Wednesday, March 12, 2008

10 Reasons Why We Go To Church...

To conclude my 10 top reasons for our faithfully attending church, here are the last five:

· Because we are given an opportunity to give at church and we have to give to live. The Sea of Galilee in Israel is apparently a gorgeous turquoise lake of fresh water, teeming with all kinds of fish. It flows into the Jordan River, which descends hundreds of feet and ends in the lowest body of water on Earth, called the Dead Sea. Because the Dead Sea is so low, it has no outlet, there is nowhere for its water to flow—it flows in, but not out. As a result, the Dead Sea is so full of salt and other minerals that it cannot support life. It’s literally a Dead Sea.

That’s what happens to the person who does not give—he dies. There are dozens of outlets for our gifts at any healthy church. We help the poor, give counsel to people in need, provide a place for activities for the whole family, give to help missions in underprivileged countries, support orphans, provide worship, teaching and encouragement, etc. I can’t think of a better venue to support than the work of the church, which meets needs of the spirit, soul and body.

· Because everybody needs to give and receive encouragement. It takes courage to live in our world and life has a way of sapping that courage from us. The stress of work, bills, sickness, traffic, relationships, grief over loss, failure, accidents and family—even good stresses such as moving to a new home or neighbourhood, starting a new job, getting married or having a baby—tend to sap our daily intake of courage. Then we add a negative comment from our spouse, a child who disappoints, a pointed quip from a fellow worker, a pushy driver behind us, a negative news report or an assignment bigger than we can handle, and the discouragement side of the scale outweighs the encouragement side.

We all need to be encouraged regularly, to be around others who are encouragers and to give back our own words of encouragement. Someone once said, and I’ve found it to be true, that it takes seven words of encouragement to balance one word of discouragement.

· To pray with like-minded believers. Yes, we can pray by ourselves but praying in harmony with one or more others multiplies our enthusiasm and the weight of our words. There is power in agreement, Jesus said churches should primarily be houses of prayer or all nations. There are many venues for praying in church; whether corporate prayers, private prayers, pastoral prayers or small group prayers. God has promised He will respond to believing prayer that lines up with His will for us.

· Because we need to be accountable for our words and actions. No man is an island; we live in partnership with our circles of influence and are interconnected to the rest of the world around us. It does matter what we say because our words carry the power of life and death in them. It does matter how we behave, even in private, because every action affects someone else. Like it or not, we are all interdependent on our little planet.

Whether we are a small child or the Queen of England, we must be held accountable for what we say and do in our worlds. Ultimately, all of us will give an account of how we have used our time, talents, energy, money and words before God.

The Biblical mandate of believers is for each of us to be subject to one another while on earth. For pastor, leader, adult or child, accountability is necessary.

More Reasons Why We Go To Church...

Christianity is not a solo activity, rather it can only be lived out interdependently. I have a friend who was working at a lumber mill up in central British Columbia when he had a serious accident. His hand was severed by a very large circular saw. I didn’t know him before the accident happened, only after, and so was shocked to hear him tell the story. I’d always seen two hands on him and witnessed him writing, picking up things and talking with his hands. When I seemed to show some disbelief, he showed me his scars and explained that the supervisor at the mill had called the medic team and had him flown down to Vancouver carrying his hand in a plastic bag. An amazing team of surgeons was able to sew his hand back onto his wrist so that it worked almost perfectly!

The reason that I tell that story is because the Bible compares the participants in a church to the various parts of our body. As our various organs and appendages need each other, so do we. My fingers are writing these words on the paper, but my eyes, heart, blood nerves, brain and muscles are all working in harmony to make that possible. Just as my friends’ severed hand needed to be reattached to his wrist, we as people need each other to accomplish the work we’ve been assigned by our Creator.

The church is a perfect vehicle for doing the work of God. Whether it is feeding or clothing the needy, teaching values to children, providing care and activities for our teens, giving prayer or counsel to a person in distress or a host of other community needs, each of us has been given a gift for the purpose of serving others. A healthy church provides us with a variety of opportunities to serve.

It also enables us to help others find peace with God. Someone once said of the church that we are merely “one beggar telling another beggar how to find bread.” I like that. It’s not that we are “in the know” or deserving in any way; it is simply that we have been told where the bread and water are. Now we have a responsibility to pass the good news along.

10 Reasons Why We Go To Church...

A friend of mine spoke with me the other day about his 11 year old daughter. He’d apparently had a very serious discussion with her about going to church. Although their family faithfully attends a church in their city, Sara, their youngest, decided that she’d had enough. "After all", she argued, “going to church doesn’t make a person a Christian and besides that, there are a lot of people who do go to church who live worse lives than those who don’t go!” My friend asked for a bit of advice from me, not as a pastor, but as a dad whose kids both faithfully serve in our church along with their husbands and children.

I thought about my answer carefully, because I’ve asked the same questions as Sara a few times myself. I’ll write here on the 10 reasons I believe that everyone should faithfully be part of a local church, but before I do, let me say up front that I agree with my friend’s daughter. Going to church doesn’t make me a believer or get me points with God, and conversely, not going to church does not mark me as an infidel! Someone once said, “Going to church doesn’t make anyone Christian any more than putting a wheelbarrow into a garage makes it a car!”

Here are the first two of my 10 reasons why I believe we should all be active participants in a church.

We should faithfully attend church:

· to receive teaching from the textbook on our Christian life, the Bible. Just as every plant needs nurturing to grow, so does every living believer. The Word of God compares itself to water, milk, bread and meat because it nourishes us and keeps us healthy. Whether it is in a Sunday school class, celebration service or small group Bible Study, we need to learn and practice the principles of God’s Word. Attending church regularly is a discipline which leads us to spiritual nutrition, every bit as much as eating right provides us with physical nutrition.

· to worship our Creator and Lord. Worship (which literally means giving worth to) is fundamental to the Christian faith. It lies at the heart of the first three of the Ten Commandments because it has a significant effect on our lives. God does not have a big ego that says, “I must be told I’m great every day.” Worship doesn’t even change God; (He is unchangeable and all sufficient in Himself) rather worship aligns us with God and therefore, changes us! For that reason God commands us to honour Him always and set aside one day especially for Him. We call it a Sabbath day because Sabbath means to desist or stop. We stop our running for one day to be recharged, re-centered and re-aligned with our Creator. We were made to function that way. Without worship, we would tend toward self-centeredness, causing us to shrivel and eventually die spiritually. We need to worship and move toward God-centeredness.