Why bother going to church at all? What is the point?

Bull posted the above question up for discussion – I think its worthy of its own thread, so here we go…

Here’s my response, to get the ball rolling:

OK – well you all know I’m not attending a formal ‘church’ at the moment, but I am still part of the body of Christ (ie: the church), and gathering with other Christians in other ways is how I currently interact with the rest of the body. I can’t leave the church as I am part of it in Christ. So the question to me pertains to why do we bother going to an organised church.

I don’t believe we are meant to live our lives in Christ by ourselves; there is too much discussion of body life in the NT to ignore. There may sometimes be circumstances where we are isolated for a time, but I don’t believe this is God’s plan for us in the long term. We are to love one another – we can’t do this in isolation. However, I think the size and style of gathering are irrelevant as long as the expression of Christ is healthy.

There are benefits for many people in attending an organised church; the main thing is I think is to attend one that is a healthy community, teaching what Jesus believed, with a focus on Jesus and a focus on loving one another. I think its vital for church health that the focus on ‘building the church’ is about building people – encouraging us to love one another and God in a relational way, rather than an emphasis on counting salvations, participating in internal church programs, counting numbers of church plants or numbers of congregation members. If love for one another gets lost in programming or busyness, the health of the gathering will suffer.

Whatever the size or style of gathering, if it focuses on building people into maturity, so that they grow in the knowledge of Christ and increasingly live accordingly, and this is all done in love – then it will be a good place to be. Who wants to miss out on that?

I believe that we need to listen to God in our personal walk about where we would be best gathering in our current season, and certainly not to men who have their own agenda to push. If a denomination is pushing its superiority over others, putting down Christians who attend elsewhere, then we are hearing from men and their egos, not Christ. If a denomination pushes loyalty to itself and equates this with loyalty to Christ, then again we are hearing from men, not Christ, and need to seek God on our place there.

Attending church – gathering or assembling together in some form – is a good and beneficial thing according to scripture, and we ought not neglect it. I think the point is that we are part of Christ’s body, not on our own, and we are to love one another – we can’t do this in isolation.

****************
RavingPente


28 thoughts on “Why bother going to church at all? What is the point?

  1. “Attending church – gathering or assembling together in some form” – here I guess I’ve redefined ‘attending church’ from attending an organised recognisable traditional form, to include other non-traditional forms of gathering. These might not be recognisable at all in a traditional sense. They are still gatherings of believers, acting as the body of Christ, building one another up in love. Their relationships with one another connect the body. I think this is frequently intentional gathering, recognised by those who are part of it; but I think that God can also provide in unanticipated ways, bringing Christians together in ways that He initiates for His purposes.

  2. “Whatever the size or style of gathering, if it focuses on building people into maturity, so that they grow in the knowledge of Christ and increasingly live accordingly, and this is all done in love – then it will be a good place to be. Who wants to miss out on that?”

    But there are some who miss out. Some miss out because they are not accepted as they are for some reason.

  3. i see it in a trinity sort-of-way.

    It is time for God, the community and every individual in the community to grow. God grows with us.

    God in us, revealed in us. He builds us up and he builds his church. He builds us individually so we we can build others up individually, with Christ in us being acknowledged as the one being the builder. We all share the glory of God together and respect that we all come from all different walks of life, each person having their own unique ministry with the various people they encounter in business, leisure and family activities.

    Ideally if our eyes are on others and God, others and God should have their eyes on us so we can all grow together.
    We are encouraged to embrace the odd ones at our church because they generally have a great testimony to tell and their quirks or oddities make them unique.

    They are more noticed in the community as well and do need prayer but also bear that much more light, more smiles to strangers. And smiles can make all the difference in the world to those who hate life.

    I know this is more of an ideal, but I’ve seen it and it is wonderful. I am blessed to be in a church like this at the moment. We don’t mind if people don’t come to church. They are probably looking after their family, looking after their bodies or spending time with those who need it.

    The focus of the central ministry is to send people out edified and strong to do God’s will in their ministries. And the whole church is edified the following week when someone gives a testimony what God is doing in someone’s life or another persons life.

    Actually. The church life is pretty integrated with the local community and other local churches.

  4. Matter of obedience for me.

    Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching _ Heb 10

    My grandmother who is responsible in a human sense for my faith in God always said that the reason her two kids didn’t continue in the Lord was because she stopped going to church for 10 years or so when they were kids.

