Attending Church Member

Attending Church Member

Our series is called “Church on Purpose.” As Christians, we are called by God to be the Church. Which means, we should know the Church God is calling us to be and be intentional about being that Church. So in this series, we are discussing not only what church is and why it’s so important, but also how to be the Church.

Many believe you can be the Church without going to “church.” Meaning, we can be the body of Christ without actually having to come here and meet. That’s the devil’s lie trying to distract you from doing what God has called you to do and from being who you are called to be.

Yes, we must be the church outside these four walls sharing the good news of Jesus Christ and His love, that’s what Jesus called us to do. But we all also need the church body to help us grow and continue to be the Christ followers God calls us to be. That’s God’s design. And as our Creator, don’t you think He knows what’s best for us? We’re only going to be able to grow and be the Christ followers He’s calling us to be by meeting together regularly because the journey to grow in Christ is taken through the local church.

Look, there is no biblical plan for growing us as Christians outside of the local church. So showing up to church is important, even critical.

Can you imagine standing at the wedding altar, vowing to love your spouse in every circumstance – for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health – every circumstance except you may or may not come home on any given night? In fact, you might show up at home only once a month. After all, attendance at home really is not that important. That’s ridiculous, right? A marriage like that would die real fast.

One of the clearest commitments in a healthy marriage is to be present and accounted for with your spouse. Did you know that Christ describes Himself as the Groom and the Church as His bride?

Revelation 19:7

“Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.”

Like a marriage, one of the clearest commitments in a healthy church is to be present and accounted for when the church gathers. This means giving church attendance priority over sleeping in, Sunday sports (kids and pro), days off, and whatever other excuses we can come up with.

Today, a lot of people have decided that showing up at church is a low priority. A church with 200 members might have a weekly worship attendance of 50. That is not the way it is supposed to be.

When the first church started in Jerusalem, they began by meeting together:

Acts 2:42-47

The Believers Form a Community

42 All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer.

43 A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. 44 And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. 45 They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. 46 They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity— 47 all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.

What they were doing here is about relationship. They met together, worshiped together, learned together, shared with each other. These things that we do for each other, with each other, for God all draw us closer together and closer to Jesus. The love, support, encouragement, learning, sharing that we do and receive is all about relationships.

A key part of having a relationship with someone is presence. Just being there is important. We say things like, “I’m here for you. I’m available. I can be there.” These phrases are deeper than merely nice words to say to someone in need. They represent the ministry of the Church.

Truth is, some people are extroverts and others are introverts. Some like the crowd while others prefer a small group. Whatever your personality, you need people. That’s how you were designed.

One of my love languages particularly with my family is quality time. By quality, it means we could be doing just about anything. We can go on an extravagant vacation or pull out a board game. Doesn’t matter. I’m completely happy to just be with my family.

Sometimes all you need to know is that you are not alone. God created us as social creatures because He’s social. Think about the Holy Trinity. There’s a perfect and beautiful relationship within the Trinity – the Father with the Son with the Holy Spirit. This relationship can be perplexing and mysterious, but it is also reassuring. It shows us that God wants to be with us. He sent Jesus to earth to teach us, to show us, and to sacrifice for us, and then He gives us the Holy Spirit to continue to live with us. God wants to be with us, and we should want to be with Him. God also wants us to be with each other because no one can grow alone.

Ever watch the show called “Alone?” Basically, individuals are placed out in the middle of nowhere, literally hundreds of miles away from any human civilization, all alone. They take only 10 items with them and have to build a shelter, seek their food daily, fight the elements and wild life, and literally just try to survive. Some amazingly last 2-3 months, more last just a few weeks, while some last just a few days or even hours. In each case, they battle, in a major way, being alone. You would think it would be the lack of food or the elements that is the biggest struggle, but each one says the hardest part by far of doing this is being alone, having no human connections.

Humans struggle living alone, let alone growing, especially spiritually. That’s because we are designed to spiritually grow in the proximity of others. Isolation does not produce disciples. Disciples are made through the ministry of the church.

