We were blessed to celebrate the 5th Anniversary of Grace Christian Ministries in August. This month we are thankful to celebrate being in our current facility for 4 years. God is indeed faithful! On this occasion, we took a couple of services, one Sunday morning and one Wednesday evening, to describe 8 Biblical Reasons for Why We Go To Church. We’re going to look at an abbreviated summary of those two messages (from Aug. 13th and Aug. 17th and available online) in this newsletter.
Reason 1—We Go To Church Because We Are The Church (John 16:7; Acts 7:48; 2 Cor. 5:17)…In the Old Testament the Holy Spirit would come upon people to perform great feats for the glory of God and for the good of God’s people. However, the Spirit could not reside inside of people because the Spirit Who is Holy would not be inside of humans who are UnHoly. Fast forward to the New Testament and the paradigm, the pattern, changes. Jesus died upon the cross for the sins of all who would believe in Him. The Father made The Son, who knew no sin, to bear our sin that Christians might become the righteousness of God in Him. In the eyes of the Father, those who are true believers, are now justified—just as if we never sinned—not because of what we have done but because of what Christ has done. Since we are seen as holy ones (saints) in Heaven’s record book (though our becoming righteous as God has declared us righteous is a lifelong process called sanctification), the Holy Spirit now can live inside of those who are in Christ. This means that our view of the church is radically enhanced between Old Testament and New Testament. In the Old Testament, the presence of the Lord was seen to be “contained” in the Ark of the Covenant, a box that was in the innermost room of the Tabernacle/Temple building. When people came to “church”, they were coming to a building that “housed” God and they were always kept at a distance. In the New Testament, the Holy Spirit dwells inside the lives of believers, not in any Temple made by human hands. So, we come to the church building bringing the presence of God with us. Why go to church? Because we are the church!
Reason 2—We Go To Church Because We Are Needy (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)…The book of Ecclesiastes derives its name from the word ‘ekklesia’ which means “called out ones” or “church.” It was named such because its literary structure is that of a preacher delivering a message to the people of God. The preacher in this case is King Solomon. This famous monarch started out as a humble young man, wisely asking God for wisdom in leading the Lord’s people rather than for personal riches or victories over enemies. However, as time marched on and his notoriety and wealth grew exponentially, so too did his pride. Solomon broke the divine directives for kings given in Deuteronomy 17: amassing riches beyond belief, taking unto himself many wives and concubines, and eventually even worshipping false gods. If anyone would have fit the world’s definition of a self-made, successful, self-sufficient man, it was Solomon. He had all the wealth, fame, and women that anyone could ever want. Yet, he was a sinful man who wrote the somber and pessimistic book of Ecclesiastes decrying the emptiness of a life filled with all this world has to offer but lived outside the reality of a relationship with God. The king had people all around him all the time, yet he was totally and utterly alone. He had no one who could truly speak into his life genuine conviction or encouragement. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 finds Solomon, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, instructing readers that two are better than one because when one falls the other can be there to assist. He then goes on to declare that a cord of three strands could not be easily broken, referring to the fact that when believers are joined together, the Lord is also in their midst. Solomon realized the need for fellowship, even declared the need for it, but did not act upon it (to his own peril). No man is an island; not even Solomon; not even you! Why go to church? Because we are needy!
Reason 3—We Go To Church Because We Are Needed (1 Cor. 12:19-21)…I’ve had some tooth issues in my life. I remember one abscess that I had a few years ago in particular. I was supposed to preach on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. I had all my notes ready. I had put in my study time. My mind was clear (I know some may debate that!) to speak, my legs were ready to walk me across the platform, my arms were good to go to turn the pages of my Bible, my eyes were focused to read, but my mouth was so swollen I could hardly open it to eat or stand the pain involved in swallowing or speaking. I had to cancel out speaking on Tuesday (thankfully I was able to make Wednesday) because of one little tooth. I needed that tooth to be present, better, and whole—but on Tuesday it was not. The Apostle Paul pictures the church as a body in 1 Corinthians 12. Some members are arms, some legs, some eyes, and I’m sure some must be teeth! If the body of Christ is to operate fully, it needs all of its members present. The church has no spare parts. Don’t fall for the devil’s lies that tell the believer that they’re not important. Don’t fall for the selfish desire that has you thinking about the church when you are needy, but not when you are needed. Why go to church? Because we are needed!