    May be things wouldn’t have changed, but I understand what she meant.

    I think there are periods when we don’t do church and that is right…but I kinda see it like Jesus taking himself of to the wilderness….it was only for a time, and then back to the salt mines.

    House church or denominational church – it doesn’t matter if the teaching is good and there is grace.

    It will never be perfect this side of eternity.

    We are still one in Christ even if we don’t remember or act like it consistently.

  5. Is Heb 10 about simply meeting together or about meeting in a particular place under particular authority?

    I know I have been taught by more than one pastor that this meeting must be an official church service in order to count (presumably including house church) but I can’t see that from the scripture. Home groups and the like were specifically discounted.

  6. From Col 3 – may be not a direct answer but close enough…

    Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. 18Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize. Such a person goes into great detail about what he has seen, and his unspiritual mind puffs him up with idle notions.

    I also here a lot from people who are looking for a reason not to do something…..

  7. Wow MN,

    sounds a lot like Todd Bentley to me …

    Anyway, remember that Hebrews was a letter written to Hebrew believers. Most probably in Rome. It says at the end “Everyone from Italy sends greetings.”

    Anyway, what was going on?
    The Hebrew believers were suffering persecution, along with the gentile believers in Rome. But the Hebrews had a way out. Christianity was an illegal religion, but Judaism was legal.

    So the Hebrews could get out of the persecution by going back to the synagogue. However, the only way they could do that was to deny Jesus was the Messiah.
    Well, it’s the same God, isn’t it? The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is the Father of Yeshua, isn’t He?

    But their salvation was at stake. “If you deny me before men, I must deny you before my Father” said Jesus.

    This explains the whole letter.

    Don’t go back to your old religion. Stay in love with Jesus. Don’t neglect the public meetings of the church. Don’t neglect your salvation.

    It’s all there.

    But … I haven’t answered my own question.

    All the reasons for being part of a fellowship of believers presented by everyone who has contributed to the thread so far, I totally agree with. We need to build each other up, to encourage each other and to see each other as Jesus sees us. (I can’t believe it … I’m filling up here!)

    But what is the point of the Sunday morning service? We have homegroup bible studies and other types of gatherings. What is the point of the one to two hours on a Sunday morning where we sing some songs, listen to someone speak, and maybe get a bit of corporate prayer.

    What’s the point of that church activity?

    My answer is this:

    It is to worship God. It is give him our time, our money, our attention. A worship service ought to be about worth-ship. How much is he worth to us? How can I sing songs of praise and worship to Him? How can I respond to His presence? How can I feel His presence?

    What is a worship service for? For me to be entertained? Is it for bringing non-christians to church and hope that the Pastor will give a successful evangelistic sermon? Or is it all about giving my worship to God? Is it about me? Or is it about God Alone?

    If it is about the body giving corporate worship to God, and about focusing on God alone, what is the best way of accomplishing this?

    One suggestion which works really well is to go back to the way Paul did it. (which is the same way synagogues do it).

    1 hour of the Word followed by 30 minutes of corporate worship. The worship will depend on what God has been allowed to say first.

    Instead of 45 minutes of standard praise madness, trying to get people into the spirit, you have the Holy Spirit being allowed to minister to people first and then they respond in worship, which can vary from week to week, from tears of repentance to joy.

    Better that than 45 minutes of same-ish praise every week that doesn’t find me where I am, but tries to fit me into a straight-jacket.

    Shouldn’t we let the Lord speak first before we respond? Rather than seek to set the agenda ourselves.

    The worship time should be the point of the worship service. The preaching/teaching should be the preamble. But the preacher needs to be so gifted that everyone who listens hears God speaking to them.

    Well that’s my tuppence worth!

    Shalom

  8. “But what is the point of the Sunday morning service? We have homegroup bible studies and other types of gatherings. What is the point of the one to two hours on a Sunday morning where we sing some songs, listen to someone speak, and maybe get a bit of corporate prayer.

    What’s the point of that church activity?” – Bull

    This question is about the traditional Sunday morning service in particular, then, rather than one of the other ways we can gather as a community together.

    Some people don’t attend a Sunday service at all because to them it seems pointless. One would assume that their particular experience was negative, unsatisfying or unhelpful in some way.

