strange and a waste if a Christian decided to keep those gifts to themselves. And gifts are a two-way street. God has given me gifts to give to the church and God has given me the church to help me to grow and benefit from other’s gifts.
I can’t begin to outline the benefits of joining and attending small groups. In short, regularly meeting with a committed group of believers allows us to reinforce the core of what we believe so we can live it out, learn more about God, and maintain the strength to serve others.
I love the church. It’s the center of my life and has been since childhood. It’s the place where I was led to the knowledge of God, where I learned about the Person and work of Christ, and where I gained the knowledge of saving and sanctifying truth. It’s where I learned how to pray, how to sing, how to worship, how to love, and how to serve. And it was in the church that I experienced the leading of the Spirit of God directing me to a life of ministry.
We raised our children in the church, and someday our grandchildren will be raised in the church as well. It’s where I’ve made lifelong friends and partners in ministry. The church touches every part of my life—in fact you could say it is my life.
Years ago, there was a television program called Cheers, about a bunch of people who met in a bar. The catchiest thing about that show was the theme song. It said, “Sometimes you want to go / Where everybody knows your name, / And they’re always glad you came; / You want to be where you can see / Our troubles are all the same; / You want to be where everybody knows your name.”
I believe those lyrics reflect the welcoming atmosphere along with the many other things that Northstar provides for those who gather to praise God on Sunday.
I urge you to attend and more importantly to get involved in a local church. Worship and serve with other believers. Get connected in a Small Group. Over time your question of “why should I go to church” will be replaced with a simple statement: “There is no place I would rather be.”
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