Reason 4—We Go To Church Because We Want To Grow Into Maturity (Eph. 4:11-16)…Just because a person grows older doesn’t mean that they grow up. All of us can probably think of numerous examples of a person’s age quickly outpacing their sense of responsibility. Our society feels the ill effects of this reality on an ever growing basis. The same holds true in spirituality. Just because a person has known (or at least says they know) the Lord for a long period of time, does not mean that they have properly grown in sanctification. Paul makes it clear in the book of Ephesians (perhaps the book that gives the most thorough description of the church) that believers cannot grow in the Lord as they should apart from a relationship with and commitment to the local church. The Scriptural teaching is clear, we grow as we are together, not that we ever grow to a point where we can be alone. If we want to be who the Lord has called us to be and to grow in His calling and purpose, it happens as we live life together with a family of God devoted to the Word of God. Why do we go to church? Because we want to grow into maturity!
Reason 5—We Go To Church Because We Want To Be About Kingdom Business (Acts 2:44-47)…The first message I ever preached at GCM was from Acts 2. Peter proclaimed the inaugural message of the Christian church and 3,000 people came to a faith in Jesus. These believers then continued in the Apostle’s teachings as they met together and broke bread with one another on a regular basis. As they engaged in being the church and in being together, the Lord brought others into the family of God who would be saved. Truly, the business of the Kingdom of God centers around the local church. If you don’t believe that, don’t just consider the Acts 2 passage but look at the fact that: all of Paul’s missionary journeys were founded from the church at Antioch and had the goal of establishing a church in the cities to which he traveled; the epistles of the New Testament were written to the church at Ephesus, the church at Galatia, the church at Philippi, the 7 churches of Asia (Revelation), the leaders of the church at Ephesus and Crete (Timothy, Titus) and the list could go on. Indeed, the business of the Kingdom of God, the spreading of the Word of God, centers around the local church. Why do we go to church? Because we want to be about Kingdom Business!
Reason 6—We Go To Church Because We Want To Know That We Are Of The Faith (1 John 2:18-19)…In combatting false teachings the Apostle John tells us in 1 John 2:18-19 that those who went from us (away from the church) left because they were never truly a part of us. Now before you turn away from my point here (or better said, the point made by the Apostle John!), let me clearly state that being part of a local church and staying in church all the days of your life does not automatically mean that you are a Christian. Indeed, being in church doesn’t necessarily make you a Christian any more than being in water necessarily makes you a fish. That being said, I ask you to consider the following pictures and see which one you think is most accurately presented in the Bible…Picture 1—There are multitudes of people who go to church, read their Bibles, seem to care about the things of God, and yet in the end will hear from the Lord the sad words, “Depart from Me for I never knew you.” They thought they were sheep but turned out to be goats. They thought they were wheat but turned out to be tares…Picture 2—There are multitudes of people who hardly ever go to church, seldom read their Bibles, and though they say they believe in Jesus, show very little fruit in seemingly any area and yet they turn out to be true believers. Some are shocked that they are being forced by the Lord to spend eternity in Heaven with the family of God that they never found time to assemble with here on earth….Which picture do you think is more accurate? Anyone with even a scant knowledge of Scripture would know that the first picture accurately reflects the truth. This is not a works based righteousness I’m presenting, it simply makes the point that if there is no fruit, then there’s likely no root. If many who do go to church aren’t true believers, then what’s the likelihood that many who don’t go to church are? Salvation is based upon Christ not upon church attendance, but 1 John 2:18-19 ought to make those who profess belief in Jesus but don’t go to church squirm. And it will, if they take the Bible seriously. Why do we go to church? Because we want to know that we are of the faith. Two reasons left, and not a lot of space. I’ll make the last points quickly.
Reason 7—We Go To Church Because There Is Victory In The Church (Matthew 16:15-18)…Everyone likes to root for a winner. Everyone likes a sure bet. Well, Jesus told us that the ultimate winner, the ultimate victor over the powers of death, hell, and the grave is the church. One of Jesus’ main missions was to build His church, and it is against that church that not even the gates of hell can prevail. Why do we go to church? Because there is victory in the church!
Reason 8—We Go To Church Because God Commands Us To (Heb. 10:23-25)…Last month’s newsletter addressed the question, “Why do we pray?” and ended with the same reason as presented here, “because God tells us to.” Ultimately there can be no higher reason to pray, read the Bible, witness, go to church, etc. than because God has told us to. No reward we receive or notoriety to which we attain could ever do more than pale in comparison to the greatness of simply obeying the command of the Lord. Why do we got to church? Because He commands us to and as His children we want to be obedient!