    I have never been to a service run as you describe, Bull, with the praise and worship second, but it would be pretty good to worship after hearing from the Holy Spirit during a good presentation.

    If it tries to fit you into a straight jacket now though, then I’d ask why wouldn’t it also do this after the preaching? If it’s not Holy Spirit driven before, would there be a big difference after? Could it be a religious approach to the service at the moment (like a man-made pattern), and wouldn’t they just come up with a religious approach afterwards, if that was their format?

    Most churches I’ve been to have some worship after the main preach. The Anglican and Uniting services I’ve attended have hymns or songs sporadically throughout the service, of course.

    There are practical reasons they put the worship first. It gives people a chance to wander in late and find their seats, without interrupting the preaching. It helps create an atmosphere and mood which helps the preacher.

    There was usually an order of worship song, designed to help create the desired atmosphere – fast songs first, slower worship songs later. Or fast songs then church notices etc, then kid’s church leaves, then slower songs prior to preaching.

    There are so many ways to express worship to God of course. Some groups have sat in silence until moved by the Spirit. Others pray and wait, then sing as led, with songs initiated by group members as they feel led. I’ve done this at some home groups, and it can be truly beautiful. I find it hard to imagine this in the context of a very large corporate gathering.

    Not all churches have good music though. To me this is secondary as it is our hearts with which we worship. Our hearts are what please God, rather than our excellent musicianship, though that may bless us. Thank goodness for that, because I was unable to participate in worship for a few years due to having to look after my kids for that part of the service. I think that worship is one point of the service, but not the only one, but then my attendance would have been pointless if it were, so I have self interest there.

    I think true worship is from our hearts all the time, and is how we live our lives. But as a gathering it is normal to worship in some tangible fashion.

  9. Was it pointless me attending for those years I couldn’t participate in the worship? Or should the church have made it possible? (I don’t think it was necessary.) Basically, I attended for the preach and to be part of the community there. (I love the worship service component when I can participate though.)

  10. Teddy – I’d be interested to hear what you think, having recently changed to an Anglican church. What is the point of their Sunday service for you? Is the musical worship as big an element as it was previously?

  11. The point of the service to us is their faithfulness to preaching the Word in context. Obviously fairly new to the Anglican church experience (though our roots are Church of England), it’s refreshing to have the scriptures read aloud then enlarged upon in the sermon. There’s a continual theme running through the weeks which is great, going literally verse by verse.Even saying the Lord’s prayer may seem like ritual to some but it draws me closer to Him.

    There are two services, one formal with communion weekly, and informal with communion monthly (done in a circle as if at the Lord’s table with the minister giving the bread and a blessing to each person individually – we are already holding a small cup of juice). Children are encouraged to share with the parents and the parents are encouraged to share the meaning of it at home with their children.

    Worship is a small band, guitar, drums (not loud for a change!), piano, sax. Three singers (not perfect but passionate), kids can come up and have a mike too.
    The songs are contemporary hymns all about Christ, no happy clappy stuff, just solid praise and worship.

    Worship has never been primary to us, even when we ran home groups we always focused on the Word. Not that we don’t like music – just aren’t musical!!

    The minister is young, grounded in the Word, loves kids with four of his own under the age of nine so is not put off by any exuberance during service. There is an excellent kid’s ministry with Jason (the minister) sharing some teaching and fielding questions from the kids before they go off to their groups during school terms.

    The earlier more formal service is made up of a fantastic friendly group of older folk who made us feel very welcome the first time we visited. To see them come in and pray is such a blessing (they do it the later service as well). Our experience of 22 years at C3, was – grab a seat, chat to your friends, grab a bottle of water from the bookshop, chat some more, be convicted by the little Asian lady who faithfully, year in, year out, knelt and` prayed. Look away because, well, she’s the ONLY one. Then to see the whole church community do it, something that comes as naturally as breathing, how beautiful and still convicting, bad habits are hard to break.

    We tell our friends we are Anglican now (in a nice joking way)- and are learning to ignore the the “charismatic condescension”.

  12. By the way, I would put the Word before worship . The Lord has revealed Himself through his Word and out of that revelation worship comes, and not just with song.

    We have spent far too many years around “experience” centred worship and too often went away hungry.

  13. I am not trying to dis’ the fact that many, myself included, simply can’t worship in song before the sermon.

    A church in guildford did it the way I describe.

