by Aaron Earls
Have you ever felt bored at church?
Christians are often hesitant to answer that question. We are afraid of what it might say about our church or afraid of what it might say about us.
But if we are honest, most of us have had times where worship services seemed dry, when church attendance seemed little more than a routine. What does that say about church and what does it say about us?
Perhaps more than anything, it reminds us that spiritual growth is hard. We often forget that spiritual activities are not merely physical ones that take place only in the world we see. They are battles within the unseen spiritual war raging around us.
It could mean your church is boring – it happens. While it shouldn’t be the case, some churches go to great lengths to make the greatest news in history seem dull and commonplace.
But does that suddenly allow us to treat biblical commands as optional? Can we assert that merely because we feel as if we learn better outside of a lecture environment, we can dismiss our need for the preaching of God’s word?
Whatever our personal preferences may be, however we may feel about church services, it is to our eternal benefit that we remain faithful and involved in a local church. If, for no other reason, than we need both correction and community.
Can I be blunt? It is the height of spiritual arrogance to declare you no longer need anyone else in your relationship with God.
We need to be involved in a local church and in the lives of other Christians because we do need help. We have blind spots. We don’t always see the temptations that are lurking at our door.
Historically, those who isolate themselves tend to drift into some type of heresy. In 1988, Harold Camping, the infamous radio preacher who predicted the return of Christ in 2011, taught that the “Church Age” had ended and Christians should leave their local church, study the Bible on their own and listen to his broadcasts.
Not long after that, the Gastonguay family unsuccessfully attempted to flee the country because they felt the United States was hostile to their faith. Unsurprisingly, they developed their response—setting sail in a tiny boat across the Pacific Ocean—apart from any local church. Hannah Gastonguay, the mother, said their faith came from reading the Bible and prayer only within their family.
Those are extreme cases, but none of us are immune from being lead astray by our own thoughts and feelings. The reason isolationism does not work as a response to a sinful culture is that it denies the reality of a sinful heart.
If I become estranged from a local church body, that does not demonstrate my personal strength as a Christian who can do it alone. It exemplifies a heart issue that will only grow worse the longer I am away.
Christians must be involved in a local church because we need correction.
More than simply providing a check for our theological beliefs, a local church provides us with the community in which God designed us to flourish.
A comprehensive study from LifeWay Research found that building relationships is one of the eight attributes of discipleship that consistently shows up in the life of a growing believer.
Nowhere in the New Testament do we see followers of Christ advocating removing themselves from other believers. We see Christians instinctively and repeatedly joining together for fellowship and teaching.
But not only is a Christianity lived out alone foreign to the authors and pages of Scripture, it is self-contradictory. How does one live out Christian virtues like patience, love, generosity and others isolated from fellow believers? Is tithing even possible when you remove yourself from a local church?
Each believer has been given spiritual gifts, whose purpose is to edify the church and build up other believers (1 Corinthians 12:7 and 14:12). Those can only be rightly practiced in the context of a local church.
Maybe spiritual gifts point us to the proper attitude we should have in this discussion about church.
Who is church ultimately about?
Our personal need for correction and community can remind us how church involvement is to our benefit. But that is only part of the equation. Is church really all about me?
God has placed each member of the church together, just as intentionally and carefully as He created the human body itself. We have spiritual gifts so we can serve others in the local body.
So maybe I didn’t get much out of the sermon this week or feel especially connected to God through the singing, my being faithful to church impacts the other members there. If not for me, I should be involved in church for how God can use me in the lives of others.
But even more than that, church is about our worship.
After hearing his son contend that maybe he didn’t need to go to church because he already knew all the Bible stories and songs, Trevin Wax explained to him that it was about much more than learning things.
“Nope. The church isn’t a class you go to, son. It’s a people you belong to. It’s about worship.”
Above all else, church is about an opportunity to worship our Savior with others who have been radically changed by the gospel.
You can ask why you should go to church, but a better question is, “Why would I not want to go?”
Read Thom Rainer’s I Am A Church Member for an excellent resource on the importance of church membership and involvement. Also, don’t miss this excellent post from Ed Stetzer on the value of being at church, even when you don’t feel like it. “The church wasn’t an optional idea for a portion of Christians – it’s part of God’s plan for all believers.”
Aaron Earls (@WardrobeDoor) is the online editor for Facts & Trends.