Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Why go to church?

Why would I take time out every week to go to church? Is weekly attendance just something to check off my to do list? Do I think somehow I get in good with God if I show up to a church on the weekend? 

This is not the case for me. 

This is probably not the case for most people. You see the average “consistent” church goer attends about twice a month. This means that there are many people who identify with a church community that only show up to half of the gatherings of that given community. Now keep in mind that most churches only gather together once a week for maybe an hour and half TOPS. So church obviously isn’t something to check off because if it was people would find a way to etch out an hour and half a week if it was something to be checked off. So if that isn’t the case maybe showing up to church is a way to get in good with God. Although I don’t think this is the reason either. If weekly attendance was a way to get in good with God then it would be important enough to go every week. If I only show up half the time then I am doing a miserable job at getting in good with God. 

So I am kinda at a loss of why people go. As a pastor of a small church I notice when people are not there. I notice that this twice a month attendance from “committed” people is fairly true. 

I know why I go though. I know why I have given my life to the church. I know why I continue to be the pastor of a small infant church in the city of Milwaukee instead of giving up to find another job at a church with a bigger budget, more people, and the ability to get paid to do what I love to do. I know why my two year old son has missed less church in the past year than you probably have. I know why I am leading this church with no guarantees of getting paid come the new year. I know why I am at our gathering place every week and hour and half early. I know why I have took a pay cut from warehouse work to be a student pastor, and then took another pay cut to become the lead pastor of a church start up. I know why I have probably missed less weekend gatherings at church in my lifetime than most “committed” church people miss in a year. 

I go because it is worth it. 

You see I chose to give my life to follow Jesus at a young age. I asked that God forgive me for the evil things that were and are in my life. I am trusting him with my future. I am trusting that Jesus is who he said he was. I am trusting him for everything. I am trusting that what he said is true. That he came to this earth and was murdered for me. That because of the sin in my life there is no way I could ever get to God. There was no way I could ever get to heaven because I was good enough. My good enough would never be good enough for God. God is Holy and he cannot tolerate anything less. I believe that Jesus was perfect. He lived out the holiness that God required and then took what was coming to me. He took the death I had earned by my sinfulness on himself. He gave his perfect life for my imperfection. He was laid in a tomb so that a tomb would not be my final resting place. That it isn’t because of anything I can do on my own that God should take me as his own. It is only through the undeserved grace of God that I have any hope. I believe that because I have put my faith and trust in Jesus, God doesn’t count my sin against me. When he looks at me he sees Jesus’ sacrifice instead of my sin.

You see this is why I go to church. I am human. I fall short all the time. I sin all the time. I try to live out the way of Jesus as best I can but I am daily, hourly, sometimes minutely doing things that don’t live out the way of Jesus. I am frail. There is this bent we have as humans to do it our own way. So I have made this choice to follow Jesus and live life his way. Sometimes I still do it my way instead. It never works out for the best when I do it my way. Although God has proven himself over and over I still doubt him.

I go to church because I am frail. I doubt. I go because I have bad weeks. I have bad days. I have times that I choose to do it my way instead of God’s way. When I gather with other people that are either trying to live out the way of Jesus like me or are seeking out the way of Jesus it reminds me that I am not in this alone. That I am not the only nut out there that believes this stuff. When I teach or hear teaching it reminds me that this life that Jesus calls me to really is amazing. When I sing out loud about God’s amazing grace or that he is mighty to save it reminds me that others believe that too. It reminds me that there is a God who loves and has died for all. It reminds me that God is still on his throne and that there are others that call him Lord. 

When we as a church come together at church to worship, learn, and be with each other. We are also saying that we identify with a community that acknowledges that we need God. You may have time throughout the week you set aside to focus on God or pray but when you gather with others publicly you set a priority in your life. You communicate to your friends, family, and mostly yourself that my life with God and others is important. Important enough for me to be here every week. I may be having a great week and maybe on a given Sunday not need to be reminded of that, but someone else might be. By showing up and identifying yourself with this community you are making the statement that this life following Jesus is a priority in your life. I think we need to remind ourselves of this and maybe by just showing up you are supporting someone else that is wondering if it is worth it.

I go to church every week I am able because I need to. If you don’t need to and you have this life with Jesus thing all figured out good for you. I don’t have it all figured out. I still need to be reminded that God is great, that there are others around me that believe the same thing I do, that I am part of a community where God is changing people, transforming our relationships, building his church and impacting the world. That there are people who will pray, encourage, and be the church with me. 

So for all those who don’t have it all figured out, for all those who still need to reminded that you aren’t in this alone, for all of those of you who call Jesus saviour and don’t always act like it, for all of those of you who wonder about this Jesus, for those of you who don’t think God believes in you: I’ll see you on Sunday.

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