    The kids went out for their groups first, for the preach time. Then, when they came back in, they found the parents totally focussed on God. This had a profound effect on the kids.

    Word prepared people for worship.

  14. That’s really interesting, Bull.

    I’ve never really contemplated that some people actually cannot worship before hearing the Word. I’m so used to worship being used to prepare people to hear the Word, and not the other way around. But it does make sense that after a week of other activities, focussing on the Word would help you to hear God, and reflect on His presence in your life in some way, which could make worship a very natural response.

  15. Makes sense to me.

    What seems to come through regardless of the order you put it in is the heart and substance of the matter, and dare I say it whether those present are actively waiting on and to hear from God.

    I agree the Word is should be pre-eminent, but I’ve sat in strongly so-called Word based ministry for years and ended up walking away because it became legalistic bashing for not coming up to the mark. Charismatics don’t have a mortgage on that.

    Any thing that works in terms of worship/meeting together/church will be turned to the dark side, precisely because it works.

    This is what we humans do – subvert good to evil, unless the Spirit is in whatever is happening and we hold fast and fight to hear Him, remember and celebrate what God has done for us.

    And if the Spirit is there (He always is, isn’t he?) and we have expectant, listening, persevering and open ears in our little groups/churches why wouldn’t it be a good place to be?

    You gotta be in it to win it.

  16. MN, I totally agree.

    Word and Spirit together … the old old issue.

    Word without Spirit … you dry up.
    Spirit without Word … you blow up!
    Word and Spirit together … you grow up!!!

    That’s not mine, but it’s true isn’t it?

    Regarding worship before/after the Word, when you turn up at church with the kids, then you are trying to keep the toddler quiet during the notices, and then making sure that the older ones don’t get bored when the Pastor cracks a few jokes while then becoming serious and asking for people to sponsor him/volunteer to go on a mission trip with him to Kenya etc by giving the kids a pad and pencils, tissue to wipe their nose, a scolding for talking during the open prayer time … I could go on and on. Meanwhile, the band strikes up the latest number one spiritual hit and people wonder why you aren’t jumping for shear joy with your hands in the air.

    I mean really. You get so focussed on your kids, how is it possible to suddenly switch it on in the praise and worship? You can only really relax and start focussing on the Lord after the kids have gone out to their activities. Anyone know what I mean?

  17. And another thing. Once you get the sermon and want to respond, what happens? “We’ve got time for one more song and then we have to finish.” Just when you feel God’s presence and power, the people are then prevented from responding.

    The Word isn’t necessarily the reason for getting together on Sunday morning. But it prepares for the reason for getting together on Sunday morning … worshipping our Heavenly Father.

    God speaks first, then we can respond to what He has said to us.

  18. Just a question. If we can gather together in any format (eg a picnic) and we worship God daily (eg through our decision making at work) and we can preach the Word through conversations. Do we need any type of structure? Can we still function correctly as a body?

    Also, if we already gather together in certain structures (like in a business) can Christians simply gather and minister within that business and therefore function as a church there? What would need to happen for it to be valid?

  19. Fortunately I’m past all of that Bull. Now my only concern is the racket and distraction that other people’s kids make.

    Seriously, before you leap out of the TEEV and strangle me before I get a chance to offer you peacemaking coffee…….

    Kids are becoming an issue in our church. Personally I don’t want to buy into it too much.

    But more importantly I think people get hung up on structures too much. Different strokes for different folks and there is no one answer/solution, save your little ditty about Word and Spirit above.

    What will work in one place with a particular group of people wobn’t work with the one in the next street.

    But just so’s youse all knows I’m digging my heels in ‘cos I’m right and won’t be saisfied til in the words of the immortal Frankie S everybody does it MYYYYYYYYYYYYYY WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!!!!!!!!

  20. Pom

    in response to your question I think you only have to look at the example of Jesus for direction, far less Paul.

    There’s getting out and ministering/living our lives as you’ve highlighted, and there is also getting away from the hubub and meeting together as family, and also for some alone time as well.

    In addition plenty of people meet at or in the workplace as Christians as well.

    It’s the age old not-so-literary question of form and content.

  21. For me, right now, I am convinced that regularly attending a formal church gathering – even a recognised housechurh – would be ignoring what God wants me to do, which is explore other things, and let Him show me what He wants to during this time, and grow in my walk daily. There may be a time for an organised gathering later. For me right now, it would be very unhelpful.