Did you know you are five times more likely to stay in a church if you join a small group? Eighty-three percent of people will stay in a church if they attend worship services and also join a small group. However, only 16 percent of people will stay in the church if they attend worship services only and never join a group. Most people start attending a church through the worship service, but most people stay in a church because of their connection to a small group.

Small groups have lots of different names. In our church they are Sunday School, Bible studies, Men’s Breakfast group, Luncheon Bunch, youth and young adult gathering, prayer team. Some are ongoing, while others have a set number of weeks. Some go deep into scripture, while some are more about community and conversations. Some are designed around ages, while some are created around common interests. Whatever the group looks like, it’s one of the most important ways in which you will grow spiritually and one of the most important ways you will invest in others.

A few years ago, Church Answers (a church consulting group) did some research on why young people drop out of the church. One of the biggest reasons is they lack a connection to more mature disciples. They found that the more the adults invest in the life of a young person, the more likely that young person will stay in the church.

And most people do not just decide one day to leave the church. They fade and slowly start attending less and less. They way to stop the fade is building a connection to a small group.

The writer of Hebrews speaks directly to this issue.

Hebrews 10:23-25

23 Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. 24 Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. 25 And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.

The author is saying the reason we gather as a church is to encourage and motivate each other to acts of love and good works. We must meet together to hold on to the hope God has given us. Church attendance is more important than all the excuses we can offer.

I know committed church members who attend a church in person even when they are out of town or on vacation. That might seem legalistic, but it’s not. It’s simply obedience to the mandate of scripture. It is deciding that the body of Christ is not a part time or occasional commitment. It’s that important, and yes, it is eternally important.

Every church that Paul wrote a letter to in the New Testament (nearly half of the 27 books) had a congregation that met together faithfully. They met in a specific city, often in the same location each week and understood the importance of gathering as the body of Christ. They understood the importance of showing up.

Jesus demonstrated going to the Temple, going to worship every week.

Paul took four chapters in 1 Corinthians 11-14 to talk about the need for orderly worship. Paul obviously put a high priority on gathered worship if he saw the need to provide so much instruction on how it should be done.

This past week, every time I sat down to work on today’s message, somewhere in my readings or online one particular scripture kept coming up. It’s Psalm 122 written by King David for the people to sing praises to God as they entered the city of Jerusalem, which was epicenter of worship. This is where God’s people gathered from all over the land to celebrate certain festivals and where they brought their sacrifices to God. Going to Jerusalem was like stepping into the presence of God. What Jerusalem was for the Israelites back then, the church is to the believer today.

Psalm 122

1 I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.”

Right off the bat, David was excited to go to the house of the Lord, to go church. David loved the idea of being in church and was more than happy to go. Couldn’t wait to get there. Why was David so fired up about the thing that so many people are turned off by today? What does he know that many don’t know about church? He tells us….

2 And now here we are, standing inside your gates, O Jerusalem. Jerusalem is built like a city that is closely compacted together.

He’s inside the city of Jerusalem describing what he sees. He sees the well-built city that has seamless walls that cannot be broken. It’s got a high population, and there are crowds of people gathering. All you introverts are like, “I don’t like crowds of people.” But there’s a good reason to be in this crowd.

4 All the tribes of Israel—the Lord’s people—make their pilgrimage here. They come to give thanks to the name of the Lord, as the law requires of Israel.

Lots of people are making their way to Jerusalem in order to worship God. Tribes of them in fact. They’re going to give God glory, “as the law of the Lord requires.” In other words, because God told them He’d like them to come.

5 Here stand the thrones where judgment is given, the thrones of the dynasty of David.

See the king was now the judge. It used to be that God appointed judges to settle people’s disputes, but then the people requested a king. So now the king did it. Here is where judgment is given and where King David’s sons, his dynasty, will do the same, all in order to have peace. By verse 6, he starts to pour out his heart for peace….

6 Pray for peace in Jerusalem. May all who love this city prosper. 7 O Jerusalem, may there be peace within your walls and prosperity in your palaces. 8 For the sake of my family and friends, I will say, “May you have peace.”

