Please answer True or False to the following statements:
1. I have to attend church to be saved.
2. We should judge spiritual experience based on church attendance.
3. We can’t be with God unless we attend church.
4. I have some questions about spirituality and church attendance.
If you answered True to the final statement, you’re not alone. I have questions too.
What is church? According to dictionary.com, church is “a building for public Christian worship.” But what does “going to church” mean? I’ve come to realize the answer is nothing.
You enter a building Saturday morning, sit in a pew for an hour and a half, and then go home. But it could be so much more than that. Church should be a place where we all come together to worship God, a safe place (that’s what sanctuary means) where everyone feels free to express their thoughts openly, no matter their opinion or beliefs. We all deserve to be welcomed with love and respect. Not judgment. Walking in and feeling alone in a crowded room isn’t what I need after being AWOL.
What does church mean to you?
Why is church important? When we become Christians, we are called into a friendship with God (1 Cor. 1:9). But I John 1:3 makes it clear that we enter a friendship that goes two ways: with God and with other Christians. Going to church is about being with people. Being able to come together and share is what makes church such an amazing experience, not listening to someone preach while you play Angry Birds on your iPhone.
Let’s be real. For some of us, church isn’t a religious experience. It’s about showing off our latest new dresses or suits, making lunch plans with friends, or—even worse— putting on a show of religiosity for others. We want people to think we’re good Christians, and for some reason we associate being a good Christian with church attendance. If we don’t go to church are we automatically bad Christians? I don’t think that’s right.
The Sabbath is about people—helping people. Mark 2:27 says, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” If I go out every Sabbath and do something for someone, helping them in any way I can, who’s to say I’m a bad Christian? Serving others is more productive than sitting in a pew pretending to listen to a sermon.
Following are the words a friend shared with me that illustrate his personal experience with church:
“I’ve attended church, and sometimes I feel so overwhelmed with seeing people that I literally have to get up and leave. I know Satan smiles when it comes to that. He wants us to see church as phony. And, most importantly, he wants us to give up on God. I remember when I took a week off church and just stayed at home in my apartment. I felt safe. I didn’t feel attacked like at church. I needed healing—I needed God. But I knew attending church would be more discouraging than healing. I ended up inviting some friends over who communed and prayed with me. It was such a spiritual moment.
“God was watching over me during that time even though I wasn’t in church. My mind and my heart were in the right
place, and I know that’s what God wants. Not perfect church attendance.”
Throughout the Bible, Jesus didn’t talk about church attendance at all. Sure, we can grow closer to God in church. We can also be the church no matter where we go.
Church is about people—helping people.
So next time you’re thinking about church attendance in relation to being a Christian, ask yourself, Are my beliefs in check?
Guest author Alexandra Johnson is a senior communication major from Minnetonka, Minnesota studying at Union College in Lincoln, Nebraska.