    I am finding that for me there is a distinct point in not attending a formal gathering. 🙂

    But not in being isolated. There are many ways to gather.

  22. Bull, do you get the opportunity to ask questions at the end of the sermon? Both Anglican churches we’ve attended has offered that – try that at C3! Yes, I know it’s a bigger venue and maybe there would be too many questions (hopefully there would be at least one or two considering the weird theology promoted at times).

    One gentleman questioned PP once back in the old warehouse days simply because he thought the scripture was used out of context (it was asked respectfully) and the deacons were told to “remove that man”.

    Another thought – worship by definition is toward God therefore imperfect (though precious). The Word by definition is perfect thus able to promote worship – get my drift?

  23. “I mean really. You get so focussed on your kids, how is it possible to suddenly switch it on in the praise and worship? You can only really relax and start focussing on the Lord after the kids have gone out to their activities. Anyone know what I mean?” – Bull

    Yes – I completely relate! I simply could not participate in the praise and worship for that reason. Other parents of young kids all found it difficult, too. And MN, I totally know what you mean too – not offended at all.

    What we did in the end, was not bother to attend during the worship. We’d walk in 5 to 10 minutes before it finished, so that our kids wouldn’t annoy people too much, and so that neither would we, when we had to chase them out of the hall and retrieve them. Sometimes we’d only arrive when kid’s church started.

    Then the minister would occasionally preach on the importance of getting to church ON TIME – in order to be holy!!

    So we had no real worship time after we had kids. Fortunately, I agree with Pom, that we worship God daily, with our lives, so had no guilt or self-imposed pressure about that.

  24. Pom, I’m going to post up your questions as a new thread, and MN’s response as the first comment, because that is thought provoking topic. 🙂

    I’m really enjoying this thread – its great hearing about people’s different church situations, and its a very respectful, encouraging discussion. 🙂 again.

  25. I am miles behind this thead … but:

    If that’s what you think your current calling is, then you would be wrong not walk this path – MN

    Not if you church promotes the “gospel” of Bevere. We at C3 were told you do what your pastor says even if you think Father is telling us the opposite and Father would bless us for it.

    Ridiculous.

    Bevare Bevere!

    Anyway, what was going on?
    The Hebrew believers were suffering persecution … but … the Hebrews could get out of the persecution by going back to the synagogue. However, the only way they could do that was to deny Jesus was the Messiah … This explains the whole letter … don’t neglect the public meetings of the church. Don’t neglect your salvation – Bull

    This is really interesting Bull and I have never encountered it before. Is this commonly agreed historical fact? Where can I find this discussed?

    do you get the opportunity to ask questions at the end of the sermon? – Teddy

    The C3 I used to go to did and it was good. Don’t know why it stopped.

  26. heretic1,

    regarding Hebrews, we don’t know who the author was. We think it was written to Rome because “everyone from Italy sends greetings”

    We know it is written to Hebrew believers as opposed to gentile believers.

    What happened in Rome? Well, the church started to face persecution. But no one had died yet … “you have not yet resisted to blood.”

    Christianity was illegal but Judaism was legal. So the way out for the Hebrew believers was to go back to the synagogue. Since the letter seems to address this, it is very likely the reason it was written.

    The letter makes a great deal of sense if the context is to stop the Hebrew believers from going back to their old religion and their old covenant.

    Most of what I have said there is historical fact which when added to our thinking about who the letter was written to, we can come to a conclusion about why the letter was written in the first place.

    Hebrews is a very interesting letter. It doesn’t ask or answer the question “Can we lose our salvation?”

    It asks and answers the question “Can I regain my salvation once I have lost it?”

    The answer is no, because “there is no more sacrifice for sin” which indicates why Jude and 2 Peter, which are written to believers, exhort the readers to be gentle with backsliders and to “snatch them from the fire, before they are badly burned.”

    Before we get into the freewill/predestination debate which could form a whole other blog by itself, we can know security. Stay in love with Jesus. That’s all we need to do. Everything else follows on from that.

    Shalom.

  27. Thanks Bull,

    “you have not yet resisted to blood.”

    I am 50/50 on this being a reference to Jesus resisting to the point where he did shed blood in Gethsemane.

    I must read Hebrews in the context you mention though.

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