I’ve been that girl. You know, the one who can find something wrong with any church she visits. Maybe it’s the songs they’re singing (“too full of fluff; there’s no depth to it!”) or the production (“it’s boring” or “it’s overdone”) or the message (“I totally disagree with this one thing the pastor said”).
I’m not proud of it. I’ve been critical and cynical about church—judging people who are my brothers and sisters in Christ!
But all the “flaws” I noticed in churches made me wonder, Do we even need to go to church? And if so, why does it matter? It just seems so messed up and broken!
I knew the Bible said we shouldn’t stop getting together with other people who believe in Jesus (see Hebrews 10:25), but I couldn’t help wondering: Does that have to be in a church service? Can’t that just mean getting coffee with my girlfriends and talking about Jesus? Because honestly, that fills me up way more than going to a church service.
And I don’t think I’m the only one who’s asked these questions.
Those questions have put me on a slow, uncomfortable journey. God has been so gracious and gentle with me, slowly challenging me on the way I think. While I won’t pretend to have all the answers (after all, who does?), I want to share a few things God has taught me that have helped me answer this question for myself: “Should I go to church?”
1. God can work even in our brokenness.
I’ll never forget a women’s event at a church I used to go to. I knew the young women leading worship, and I judged them. I thought, Why are those girls getting to lead when their lives are a mess? They’re not living in a way that honors God at all! So why are they on stage?
And then I felt like God whispered into my heart, “I can be glorified despite human brokenness.”
That principle is all throughout Scripture. The people God chose were messy. Think about David, who got Bathsheba pregnant and her husband killed. Think about Samson, who had a weakness for sleeping with beautiful women and had no interest in God. Think about Paul, who persecuted and beat the early Christians before God stopped him in his tracks.
I’m certainly not perfect. And I’m so thankful that God can still work in and through my life. I’m so thankful He continues to sanctify me, making me more like Him day by day.
And even in that messy process, He can be glorified in my life. He’s just that big and that beautiful.
If I want a perfect church, I’m not going to find it. Because humans aren’t perfect. And church is made up of humans like me and you. So, as evangelist and author Beth Moore would say, even if a church was perfect, as soon as I walk in the doors, it won’t be perfect anymore. But God can still be glorified in it.
2. Being too individualistic isn’t healthy.
I like to think that I don’t really need anyone; all I need is myself and God. That’s it. But when I read the Bible, I realize that’s totally not true.
We were created to need relationships with other people. It actually glorifies God when we love our brothers and sisters in Christ! (See Psalm 133:1, 1 Corinthians 12:26 and John 13:35.)
That sounds hard, because some of my fellow churchgoers are ANNOYING! But if I really want to honor God, I will learn how to love them. I will learn how to live as part of a community, as uncomfortable as it can be. Sometimes I forget that Christianity has always been done in the context of community.
3. It’s dangerous to only share life with people who think like us.
But then the question arises: Can’t I be in Christian community just with my friends? After all, we are part of the church!
Here’s what I’ve come to realize: If I only choose to share my life with specific people who share all the same beliefs and interpretations of Scripture that I do, then who will challenge me? Who will make me think about what I believe and why I believe it?
If I only share my life with people I’m comfortable with, who will push me out of my comfort zone? Who will teach me how to love, and be the iron that sharpens my iron (see Proverbs 27:17)?
The Bible says there’s safety in the multitude of counselors (Proverbs 11:14). It’s much safer and healthier to be in community alongside people who challenge us, people who think differently than we do. It’s good for our spiritual growth and character development to share life with people who are hard to love. Those are the people who sharpen us and cause us to grow deeper roots in Christ, even more than the people we’re comfortable around.
4. The local church is a way of connecting with His body as a whole.
The most amazing thing about going to church is that it’s joining just one small part of a huge community. When we go to church, we are part of a worldwide, history-long community of God-followers. We join in worship and celebrate Jesus alongside the “cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1) throughout the centuries and around the world. You feel connected, part of something bigger than yourself.
So is it important to go to church? I’m starting to believe it is. I’m starting to believe it’s one way for God to sanctify me, challenge me and connect me with His body as a whole. That doesn’t mean it’s always easy, but sometimes doing the hard thing is what’s good for me.
But what about you? Do you think it’s important to go to church? Why or why not?