Why church? Have you asked that question? Many people from my generation who have asked could not find a compelling reason to stay.
Do you go to church for information? As the pastor, I have a master’s degree. Not long ago, the minister was usually the most educated person in the community. Even more educated than a medical doctor. Seminaries existed before medical schools. However, I don’t see people lined up in front of my office door with questions. Why ask the pastor a religious question when you have Google?
I don’t feel so bad. I work with a pastor who has a PhD. I don’t see people lining up in front of his office door either. If people want information, they use the Internet. So you don’t need the church for information.
Do you go to church for entertainment? If you want to be entertained the church is the wrong place. I would recommend a movie theatre. Hollywood does a much better job on entertainment. But let me say this: watching a film will not change your life. It is a temporary escape from reality. When it’s over, you are still the same.
However, people’s lives have been changed when they started focusing on others rather than themselves. You can tell when you go to church to be entertained because you will be focused on yourself, what you like or don’t like.
Some people view the church as a business producing goods and services (even a Divine service) for members who are consumers paying tithes and offerings. Ask yourself this question: Do you go to church as a consumer, or because you want to make a difference? So you don’t need the church for entertainment.
Do you go to church to socialize? I love fellowship, which is the Christian word for socializing. Today, people don’t need the church to catch up with their friends. We now have social media. I find it interesting however, with all of this connectivity, that people are becoming more isolated. You can have hundreds of friends on Facebook, but those are not real relationships. In fact, in many cases, Facebook can take your time away from the people around you. So you don’t need the church to socialize.
Do you go to church to worship? This is a great reason to come to church, as long as you understand that worship is a verb. It’s something you do, not something you watch. However, you can worship God anywhere. In fact, if I were choosing a location for worship, I would not have picked a beach in the Fiji Islands. So you don’t need the church to worship.
At the end of Matthew’s gospel, these words are recorded:
16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.
The disciples show us that you can worship anywhere. They are worshipping Jesus on a mountain. However, even that church was not perfect. Some doubted. Having doubts does not disqualify you from what Jesus says next.
18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Jesus answers that question. The purpose of the church is to reach every person on this planet with the gospel. This is a huge task and we cannot accomplish it alone. We cannot fulfill the purpose of the church by focusing on ourselves. When we lose sight of our mission, we just sit in church looking at each other’s faults. Instead, Jesus wants us to focus on those who are not in the church. He wants us to be salt and light.
We need outreach events where people are invited to accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. However, outreach events will be more successful when you become friends with people who are not in the church. In the western world, people generally don’t trust strangers to guide them in their religious beliefs. Faith is personal and private.
Some of you may have lots of friends who are not in the church. That’s great. Ask yourself the question, are you influencing them or are they influencing you?
We cannot accomplish the mission on our own. We need each other. Together we can make a bigger difference than we can separately. The world desperately needs the gospel. The world needs Jesus.
The world needs the church.
Guest author Sam Millen is associate pastor of the Wichita Seventh-day Adventist Church in Kansas.