I often wonder why I go to church. Seldom do I come up with a good answer, that is, the real reason why I show up on Sundays. I’m not even sure if I know the theologically correct response.
Here are some reasons I’ve heard over the years:
- Because I have to (“my parents make me”)
- Because someone expects me to (“my boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse/parents expect it”)
- Because I’d feel guilty if I didn’t (while guilt can be a powerful motivator, is it ever a good one?)
- Out of habit (“it’s just what you do on Sunday morning”)
- To be a role model to others (“set a good example for the kids”)
- To impress others (“it will be good if my boss/coworkers/neighbors see me there”)
- Because God will be mad at me—and may even punish me—if I don’t (they fear God as mean and vindictive, not kind and loving)
- To be inspired, motivated, or prepared for another week (can recharging for an hour, really sustain us for seven days?)
- To listen to great, powerful music or teaching (doesn’t going merely for what we will receive, reflect a consumerism mentality towards church?)
- Because the Bible says to (actually the Bible says to not give “up meeting together,” see Hebrews 10:24-25; it doesn’t say “go to church.”)
- To learn about God (listen to a sermon)
- To worship God (to sing to God or about him)
The truth is, at one time or another, these have all been my reasons for going to church. In response, someone may quip, “Well, as long as you’re there, that’s what really matters.”
In fact, I wonder if it’s better to stay home for the right reasons, than to go to church for the wrong reasons. Which would God like more? It’s something to contemplate.
As I read the New Testament—striving hard to not look through the lens of my experiences—I see some elements of learning and more so of worship, but mostly I see community. To hang out with others who follow Jesus, to share life with then, having God at the center.
True community doesn’t happen at most churches. At other churches, community is a side effect. Rarely is community the focus of church. I think it should be. That’s mostly why I go—even if I’m disappointed when community doesn’t happen.