This tells us a couple of things: He cares about God’s people, the people he’s worshipping with, he cares about the city of God, and most importantly, he cares about God…

For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek your prosperity, O Jerusalem.

David’s saying, “God, I want peace for you and for our sake too. In fact, I’m going to do something to make this happen. I am going to seek what is best for everyone.” Why? “Because I love your place, I love your people, and I love you.”

In this short psalm, David gives 3 great reasons to go to church.

  1. First, he wanted to honor God. (v.4)
    All the tribes came to give thanks to the name of the Lord.
    “I want to go to church to praise the name of the Lord.”
  2. Second, he wanted to do what God asked him to do. (v. 4)
    “I want to go to church because the law of the Lord requires it.”
  3. Third, he wanted to go to church because he liked being with God’s people (v. 4). God’s people were his family and friends (v. 8).
    “That’s where my tribe goes.”

      And he wanted peace for all of those who love God. He wanted good things for God’s people. I believe we can all relate to that. Everyone wants peace for those they love. He also wanted peace in the church and for the church to be prosperous. We can all relate to that too.

      I want there to be people in church and prosperity in the house of God. Why? Because I know the benefits of church for us individually and as a whole, let alone for our community.

      Once upon a time in our country, everything stopped on Sundays and Wednesday evenings, and church attendance was as American as apple pie. It wasn’t an option; it was just something you did. People went to church and worshipped God, studied the Bible together, ate together, spent time together. I’m not saying everyone was a perfect Christian, but they were certainly influenced by church.

      Sunday wasn’t just an extra day to get things done. Or a bonus day to put our kids in high-impact activities so they could get ahead. More and more people are choosing alternatives to church and more and more people are wondering why life isn’t working out so well.

      I think people had a greater sense of peace in those days, don’t you? And of hope. I think their pace of life all week wasn’t as frantic as ours because they slowed their pace of life one day a week and rested and refueled and refocused on what really mattered. They made God and His church a priority.

      Worship attendance is like exercise. When you only go twice a year, it hurts. A regular exercise program builds your strength and health, but it takes time. You don’t get much healthier when you work out sporadically and without a whole lot of discipline. The same principle applies to your worship. Only coming on Christmas and Easter isn’t going to get you strong and healthy. (Chreasters or CEO’s = Christmas and Easter Only)

      Ask someone with a regular exercise routine about a workout on Tuesday four months ago, and unless something extraordinary happened, I doubt this person could give you details. The same is true of your worship. You will not remember every worship experience, ever point of every sermon, or every lesson in the Bible study. But like exercise, the cumulative effect of regular worship and gathering in small groups makes you stronger and healthier. One of the best ways to stay healthy spiritually is to attend weekly worship services and a small group. The more regular you are in worship and a small group, the more you will say yes to God.

      You need people around you asking, “How can I help you grow?” Being a disciple of Jesus requires intentionality, thoughtfulness, and faithfulness. You need the support and encouragement of a local church to grow.

      Spiritual growth occurs in many ways. You grow through the spiritual disciplines like fasting, prayer, daily Bible reading and personal devotional time. You grow by listing to sermons regularly and learning from skilled and mature teachers and preachers. You grow by being active in a small group with other like-minded believers. You are more likely to stick to a plan of spiritual growth with the support of other people.

      Maintaining the discipline to grow means asking other people to hold you accountable, especially in areas where you struggle. You cannot grow alone. It just doesn’t work that way. Complete isolation is not God’s design.

      We are made in God’s image which means we are social beings who reflect the nature of the Trinity. God is relational, and we need godly relationships with other people.

      There’s something about church attendance that you can’t see, touch, taste, or smell that makes it the most powerful investment of your whole week. Something about being in church makes us better people, makes our lives better and qualifies us for special blessings and provisions from God. Unless you understand this, you can spend a lot of time messing around with ways to make your life better when the real solution is to start with God and His Church.

      You need your church, and your church needs you.